Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little Harvest Caye, Part I

I am perched in a mangrove tree, a few feet off the ground.  I am four years old, wearing only underpants, and not fully sure how I am getting down after this climb, but I feel safe, at home and happy.  In front of me is the sapphire blue ocean, partially blocked by the thick winding branches and green leaves of the mangrove.  I feel the warm sun and salty sea breeze on my body.  Below me is the wet sand and long roots of the mangrove.  Above me is my older sister, Sarah, whom I call TT.  She is also in her underpants, and much higher than I am in the mangrove tree.  Sarah tells me step by step where to put my feet and hands as I climb higher and higher, until we both reach our goal; a clearing in the mangrove where we can see beyond it. 

We can see the vast ocean in all her greatness, and in the distance, we can see a silhouette of trees and brush; it is another little island.  It looks so small, just a little blob in the ocean, yet in reality, that island in the distance is about three times the size of the one we are on.  My mother, my father, Sarah and I live on a tiny, minuscule island called Little Harvest Caye which is about two nautical miles away from Placencia, a peninsula along the Southern coast of Belize.  We are the only four humans on Little Harvest Caye, which is approximately the size of an average suburban lot.  For me at four years old, this place is utopia.  I have my father to protect us, my mother to love and care for us, and Sarah, my one and only TT, to play with, explore with, and to protect me from our parents when we get into trouble. 

My father takes trips on his small boat, named the "Sarah Jane", to Placencia for supplies; rice, beans, and, most importantly, fresh water.  Fresh water is so precious our mother has Sarah and me spend most days in our underwear so she has less clothes to wash.  My father is a gifted fisherman, so we always have more than enough fish to eat.  Fruits and vegetables are a little harder to come by.  Nothing edible grows on our island, and since the nearest port is a sandy peninsula, fruits and vegetables from the mainland are expensive.  However at four, I am just fine with only having some cabbage or a banana once and a while. 

We have a cat named Anelliot, a spunky little tomcat who chases lizards and is always willing to go for a swim.  We have a tiny house, only about 20 feet by 20 feet, which my father built himself.  While building the house he ran out of wood, and money for wood, so our house has two holes in the floor, each about 2 square feet, and about 1 foot apart from each other.  The house is on stilts, so we all have to be careful to walk around the two holes.  When we first moved to the house I asked if there were holes in the floor so we could go pee through them.  My mother and Sarah thought that was so funny that from then on we call them" the pee holes".  Our house is small, but we hardly spend any time inside.  The only things that keep us inside are nighttime, rain, or Sarah's schoolwork. 

Once we get out, Sarah and I spend our days exploring, usually with Anelliot nearby hunting lizards.  Although we can walk around the entire island in a few minutes, Little Harvest Caye is full of ever changing surprises and secrets.  My father has heard stories that pirates had buried treasure on Little Harvest Caye many years ago, and this is the prize he covets.  While Sarah and I enjoy the tales of lost treasure, we are most enamored by the surprises that nature brings us.  The size of the island is always changing, depending on the tide, and with the tide comes a never ending supply of exotic sea life, just waiting to be poked with sticks by two very curious little girls. 

The best part is the mangrove trees, a small forest of salt water loving trees at the intersection of land and sea.  With their tall roots, the mangrove trees grow out over the shallow water beyond Little Harvest Caye.  The mangrove trees are where Sarah and I love to be the most.  As Sarah and I stand in the trees we gaze at the tiny island in the distance, and wonder if there is a family like ours living on that island.  From what our parents tell us, no one lives there, but we like to imagine, maybe there is a castle on that island, which is appropriately named Big Harvest Caye.  Maybe a princess who has a horse, and has a closet full of dresses.  We always imagine grand scenarios, pretending beyond the thicket of mangroves on Big Harvest Caye is a vast kingdom, just out of our reach.  I love talking about what could be there behind those trees, but the only place I want to be is here, climbing trees in my underpants with Sarah, watching the sunset.

- Rosanna Forman

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