Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bermuda Postcards #2 - Holding Hands Underwater

In the days before we left for Bermuda, we kept score on Tropical Storm Debby.  She was supposed to churn into Texas, so we rooted for that, selfishly hoping that Debby would do Dallas because then Bermuda and our vacation would be safe.

Instead, Debby exited, Stage Left, then cat and dogged across Florida before weakening to a tropical cyclone - huzzah! - only to regain strength and again become a tropical storm - boo hiss.

The girls wondered why I was so interested in the weather.  I thought it'd be a hoot to tease them, talk about cyclones, maybe tornadoes - tornadoes would have led to Dorothy, Dorothy to Toto, then I'd do my Wicked Witch cackle - but before I could begin, Karen gave me a look.  So I didn't.

Fortunately, by the time we ourselves were crossing the Atlantic, Debby had become a tropical depression and then petered out.  So the ocean we saw?  Just big and blue.

Cruise ships drop anchor at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda.  Our first day, we left the Dockyard and headed to Horseshoe Bay.  We'd been told it was one of Bermuda's most beautiful beaches.

The girls agreed.

My memories of Bermuda are many:

Kristina running up and down the beach, joyful.  So joyful.

Looking for sea creatures hiding in the volcanic crags along the water with Elizabeth.

Chickens on sidewalks.

All the pastel homes along Middle Road between the Dockyard and Hamilton.

The Caipirinha I drank at the restaurant on the way to the beach.

1 lime

2 oz cachaça (Brazilian white rum)



Roll the lime between your palm and the counter to release the juices inside.  Cut the lime into pieces, drop in your shaker, sprinkle with sugar - then muddle.  Add the cachaça and ice.  Shake until frosted.  Pour into a rocks glass, over.

Other memories - like meeting Anthony Pettit, dealer of Bermuda arcana, and buying two antique soda bottles from him.

The blue water.

The red burn on my shoulders from that first beach day.

Stacy and Allison calling out from their carriage as it horse-trotted past us.

Watching Kristina and Karen in a yellow paddle boat, on the ocean.

But what I'll remember most is from our second day - what I'll remember most is snorkeling with Elizabeth and Kristina.

The warm water lapping around my shoulders, my sunburn forgotten because there I was surrounded by all that gorgeous blue with both my girls, Karen picture snapping away inside the paddle boat.

We'd initially divided and conquered - Karen took Kristina in the boat and I went into the water with Elizabeth.

After a bit, Kristina decided maybe, just maybe, she'd like to give snorkeling a shot.

Oh, that Kristina.  She talks a good game.

And she certainly looked fabulous duded out in her snorkeling gear - but she wasn't quite sure about actually putting her head under the water.

I leaned close, whispered it was ok.  That I'd hold her the entire time.  She considered that.  For about three seconds before she started laughing.  No, Daddy - laughing - No.  I'll be all right with Mommy.  In our boat.

And she splashed, happy, when Karen paddled that boat our way.

So I went back to Elizabeth, back to what we'd been doing before.

We'd walked to the shore, past bikini girls and tattoo boys, shells and pebbles biting into our feet, me struggling with the flippers - Elizabeth slipping hers on with much more ease than Dad.

Finally getting my flippers on - then penguin-walking into the calm water.  Elizabeth splashing ahead, thrilled.  The girls never more elated than when they're in the water.  At home that means pools  - either the one at Grandma and Grandpa's or the one at the Harbor Bay Club.

But here, in Bermuda?  In the ocean?  The warm Atlantic ocean?  The girls were ecstatic.  Kristina in her boat with Karen, Elizabeth with me.

Elizabeth took no time getting used to the snorkel and mask.  Then getting used to letting herself float - all the better to look, to watch.

What I'll remember most is taking Elizabeth's hand, there in that water warmed by the Gulf Stream, and having Elizabeth give up all control.  Elizabeth letting herself float, face angled down, staring into the sea.  Letting me paddle my feet, with her small hand in mine, as we swam.  Just seeing blue water at first, feeling seaweed - sargassum - touch our shoulders as it floated by.  Shoal grass waving under us.  Elizabeth's other hand darting forward, pointing at a fish as it shot by.

Elizabeth letting go of my hand, trying to catch the fish with the assurance that eight-year-olds have.  Turning right and left, reaching reaching, certain the fish could be hers.

Both of us coming up for air, Elizabeth smiling so big.  So happy.  Daddy, daddy! she said.  Did you see it?  Did you?

Both of us laughing, draining our snorkels of sea water, ready to go again.

Elizabeth, thrilled, slipping her hand back into mine.  Floating on the water, her little body rising with the current.  Me kicking with flippered feet.  Ahead of us, a hundred slashes of silver.  A thousand.  Ten thousand.


