Under the Lignum Vitae Tree

If you have read my posts for any time at all you have probably noticed that a big expedition for me is a trip to the Meriden Post Office. In fact, when our December holiday began, it had been three years since I had spent more than a night away from the farm, and frankly, I was overdue for a rest as those of you who received one of my goofed up orders will no doubt attest.

Since it is easiest to rip me away from my gardens when they are under two feet of snow, Jim took his extraction window of opportunity and whipped our clan off to the island of St John, USVI for a holiday camping extravaganza at Maho Bay.

Extravaganza was NOT the word that the women gathered at midnight in the campground’s communal bathroom would have used to describe their time at Maho. I imagine most of us women spent at least a few moments during the wee hours of the night wishing we had the anatomy of our menfolk, ie those guys back at the tents peeing off the tent platforms with the panache of pirates on the high seas. Meanwhile, for us women, Depends adult diapers drinking no liquids after 3 in the afternoon seemed like a more agreeable option than our 2 am strolls up the campground stairs and boardwalks to our shared toilets.

Adding insult to injury, some clueless man had left an obnoxious diatribe pointers about toilet paper use at the campground in which he suggested two squares of toilet paper were ample for all situations. Let’s just say that the spunky grandmas I ran into at the bathroom in the middle of the night would have known exactly what they were going to do with their allotment of two squares, and they were unanimously going to use it to silence that ECO-JACKASS it didn’t involve a toilet.

Ah camping!

Anyone who thinks of a trip to the post office as a break from routine is obviously someone who doesn’t get out much….. so calling myself an inexperienced traveller is an obvious understatement. To put it mildly, once I leave the farm and sometimes when I am still here I am a stranger in a strange world.

So while I have just complained about my midnight walks to the bathroom, I really have few complaints about our recent trip. Practically everything struck me as wildly exciting. With a smoothie machine on every street corner, I was still THRILLED with my tropical passion flower guava mango smoothie at the stand across from the Cruz Bay Post Office. It felt special, in part because I didn’t have to clean the blender afterwards but mostly because just standing outside in the bright sun while someone made me a tropical drink seemed so wildly improbably. Here at the farm, there are maybe two hours each summer when making a smoothie outside sounds like a good idea.


Did you catch my mention of a post office again? Apparently, post offices are my reference point in any new world. I guess you can take a woman with a mail order business away from her local post office but you can’t take the post office out of her. Is it any wonder my children worried about my mental health when I got excited about Cruz Bay’s zip code of 00830. Only I could find this low number fascinating, even mysterious.

My postal obsession went so far that I actually introduced myself to the ladies at the Cruz Bay Post Office and took their picture to show MY post mistresses. What can I say? I found it enchanting that the postal mistresses of Cruz Bay processed their holiday packages OUTSIDE under a lignum vitae tree!


Leaving Cruz Bay and up the windy dirt roads to the campground, we settled into our tents overlooking the blue green waters of Big Maho Bay. There was something blissful about Swiss Family Robinson housekeeping. A few pieces of already soggy clothing took up a small shelf, no possessions beyond a few seashells littered the place, and there was only a bit of sand to consider sweeping out of the tent (In an act of compassion, I left the sand be).

During our first trips to Maho, back when I was a confused young mother who didn’t understand that any vacation was supposed to include me, I cooked for us in our tent. This time, we ate in the dining pavilion with other campers and during picnic lunches I didn’t even cut the sandwiches in half for anyone or even notice if the rest of the crew ate anything or stayed hydrated. This made life sooooooooo sweet. No cooking. No back seat cooking. No dishes, 76% 89% 97% of which I had no role in creating. No frantic scrambling at 5:50 each night to figure out what to cook for dinner. My mind could be a complete blank when it came to meal planning and just about everything else. This left so much delightful time to make new friends- Leeanne, Dave and Maya! We are so glad we met you!

And speaking of friends, it was also a joy to visit beloved old tropical Flowers friends again. This year, because of an unusual amount of rain, there were also many new Flowers to meet for the first time. I hung off the back of the various open air taxis, luxuriating in every roadside weed while my children rolled their eyes and Jim looked alarmed. On one expedition to the other side of the island, I asked our friend Hamilton to stop his open air taxi at the Love City Mini Mart in Coral Bay. While he assumed it was so I could join the throng inside to stock up on rum, it was really because I wanted to visit some Flowers I had seen last trip in fields surrounding the place. This time, I was in for a treat as the muddy goat filled parking lot of the Love City Mini Mart was encircled in candelabras of yellow Flowers, Cassia alata also known as Christmas Candles.


Because the seas were rough and the skies overcast from all the storms in the north, the water was too murky for much snorkeling but it was lovely for body surfing, and we stayed in the water riding waves until our fingers and feet were numb or in Jim’s case, until a rib was cracked.


The cooler conditions also meant we spent less time doing skin cancer research lounging at the beach and more time hiking. This was a whole new twist since in past trips the only hike I had taken was the midnight one to the communal bathroom. This time we walked to some wonderful places. One trail took us to a copse of bay rum tree whose crushed leaves filled the air with a wonderful bay rum scent. This is the kind of obvious remark that worries my children. Apparently only I get excited when a tree smells like it should.

And because St John is nothing if not dramatically hilly, most every hike delivered one glorious vista after another. Even after many trips to this island, I am always surprised by the way the British Virgin Islands and the US islands sit dramatically cheek by jowl in a sparkling sea. Let’s face it, sometimes the obvious is just so darn amazing.

One day saw me and Jim hitchhiking across the island on a mission to get to a place we couldn’t walk to. I hadn’t hitchhiked in thirty years but on St John it is practically di rigeur. And so I found myself feeling young and bohemian again as I rode in the back of a truck, talking with a most lovely St Johnian, What fun to sail down a mountain road in a stranger’s pick-up with a beautiful soul stirring the pot of my understanding about life.

But all trips come to an end and after more no see’um bites than I could count and some very silly nights playing whist in our tent, it was time to head home with a dozen, three dozen forty six Flower Essences. I may be the only person who returns from the Caribbean with more potions than Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.

I will look forward to sharing all the Flower Essences collected in our island meanderings. But today, it’s time to help the crew catch up on back orders! Our post mistresses may not be waiting under a lignum vitae tree, but they ARE waiting for our packages and so are you!

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