I woke early this morning, around 4:30. And then again about an hour later, as the first rays of sunlight we’re beginning to push back the black. A pinkish-peach glow was beginning to unveil the gauzy outlines of buildings and the lagoon shore.
I remember thinking how much I love to wake up at this time of the morning. Wake up. Not get up.
When I woke for the final time, the bright Caribbean sun had claimed the morning as its own but something was different. Something was wrong.
Birds. The sounds of birds, different kinds. Everywhere. And the rustle of palms and the winds that were exciting them. Those, too. Everywhere.
Why was I hearing so much?
Ah. Because of the silence.
There were no overhead fans spinning. There were no grinding air conditioners from other condos. There were no whining waterpumps.
Simple: There was no electricity.
Just the way I once had imagined Paradise to be.
I walked out to the porch and sat down to listen to the birds, closed my eyes and opened my ears to the call and responses from around the lagoon. It felt like the closing environmental segment on “CBS Sunday Morning,” when the camera is fixed and the narrative is stripped down to the raw sounds of nature.
Call and response.
No air conditioners grinding out their metallic mating call. No hum and thrum from refrigerators. No music blaring from Omar’s bar on the island. No neighboring TV tuned to the European football match of the week.
There was the faint cry of a baby, from one of the houses on stilts far, far across the lagoon. And here and there the disagreeable but distant bark of a dog.
Out on the lagoon, the mad slap of a leaping fish’s inevitable nod to gravity was more noticeable than I can ever recall. Had they always been airborne so often? I imagine so, if bugs are a big part of their diet.
I sat straight up in my chair, posited my feet flat on the ground and my hands in my lap with thumbs hooked to pinkies (my cue for welcoming those slow rolling Delta waves) as I drifted backward deep into meditation.
Three … Exhale … Three … Exhale … Three …Exhale. Pause. Two … Exhale …Two … Exhale … Two …Exhale. Pause. One … Exhale … One … Exhale … One….Exhale.
And there we are: Safely ensconced in a subcutaneous mental layer, a slow river of firing neurons. Safely there in font of my “imaginary retreat,” built in a mental exercise in 1970: the two-story library room with its dark wood accents, hunter green walls, brass fixtures and twin sweeping spiral staircases to the main floor. That’s where you can find my plush, soft leather thinking chair and the large blank screen on which has been solved so many a conundrum.
It is a room that I haven’t visited as often as I should in recent years. But then, I’ve rarely experienced the peacefulness to which I awoke today. You need a centered calm to float down to the river of Delta waves that leads to the room.
If I were to get fanciful, I would say that the room needs a good dusting; the brass a good polishing; and the storehouse of knowledge, ideas and imagination a good updating.
There’s much mental work to do. Another day, perhaps.
It is time to step back into the light.
For now, the Sunday morning calm brought on by an island-wide shutdown of the electrical grid is gift enough.
Because all too soon, reality will be restored.
Omar will crank up Jimmy Cliff tunes in his island bar. Air conditioners will begin their rhythmic grinding out of the artificial chill. Refrigerators and fans will add to the ambient, throbbing hum.
And the birds will be muted.
And the leaping fish will seem like a pantomime.
And the winds and rustling palms will have to exert their voices to be heard above the techno chatter.
For now, it is enough to take measure of the many different greens of Ambergris Caye foliage before me; and the seemingly endless shades of blue-green-gray water in the lagoon; and the constant, brilliant blue sky above – all drenched in this bright Sunday morning sun.
This bright Sunday morning sun and this gift of silence.