Maria Maria

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In a world that has been governed, since early September, by the powers of two category 5 hurricanes it seems only appropriate to finally put pen to paper on this day; the official end of 2017’s hurricane season. That’s not to say that another hurricane this year is impossible…but I really think we’ve had enough for one year!

Some 10 weeks after H. Maria “visited” our beautiful island, more than half of us remain without electricity, debris is still being removed from major roadways, 10% or more of houses still have gaping wounds in their roofs or are temporarily patched up with bright blue tarps, and many people are still feeling a little shell-shocked. Those without the ability to do their own repairs face long waits for over-extended contractors, people who’s children attend public school struggle with a split-day schedule as schools double up due to damaged buildings, and our hospital somehow functions from half of its condemned building and a collection of emergency “tents” in the parking lot. Daily life, however, has settled into somewhat of a routine. Though I never wished for the lifestyle again, I’m glad to have grown up without mains power, running water, and communications, for it has put me in good stead over the past months. Though tedious, washing laundry by hand, lugging around jugs of water and gasoline, and spending dim evenings by the minimal light of a kerosene lamp or solar light are not the end of the world. More tedious is the endless drone of a generator (our 5 hours a day to keep the freezer functional seems endless) and the endless complaints from those who have never lived this way before!

In terms of damage, our gorgeous trees suffered the most. With some 20 years worth of growth missing, the land feels bare and exposed, though in reality we lost remarkably few trees. Only two large trees actually fell: an ancient tamarind tree, which fell just short of the house, and our wonderful breadfruit tree, some 60′ tall. The tamarind is beyond saving, being far too large to resurrect, but we pulled a hail-Mary stunt with the breadfruit tree, trimming it down to its first set of branches and hauling it upright with come-a-longs to other trees…and remarkably, about a month after being stood up it is pushing out its first new leaves! The trees still standing after the hurricane are working hard to leaf out and begin to fill back in to form a canopy once again, but this will take some time…for now many of them look like illustrations from Dr Suess. Meanwhile the understory plants–bananas, hibiscus, chenille, gingers, heleconia, elephant ear, and more–are growing visibly day by day, thanks to some 40″ of rain since September and the extra sunlight. Though we expect minimal, if any, harvests of mango and avocado in 2018, we are still getting the odd papaya here and there, and hope for bananas within 5 months or so.

With the little Gypsy Vardo rebuilt and the kitchen roof dents pushed back out (steel is a wondrous material), Nidulari has been fully up and running for nearly 4 weeks! Business has been a little slow as so many of our familiar faces have left island, but we hope to see people trickling back home as conditions here improve. The road has been somewhat of a challenge, but the clearing crews have finally reached our section, so there should be no more road blocks between here and Frederiksted after tomorrow! It’s amazing to see the roadsides completely clear of plants and debris for the first time in over 8 years…back when they used to clear the verges on a regular basis. The linemen also have moved beyond us up the road, and we’ve been told not to get our hopes up, but that we could have power within 2 weeks!

Hope to see those of you who are still on St Croix out here at Nidulari soon! Our hours remain the same as always, though we will be closed for a week over Christmas, December 23rd-27th.

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