I hung my clothes out to dry this sunny morning and listened to the birds sing as I watched the breeze blow through the palms along Fresh Creek. The quiet, steady breeze brought a resonant sound like the low hum of putting one’s ear up against the shell of a conch. Conch is plentiful here and a prized cultural staple in Andros. The sea gives far more than what is needed for the small population on Andros and since the sea is well cared for, the people will be sustained by it for years to come.
I finished hanging my laundry on the line and paused to recognize this peaceful morning, it’s easy to dream of living in a place like this. I stood still, breathed in the fresh air, and enjoyed the moment for a few more minutes. I walked inside the house and sat down at my desk from the second floor overlooking the beautiful aquamarine waters of the creek and began to reflect on these last few weeks.
Floating like a cloud, with my fins and mask firmly secured, I dunked my head into the cool waters of Fresh Creek. As I lay faced down scanning the area beneath me for ocean creatures, the tranquility of the sun’s rays shone a hypnotizing pattern along the sandy creek floor. Had Jim Morrison been singing in the background, I’d have been sure I was in a psychedelic dream somewhere beyond consciousness as I floated overhead the fluid movement of a giant eagle ray.
”...IT'S EASY TO DREAM OF LIVING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS.
Andros Island is the largest among the archipelago of the Bahamas, yet with a population of no larger than 7,500, is so sparsely inhabited that visiting it feels more like a backpacking trip in the wilderness than a typical tropical tourist destination. With very few restaurants, shops, and virtually no commercial development, Andros provides the perfect opportunity to get away from the commodification of the American vacation. Backpackers are familiar with a phenomenon they call the three-day effect, which is commonly experienced after spending three days in the wilderness with no technological contact with the outside world. The clarity and overwhelming peacefulness one feels from the three day effect is unlike any we’re familiar with in our busy, always on the go culture. I have felt this a few times before myself and so know the feeling of a profound sense of self awareness come over you as your mind expands from unplugging. After spending three weeks on the secluded island, I enjoyed similar mental and spiritual effects.
Exploring Andros’ beautiful landscape, teaching in several schools, and having moments to listen and learn from our friends and hosts, Peter and Gabrielle Douglas, have left an indelible mark on me. On this beautiful and quiet island, I see the thoughtfulness in limiting development and in land stewardship that has preserved both beauty and biodiversity.
Inspired, I consider my own actions and wonder do they preserve beauty and give life to the place I live? It is apparent here on Andros, that the land’s health and beauty provide residents with everything they need for a rich life, where riches are defined in ways that do not place emphasis solely on money and possessions. This is in sharp contrast to the American economy of unrestrained consumption prioritizing acquisition over ecological impact. Rather than being only an ideal, I’ve enjoyed seeing here on Andros an alternative way of living where economics and natural resources don’t have to be in conflict with one another. Where living a successful life consists of living at peace with others and the natural world. Whether it’s spoken or not, there seems to be a value that directs Androsians that says “we don’t have to consume things just because that’s what everyone else does and choosing to restrain ourselves doesn’t make us weird. It makes us conscious, wise, and free.”
Without knowing the full extent of the impact Andros has made on me, I wonder if I will take this ethic with me back to Indiana. Do I deserve to have anything I want if it’s at the expense of even the smallest of creatures?
”INSPIRED, I CONSIDER MY OWN ACTIONS AND WONDER DO THEY PRESERVE BEAUTY AND GIVE LIFE TO THE PLACE I LIVE?
As I’ve been spending more time outdoors in Indiana, I see that my connection to home has become stronger. I am finding meaningful ways to connect to the land and this is growing love and appreciation for my own place. My affinity for the forests and prairies back home have come as a result of me choosing to slow down and pay attention to the details. It has been easy to take these spaces for granted when I’ve often only viewed them from the window of my car. The majority of us miss seeing the biodiversity and beauty around our homes everyday. Perhaps this is the greatest gift Androsians can give. The gift of bringing one into awareness of oneself in place and time.
With the enlightened awareness of my short time of existence here on this beautiful earth, I find myself asking, “Do my words teach or torment? Does my energy give or take away? Do my actions heal or harm?” This is where I want to stay, in consideration of the footprint I will make today.