God delights in routine. The sunrise happens every morning not because God ran out of ideas, but because the sun so glories in its rising that he does it again and again, as a child never tires of seeing something especially interesting done once more. Therefore, this morning, I did almost the exact same thing that I had done the previous morning. After a nourishing devotional time on our room's deck, staring off into the great black of the sea, I ran against the wind on the second-to-top deck outside, and then I carried an exercise mat outside and did refreshing Pilates exercises in the salty breeze. Very aesthetically pleasing, I must say. We all dressed in our most island-ish clothes, all us girls trying to compete for the most Grace Kelly outfit, and, when finished, we leaned out of our cabin to watch as the little English province came into view.
Grand Turk Island. It was very small, and almost wholly destroyed by Hurricane Ike, but my heart palpitated with expectation as I realized that I was stepping for the first time on foreign soil. How many times I've read the phrase in books I know not, but there is something so romantic about seeing the world! Secretly I made plans to drag somebody on a mad exploring expedition through the sand-hills and wild palm trees. I've always prided myself on being practical.
Once the boat docked, we made our way through the three thousand people trying to get off at the same time, and walked out onto the great concrete walkway bridging the waters to the beach. It was very hot, and I donned my sunglasses and a light cotton shawl to protect my very sensitive Irish skin and eyes from the tropical glare of the sun. Once on dry land, we fought our dizziness (especially bad when standing on tile or any other very flat surface) and the instinct to stand with our feet wide apart for more effective balancing. We younger kids stopped at a fresh fruit smoothie shop, where a beautiful, strong-boned woman with a dark, rich complexion and a lovely accent served us drinks made of mango and papaya and coconut and other island fruits. I was afraid I looked very tourist-y to her, but hey, you don't get to be a tourist every day! :)
Gretchen and I departed from the rest of our group to tour the jewelry shops, and soon had found some beautiful, native presents and shell-and-fresh-water-pearl earrings for ourselves and some others, and, having made our purchases, we all made our way to the beach. I had never before seen such a lovely beach. The sand was very clean and white, the water a glittering blue so clear one could see to the ocean floor even when one couldn't touch. We all ate a splendid luncheon while chatting with other newly-made acquaintances, and then, donning our bathing suits, rushed into the waters. Or rather, approached the salty expanse warily, stuck a toe into the very edge, and jumped back screaming because it was so cold! Somehow the heat of the day didn't affect the ocean very readily. Jeremiah and his friends, in the natural childhood immunity, were already soaking wet and playing out in the water, but we adults were having a rather painful time of it. Finally, seeing Annie, Scott, and Gretchen brave the frigid deep, I forced myself to plunge under the still liquid and came up shivering and gasping for air.
We all swam a bit, trying to get our blood pumping enough to warm us, but I could not get warm. Salt-water got into my eyes, making them sting, and, when nobody could think of anything to do, I decided I had had enough of the tropics (I know, I know, quite contemptible, I must say!) and left the beach with Mama and Daddy. We had a very pleasant walk and shop-sifting, but unfortunately the island wasn't much to explore, being mostly wreckage from the hurricane, and my parents are rather too old for exploring, and so soon I was carried back off to the boat. Daddy and I got some frozen yogurt cones and sat and looked out at the ocean from the boat and had a splendid time, however.
In an hour or so everyone returned, with stories about what they had seen while snorkling, and, after another very delectable supper and melting chocolate cake to aid us in gaining those healthy constitutions and rosy cheeks that Grandma loves so much in her grandchildren, we all played a game of Scrabble and had a wonderful time. I won the game, because of the word WINDLOG down over a couple triple word and double letter scores. Unfortunately for the rest of the players, nobody realized till afterward that windlog should be hyphenated…including me! I proclaim my innocence! :)
Once it was dark we all journeyed down a back path to the very front of the boat, where there was a deck that no one knew about. There were no lights on, and so we stood out on the very brink of the ship, the wind so forceful it was difficult to stand upright, our hair blowing itself into tangles, and our eyes gazing in rapture at the constellations above us. I had never seen so many stars. Planets and comets and formations and clusters, all dancing and burning in the great black deep above, which mirrored the great black deep below. The wind strummed the wires stretching above us in the mast, creating a dissonant and mysteriously beautiful hum that increased into a shrill scream as the wind increased, and ran back down the scale to a throaty tone when the wind softened. Our friend Jill said she had heard of a cruise where a woman murdered her husband by pushing him off the side of the boat in the dark. A chill quivered down my spine, and my eyes moved from the stars above to the murky waves below, and imagined the cold impact and the slither of sharks against my ankles.
Soon afterwards we all went back inside to electric warmth and fluorescent lights, all of us feeling rather creepy…especially after Jill's husband, David, told us all he had seen another person out there with us––a shadowy woman with long black tresses and empty eyes that stared into the infinite sea and sky, her whole being yearning for the peace that would not come till she was avenged… Thankfully I'm not Nancy Drew. Wouldn't you hate to be a person who seems to get picked to solve all the world's mysteries? :)
And that's day three of our maritime adventure!