The Beauty Without

My mother always says that in every yard, no matter how ugly or unmaintained, we can find something of beauty. I suppose it is a matter of what we focus on: the un-mown grass, the junk littering the balcony, or the few daffodils that manage to break the hard, dry soil and raise their sunshiny heads to the sky.

When I see those daffodils, I feel the power of the earth. I trust that after we’re gone, nature will take over. Flowers will break through concrete with beauty and color, and all our metal structures, our garbage heaps, our mines, those open wounds in the crust of the earth, will be forgotten in the healing energy of unbounded nature.

Sometimes I look at our river-spanning bridges, the clean skyline of our buildings, or the sumptuous buffet of a farmers market stall, and I think that we created a lot of beauty in this world. Different, perhaps, than the beauty that was here before us, but who am I to judge if different means wrong? Other times I wonder if the humanity-inflicted wounds on our earth can ever be healed.

Before arriving at Grand Bahama Island, I expected an island teeming with tropical beauty, gorgeous flowers mixing their scents with the salty air of the ocean, entwining plants climbing on palm trees to create a canopy of shade, and white sand beaches, the turquoise ocean merging with the blue, blue sky. But Grand Bahama Island is not quite like that.

Pool at our rental

Driving east and west of Freeport, a strange forest of low palm trees and tall, thin pines stretches as far as the eye can see, blocking out a view of the ocean. Only by turning off the main road did we discover the clear, turquoise waters that we expected: enchanting, open vistas, the waters calm and warm.

Interested in the strange flora, I searched the web for answers. I found that the first people to populate the Bahamas, the Lucayans, completely disappeared, either because of European illnesses for which they had no immunity or because they were removed from the island by the Spanish as slaves. After the American revolution, loyalists and their slaves came to the Bahamas and built cotton plantations. The lush forests which covered the island before their arrival have not regrown.

Had we stayed only on the beach, I could perhaps have ignored the shabby parts of the island, the dilapidation of years of hurricanes blowing through, the tired look of buildings battered by the salty air and the burning sun, or the human history that stopped the island’s natural evolution in place.

Trash heap in the street

Focus, I remind myself. Beauty is everywhere. And yet, though I can see the beauty of each and every palm and pine tree, the larger picture makes my heart sag, and I wish something could be done to return the natural beauty of this island to its former glory. I sit in the car, staring at the sparse forest rushing past the window, and the only thought that comes is: what a strange, strange land.

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109