Topic: Extreme Dominica
Faye is a generous woman, observing us drive slowly past wooden cottages named after fruit of the region. Our climb up a steep hill on the southeast side of the island has brought us past the Green Mountain Flowers greenhouses to the acres of land she has cultivated with her husband into Exotica. Their organic farm is a sensory delight, wafting the gentle aroma of flowers and herbs through the mountain air.
She invites us to the caf? for a taste of local juice. Blush sweet cherry and cloudy white soursop stir both palate and vision as we gaze out from the porch over palms and trees that gather nutrients from the air fragrant with the scent of blossoms everywhere: yellow bird of paradise, red hibiscus, bougainvillea in several shades of purple, crimson flamboyant.
She confesses that the gardening is her art. Natural fertilizers and careful planning and landscaping inform her design. She finds it hard to find good help amidst the “landscapers” in name only, who randomly chop away weed and new shoot alike with their machetes. Her delicate nurturing has brought forth generations of indigenous flora in one place.
Faye talks of her travels, the gated communities of Jamaica which keep the locals, and potential thieves, out.
“Dominica is free. You do not have to worry here,” she says. She grew up in town “right by Perky’s Pizza” and knows the people, the lore.
“Oh, that story” she says when we relate hearsay. Her talk is peppered with infiltrating, American colloquialisms. They seem fresh and renewed in the Dominican accent. Although we have no more juice to linger off and she has work to do, we vow to return to live for a while in one of the cottages named after local fruit, perhaps Cashew or Soursop
“You can’t come in April, May, or June..for reasons I can’t speak of,” she adds mysteriously.
“The movie?,” we chime in unison
Yes, that’s it, the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 shoot predicted for the coming months. The north sides of the island are scouted sites; Calibishie is a rumored spot, likely for its towering palms and crashing surf with nary a home in view. Since accommodation throughout the island is relatively sparse, she’s anticipating the overflow south. Exotica meets Hollywood, two fantasy worlds converging in a celluloid moment which is captured today in our camera eye forever.
The turtles are vanishing from the planet, the island. Hunted by natural predators, caught in nature’s spin, they dwindle in numbers. The green sea turtle, the leatherback, and the hawksbill find their haunts on beaches to lay their numerous eggs. We see the turtle back logo on the hand-etched sign indicating Turtle Point and swerve off the coastal highway to see if we can observe them.
As we drive towards an edifice colored as a ripe papaya, embossed with the same logo as the sign, it is clear this is either a lodge or someone’s home.
The attractive, mustachioed man standing in the yard comes towards us, accompanied by a boy half as tall with machete in hand.
He informs us that this is indeed a home, his home. Handsomely distinct in his “University of the West Indies” shirt, he speaks deliberately with refinement.
Tom, stimulated by conversation and his whiteness, rare on the island outside the tourist population, asks him if he is related to Lennox Honeychurch, the historical, Dominican writer.
“I am the guy who writes the books,” Lennox says, nonplussed.
I remove my shades to get a better look at a sight I neither expected nor suspected.
“You are younger- looking in person," I blurt sincerely.
Perhaps he is flattered—when I later scrutinize his photo on the book jacket of The Dominica Story: a History of the Island, it is obviously several years old.
He answers our questions informatively: the roads here are new, built in the ‘50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. People did live in isolation, in village communities linked by mule and cart.
The Carib natives were relocated from Portsmouth, where they lived on the banks of the Indian River, and Roseau to the remote reservation, or central forest reserve, where they preserved their culture, language, and way of living. Today the weave baskets, hats, and mats from wide-leafed palms; their half-naked children tumble in houses with no windows, youths stare at us as we drive through their territory.
We bid Honneychurch farewell after taking his photo with Caleb, the healthy neighbor boy who was chopping coconut. I stop at the beach there, enticed by the crashing surf, revel in the discovery of volcanic sand, fine and black beneath my sandals. Later that night, I will find my feet pitch-black with the hue of history, the mark of an epoch long past yet lingering, dormant, above and beneath us.