There is a place I used to go…a sanctuary… it gave me peace and helped still my soul when it needed stilling. It was at the water’s edge on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island and presented nothing of beach, just firm land, sturdy rocks and ocean. In that space, everything conspired to bring peace. The ocean, it seemed, flowed there in every shade of blue imaginable and was flattered by the softened, grateful eyes that couldn’t be torn away from it. She sounded majestic… filling, coaxing, soothing. There was always something of a promise in her voice. “Stay with me this time” she seemed to whisper as wave rolled over rock. My memories of this place were always a comfort and I swore, in my 18-year-old inexperienced confidence, that someday I would own this land and truly never have to leave that sight.
How I found the place is quite the story and perhaps I’ll tell it someday, but once found it exercised a sort of maternal control over me… never rough or demanding but somehow always getting its way. In the months before I left Antigua for university I would come to my secret place and just sit in silence, alone with my thoughts and the spirit of the ocean. I would say to myself “better hurry up and come back home before somebody else buys this place and its lost to you forever!”. I would imagine my house here and see the opened French doors of my bedroom leading to the balcony overlooking the vast expanse of aqua and royal and navy with flecks of white. I could hear my breathing merge with the breath of her whisper as sleep slowly claimed me. I wanted this place badly, then.
Then there would be those times I would go there, feeling the weight of uncertainty laced with fear as the months leading to my departure became weeks. It was the first time I would live away from home for more than a month and the first time ever without family or friends. As intense as the excitement of being free and on my own was, there was doubt. I remember staring, hypnotized at the horizon…the blue is the deepest shade of blue out there… thinking, “soon I’ll be out there somewhere”. I imagined I could get into a sailboat, set off in that direction and eventually land in Halifax. Halifax! That strange sounding place that didn’t even pretend in its name to be familiar. I wondered whether Halifax had places like this… places that you could fall in love with and commit to; spaces that compelled you to plan your life around them. I wondered if strange sounding Halifax had such a place and, through fate or destiny, if I happened to find it, would moments like these blend with my spirit as completely as they do here. Would I sit on a rock at that place in Halifax transfixed to the horizon thinking “somewhere out there is home”? Yes, I loved this place, loved the me I was when I was with this place. And I took it with me across the Atlantic to strange sounding Halifax and allowed it to caress my toes with warmth when Halifax’s cold threatened frost bite.
When I came back to Antigua three years later I went back to my spot as soon as I could… and it was still there! No evidence of ownership though the land adjacent had a fence around it, menacingly contrasting with the open freeness of “my spot” (by then it had become “my spot”, though no one but it and me knew that).
The years passed swiftly enough as years tend to do when life is embraced and lived and I left home again, this time for six years, returning only once towards the end of my short exile. By now the thought of owning the land wasn’t quite as insistent but it hadn’t occurred to me that my spot had already been sold. When I returned home, presumably “for good”, I did something I had never done – I took someone to my spot! In all those years I hadn’t so much as shared the existence of “a spot” to those close to me but this someone was particularly special, someone I trusted to honour the sanctity of my secret place. We share moments there, beautiful in their simplicity. At that time there were tell tale signs that the land had been sold… much of it was fenced, but there was an opening leading to the water’s edge that wasn’t fenced and allowed for easy access. I was grateful that who ever bought the land was thoughtful enough to allow access to its serene beauty to others.
Today, my spot called to me; I went to it and as I approached I realized just how much I needed that quiet, serene time… needed to hear that welcoming whisper of waves… I knew the easy peace I’d find here and wanted it. But disappointment was the only thing offered me; my disappointment at seeing the high fence blocking all entry to my secret place, even the opening leading to the water’s edge; disappointment at the realization that “my spot” truly isn’t mine. The secret place that has sustained me with its relentless beauty will now only be mine in my memories.