One of the Bikini Girls on the beach had been talking to her Tattoo Boy about them, All those small, slim fish.  Everywhere, just everywhere, she said.  Yeah, Tattoo Boy said.  They're called Silversides.  And he said it with a smile because he knew the answer.  Not that Bikini Girl had asked a question, but still.

I kicked harder, squeezing Elizabeth's hand.  Elizabeth squeezing back.  Her mask turning toward the streaks, her free hand pointing--

Look dad!



Both of us swimming into the silver shoal, hand holding hand, moving as one - and thousands of tiny fish moving as one, too - down and right, fast, left and up, faster - Elizabeth's excitement being telegraphed to me through electric fingers.  Squeeze squeeze point!

Look dad look!  The fish enveloping us - in front, around, under and behind - so many fish, more fish than water.

Then - the shoal disappearing as quickly as it arrived, the water clear again, the seagrass waving.

That's what I'll remember from Bermuda.  Elizabeth and I, hand in hand, swimming through warm Atlantic waters.  Silversides all around.

All around.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bermuda Postcards #1 - The colors of the island

We landed in Baltimore, late, and got up early the next day to board our ship and set sail for Bermuda.

Bermuda?  I thought Bermuda was in the Caribbean - clearly, I should've spent more time studying Geography.  More's the pity.

The island's by itself, lonely in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea, making Bermuda a propitious location for rum-runners during our country's inglorious pursuit of Prohibition.

As much thoughtful consideration went into that pursuit as went into my studies of Geography.

And yes, we all thought it was peculiar that we were traveling into the Bermuda Triangle - willingly.  On a boat.  You scoff.  You say the Triangle is a myth.  To you I say, read about the USS Cyclops.  The single largest non-combat loss of life in the history of the US Navy?  When the Cyclops was lost in March of 1918.  Just lost - poof - the ship and its 306 crew members and passengers.  No wreckage ever found.

Yet you scoff?

I didn't scoff.  But I did drink.  Many Rob Roys.   I decided on Rob Roys when I saw that the ones mixed on board used Chivas.  My dad was an old Chivas man, so in his honor - lots of Rob Roys to make any thoughts of the Cyclops disappear, like a ship at sea.

The first thing you notice about Bermuda is the water - so turquoise, so blue.  And the further from shore, the deeper the hue.  The lines of demarcation, from blue to darker blue, are so straight as to appear fake, as if the sea has been photoshopped.

The blue of Bermuda isn't only found in its waters, the blue doesn't only surround the island with its shades--

--the blue seeps from those waters and runs down the undersides of bandstands.

Onto the island's walls.

From those walls back to the sky.  Of course, right?  Of course you'd want as much of that ocean blue to be with you on land.

The beaches are unbelievable, indeed - that's what you'll remember when you visit.  And you should.  Visit.  But the colors of the island?  The colors you'll pass as you travel to Horseshoe Bay?  Don't forget the colors.

And it's all just ridiculously beautiful.  But blue is only the beginning.  Yellow, more turquoise, green.  Pastels everywhere.

One of the islanders I met, Anthony Pettit, a seller of good things old - books, bottles, maps - laughed as we drove from the Dockyard to his house in Hamilton.  Yes, he said, we do like our buildings to be bright.  Some people think they can be too bright.

But they're - joyful, I said.  Joyful being the only word I could think of that encapsulated the glee and delight behind the paint choices.  It all reminded me of Greece - where they don't hide miscellaneous architectural details.  Is there a water pipe that incongruously runs up the outside of a wall?  Here in the states we'd paint the pipe the color of the wall to mask it.  In Greece?  On the islands?  That wall is going to be white, but the pipe they'll paint blue.  Bright blue.  Letting everyone know - here's a pipe!

The difference between Bermuda and Greece is, of course, the choice of color.  Or choices.  In Greece, most of the accents remain blue, whereas here in Bermuda, the houses look like different colored gems strewn amid its twenty square miles.

Did I mention how ridiculously beautiful it all is?  All the color?  Like that purple shirt, against the salmon wall?  How great is that?

If you lived in Bermuda, surrounded by turquoise water, where hibiscus grows wild, wouldn't you want your house or cottage to add to the surroundings?

It's lucky there isn't a Bermudan homeowners association dictating which shade of beige can be used to cover domiciles.

So let's end where we started.  With Bermuda blue.  If you're lucky, when you visit, you'll be accompanied by an eight-year-old who just so happens to bring her own blue with her wherever she goes.  And to see Bermuda blue reflected in her own?


I'd go back for that.  Wouldn't you?