There is a phenomenon on the Island of Roatan, nestled in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Honduras, that I learned of soon after coming here — time stands still. Not to be confused with the classic science-fiction movie “When the earth stood still.” But I’m sure if you looked hard enough some comparisons could be made.
It’s hard to keep track of time on Roatan. In my former life in Canada pretty much everything was scheduled, I had it down-pat. Monday to Friday belonged to my employer. The alarm was set to go off every weekday morning at 6:30 AM. Coffee always took first priority, and actually that hasn’t changed, but that is where the similarities end.
I liked my job well enough. I was quite proud of what I achieved in my career as a structural package designer. I know, many of you are saying, “huh.” Definitely not a mainstream career choice, but it was rewarding. And still, I longed for the weekends, those two days a week when I didn’t set the alarm. Those two days when I could work in my garden (in the summer, of course.) When I could spend time with family and friends, or just go for a long walk with my dog.
And then I came to Roatan…
I still wake up most mornings by 6:30 AM, actually quite often earlier so I can watch the sunrise. But I don’t set an alarm anymore, I don’t need to, I wake up that early because I want to, not to pursue more stuff — stuff just goes mouldy on Roatan if you don’t use it regularly enough. It also requires using up time and energy to dust stuff I used to have that was just for looking at — aka knick knacks, objects d’ art, status symbols — you get my drift.
I do have things to do each day on Roatan. And some days I’m extra busy, but that’s okay because everything I do here revolves around Just Being. That was the first phase of the “three months ago” phenomenon.
The second phase is not having a seasonal point-of-reference. It used to be that no matter the event — big, small, or somewhere in-between— I could remember how long ago it happened based on whether it was in the spring, summer, fall or winter.
Starting the garden in early May, digging in the soil that crumbled between my fingers, the frigid days of winter had released their grip, the blanket of snow and muddied ice all but gone. Longer, warmer, sunlit days were doing their part to soften the land. The determined crocuses had already pushed their way through weeks earlier, soft, velvet purple blooms, to impatient to wait for the snow to be gone.
It was a warm July evening when we had the party outside on the back deck, to celebrate my daughter coming home from college. While in the background, the sound of crickets chirping, the flicker of tiki torches bending to the gentle night breeze. The scent of citronella, used to ward off mosquitoes, wafting by.
I remember it was October when I started that new job. I can still smell the crisp frost tinged air, and enjoyed the glorious fall colours of crimson and gold, as I commuted through the countryside on my first day.
It was an icy day in January when I skidded off that same road and landed in a snow bank—only my pride was hurt.
Spring cleaning, summer yard work, fall gutter cleaning, winter furnace maintenance.
While, on Roatan, it’s always summer, my point of reference is lost.
I was working in a garden-bed, clipping spent hibiscus blooms, trimming back ginger plants, and adding compost to the soil. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, when I considered what a great gardening season it had been, and realized it was the middle of January.
The leaves don’t come off the trees each fall. The jungle foliage is always lush. There is no need to pack away the t-shirts and bathing suits and replace them with scarves and winter boots. The hummingbirds never migrate to warmer climates, and the chickens don’t seem to care what time of year it is either. I can just as easily see a mother hen being followed around by her young brood in April as in November.
So how do I keep track of time?
I used to fret that I had no idea when things had happened. I couldn’t even remember an event had just been the week before. But this is Roatan, and fretting about such things is a waste of time. Quite honestly, when living a life of Just Being it doesn’t really matter. So I don’t worry about it anymore. No matter what I’m talking about, no matter what the event was, if asked, I just say, “It happened three months ago.”
All Photos © Genny Ross-Barons