A few weeks ago, June 1st, marked the official first day of hurricane season.
This is how we mark the passage of seasons, in a place that’s warm all year round, where the days of summer aren’t so much longer than those of winter. The seasons are punctuated with dread and anticipation of the possibility of great destruction. We joke, tease, and seek to assure each other that this will be no worse than other years. We each quietly check the weather radar and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predictions each day, waiting for the inevitable formations in the Atlantic. Those with houses that can be battened down check hurricane shutters, generators, and safety equipment. Those without seek invitations to such houses for “hurricane parties”; gatherings in buildings deemed well-built, accessible, and likely to suffer little damage in a storm.
Then, life just goes on. In a good year, we watch, wait, huddle, and repeat. In a bad year, a hurricane hits our island and there’s a scurry to clear roads and driveways, to do repairs from wind and water damage, and to help neighbors in need. We get through the expected week or so without electricity, and then things goes back to relative normality. We all fervently hope to never again see the devastation wrought by hurricane Hugo back in ’89, still spoken of with apprehension at the development of every new weather system.
Meanwhile, everyone who leaves the island to spend the warm summer months elsewhere has left, and those who remain convince ourselves that this is the best time of year here, while the water is warm and the beaches are empty. Perhaps we allow ourselves a moment of envy for those who have flown or drifted away to cool mountains, to fields of berries, to good cheese and better wine. Yet mangos falling on the roof soon remind one that St Croix has equally good things to offer; coconut water that has never been in a can, shade trees almost as good as air-conditioning and so much better for the health our planet, and, perhaps most of all, people who watch out for each other.
Every few years St Croix has a spate of crime, perhaps shootings, burglary, car-jacking, or holdups; sometimes all of the above and more. People get scared, some leave, some get overly violent or paranoid, ready to snap at the tiniest provocation. Mostly, though, people are brought together by it. During and after such an episode, wherever one goes on the island people are checking in with each other. No-one leaves a gathering without someone making sure they feel safe, asking to know when they get home safely, or offering to accompany them to their destination. Numbers are exchanged, cautions doled out, and promises made to be there in a jiffy if there’s any problem at all. When someone’s house or business does get broken into, the community rallies to help, to fix what was broken, to replace what what lost. This is what community is for.
Ultimately, there are those who are cowed by the trials and tribulations of St Croix, and then there are those who are determined to persevere and who throw themselves at making St Croix the best it can be. I’ve been told that I’m one of the latter; I try. There are many others here who are working hard to create places to gather, to diversify St Croix’s offerings, and particularly working to bring Frederiksted and the West end back to life. What makes me happiest of all? Many of our Frederiksted businesses are owned/operated by women! The newest addition is close to my heart; a relatively upscale waterfront bar offering delicious cocktails, beer on tap, and pool tables; opened by Emily Weston of Lyric Sails (another great F’sted-based business!): Tap Deck Bar & Billiards. Check them out when you’re in F’sted. Between Nidulari, Rhythms, Freedom City Surf (aka Teres Veho), Tap Deck, the Lost Dog, Polly’s, Sweet Bites, Hazel’s petting zoo and Country Smoothies (now on King St), multiple dive shops and a handful of other places, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to go in Frederiksted. If you’re one of those East Enders who never comes West, get out your passport and head on over! If you’re thinking about visiting St Croix, consider staying on the West end for a relaxed, low-key getaway.
After a brief respite (had to go celebrate the opening of Tap Deck!) Nidulari will be open again on June 24th. We’ll be rolling out our newest frappés and milkshakes with cold brew coffee and frozen homegrown fruit, and we’ll also have the very first samples of Mandy’s Bean to Bar Chocolate, made from entirely Caribbean-grown ingredients right here in the rainforest. She’s also planting lots more cacao trees so that ultimately there will be chocolate grown and produced here on St Croix. So exciting!