Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Phew. It feels a burden has been lifted. The realisation that our world has been covered in darkness – and in a shade darker than we’d even been able to see.

It is quite something to read the news this morning. A huge surge of hopefulness lives in print. Apparently, cimate change will no longer be ignored by the world’s biggest Western super power. And the togetherness of people – hammered out in speech and rhetoric – will be solidified into action. Of course, time will ultimately tell. We still have our individual contributions to make.

It’s suddenly tempting to see this pandemic within the same cloak of darkness. Maybe this virus will also go away? Magically disappear along the stinking path of divisiveness and hatred. Or maybe the vaccine cure will roll in, now that some of the political clouds have parted. Ha! That would be quite something. Ways to redeem 2020.

But the reality is always more complicated. More nuanced. It seems to me that even through the suffering this year, some checks and balances have been achieved. Although the emphasis, after this electoral turning point – is probably going to be in a fervent forwards direction, I want to consider the movement backwards. For a moment.

Petra, the lady who runs a women’s clothing store on the chic strip of shops in Kralendijk, filled in some of my knowledge gaps yesterday. About Bonaire. Bonaire remains eerily quiet, tourist-wise. I was chatting to Petra while buying my Christmas present yesterday: a dress. I decided to make dress-buying a Christmas ritual when I realised two Christmases ago, I didn’t own a single, working dress. I have to say, I am really enjoying this new ritual.

After I bought it, I listened to Petra. She told me in January, she’d been exhausted by the state of affairs in Bonaire.

Two cruise ships a day, she explained. Each with 4,000 passengers. The population of Bonaire, she said, is only just shy of 20,000 people. With almost half the population of the whole island coming everyday, Petra said the extra people walking around Bonaire was an exercise in intensity. At the time, it felt like an eternal damnation. Not something anyone could change in the march of economics. Until the end of March of course – when the whole island suddenly shut down.

Now, Petra says the island is more like it was ten years ago, before the race towards mass tourism began. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Petra has been enjoying the return to quiet. There has to be a balance, she concedes, but she personally doesn’t want a return to the two cruise ships a day. She hopes the days of intense tourism are over for Bonaire.

So, for all the darkness, there have been shafts of light. Perhaps the darkness has shown us the light. Perhaps that’s how it works. In this way, going backwards becomes a necessary step to go forwards.

I hid my dress in the under the floor of Quest’s front cabin. Next to the packs of kitchen towels and warm sailing hats. I’m ready to be surprised when my tribe gives it to me. Roll on time. And light.

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