March 19, 2015
We are still in the beautiful anchorage at Fowl Cay. The horseshoe opens up to the north, where two enormous rocks called Rocky Dundas hide deep caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Cathedrals to nature’s splendor. Fabulous elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) at the mouth of one cave.
The water is clear and aquamarine…you must get tired of hearing about it. I wonder at it and think how to describe it to convey the extreme pleasure of looking at it, of being in Yesterday was sweaty hot, even while sailing, the kind of heat that robs you of all energy and leaves you languid and parched. So just after we anchored here, I jumped into the water. The shock of the salt surprised me, as it does every time. Extreme salt that stings your eyeballs and clears out your sinuses and wrings through you like a healing tonic.
One of the reasons the water is so clear is that the salt kills most of the bacteria. There is very little algae, no bloom of brown gray green organisms, only sharks and sting rays. Coral seems to start out as small clumps of anemones and branches out into red candelabras and mustard-colored clumps that you dare not touch. The sand waves in little hillocks, blown by the currant. The needle sharp rocks are gray on the top, ochre underneath, where the waves runs in waterfalls back down into the sea. There is a narrow pale beach here and a small airplane that crashed in the sand a few feet from the waterline. Beside it is a grave marked with conch shells and a stone that reads, “Dilo, the island dog.”
I am in heaven because I am here and I am reading Little Women, which I have read many times but not for many years. What a warm and joyous imagination Louisa May Alcott had. I love living again among Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, and Marmee. And Hannah. No one ever talks about Hannah, the servant who lives with them and who is not described except through her speech. Is she African-American? And their father is away serving as chaplain in a war which is never indicated but which must be the Civil War. It is an interesting counterpoint to Moby Dick, which I am still dutifully recounting.
It is interesting to think about race, especially here in this nation in populated and governed primarily by the descendants of slaves.
I would love to have a conversation with two people: a Black Bahamian who has lived in the United States, and a Black American who has lived in the Bahamas. I would actually not have any pre-considered questions other than, “what is is like to live there as opposed to where you grew up?” “What are the pros and cons of each society?” This interests me because the ancestors of both groups came unwillingly from Africa, and also because my own ancestors held slaves in North Carolina, from whence many of the Bahamian slaveowners and their slaves came. In fact, it would be fun to study the traffic between the two places. No doubt someone has already done this. I can’t really speculate about how Black Bahamians or Black Americans think about their history, but I can ask.
What I can talk about is how I, a White descendant of slaveowners in North Carolina during the 18th century, respond to Bahamian society. What I notice, briefly, is a great friendliness and confidence among the people here, but not a great deal of intermingling between Blacks and Whites. There is commerce, yes, and great warmth. But I can’t help but wonder how the Bahamians respond to the subtle racism of the all-White cruising crowd, who must seem incredibly affluent to the locals, who are poor in materials as well as education.