dharma monkey

embrace the monkey

The Unspoiled Queen


Saba is known the world over by its motto, The Unspoiled Queen, and the scientist leading last night’s Sea and Saba lecture summed it up best: there are few places left on Planet Earth that are as unaffected by man’s presence as Saba.

There are so few places on the island that can be developed, and even then, buildings have to be precariously balanced on small patches of land due to the topography of the island. The result is that, like many islands, man lives in concert with the surrounding plants and animals. But with the Saban’s limited footprint on this island, I think nature has the upper hand.

When we leave tomorrow, I will have a renewed appreciation for the delicate balance between man and the environment, and for what we lack living in a major urban area.

Here, there is no island-wide water system, so you immediately become very conscious of the water you use. The weighted buckets used to measure the amount of water in our cistern are a daily reminder that water is a precious resource for many of the people on this Earth. While water flows from a seemingly unending source back home, as many as 2 billion humans lack reliable or regular access to clean water.

Then there is the coexistence with animals that occurs on Saba. In Washington, we tend to shun the small amounts of “wild life” that exist in the city – rats and mice, alley cats, etc. Yet here, there is a balance. No one runs a lizard or frog out of his or her home because they eat flying insects, which are amazingly few in number (there are plenty of frogs and lizards everywhere on Saba, so the connection should be obvious). Ants, while annoying, carry away anything that any creature would generally consider as waste, in effect keeping things clean and tidy.

The island’s ample supply of goats (one of which I just shooed from my porch because we left the back gate unlocked) keep the grass cut back without prompting.

And at night, there is no doubt the island is alive, with millions of frogs singing to find love. It’s a stark contrast to life in the city, which, except for the sounds of man and his inventions, is painfully silent.

I, too, was ready to embrace the complex interconnection of life on Saba until yesterday afternoon. While hiking some 800 feet above sea level, we encountered a bright yellow land crab that was at least as big as my shoe. As I turned the corner on a switchback, what I thought was a yellow leaf quickly raised its claws and assumed a defensive position. Shawn would later describe my reaction as the most masculine scream a man could possibly muster.

Walking around Windwardside in the dark last night, I didn’t think too much about the land crab we encountered until we returned home with friends and opened the door to the outdoor grotto/bathroom behind our cottage. There on a rock at eye-level, no more than four feet from our heads, was a dark red land crab that was even bigger than the first, and he wasn’t happy that we interrupted his evening. With his claws up and ready for action, he slowly retreated backward.

Truth is, I just need to get used to being ambushed by huge crustaceans in a place where I never expected to them. Which is all part of the process of living in complete harmony with the natural world around me.

I’m glad the crabs challenged me, because in the end, I’m a better person for it. Though I hear you can get a fist full of bills for live land crabs down at Port Bay. ;-D

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

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