Shifting into drive after a week of vacation in the world of “No problem!” is an arduous process. St. Martin is a land of heat, sun, and water. Of half Dutch and half French and all Caribe. Of gourmet food. Of long expanses of time of nothingness. Getting used to that rhythm took a couple days: letting go of “should, need, must, remember” and settling into days less articulated. Bill and I were last on St. Martin twelve years ago. Then, the island was quieter and less built-up, freer from American influence. The island’s infrastructure is trying to catch up with the influx of time-share tourists and new concrete resorts and big cars on small roads.
Years before that trip, we sailed the waters around St. Martin, anchoring in bays and visiting the bi-ethnic island via dinghy. We carried our own scuba gear and dove on wrecks and reefs in those beautiful waters. When we anchored at night, we were careful to drop anchor in sand, often snorkeling to find a sandy spot to for the anchor, and sometimes diving down to make sure the anchor set. We didn’t drop anchor in coral; we didn’t let the anchor drag for yards on the bottom to grab ground. We watched others who took much less care to set anchor for the night. Last week, snorkeling the dead reefs in Simpson Bay – bone white coral skeletons – I thought of those “drop it and forget it” sailors we watched years ago. Today, bare boaters are not allowed to drop anchor; they must pick up a buoy or go into harbor. Maybe the reef will be back in 25 years?
Warmly, the Butterfly Farm was much like I remembered during our first visit there, perhaps hotter. Water trickled down our backs, faces, and legs before the tour even started. The heat slowed our vacation tempo even more. Wiping sweat from our eyes, we watched an Atlas moth fluttering inside its pupa in mid-cycle of that mystical event called metamorphosis.
Each butterfly species has its own preferred plant on which to lay eggs. A butterfly can smell that plant nine miles away. The plants and caterpillars are as exotic as the butterflies and moths.
I’m interested in these facts, but I’m so hot I just want to leave the farm and get back to the beach breeze. We probably haven’t made good use of the entrance fee, but it’s so very hot. Hot, hot, hot.
I find shade waiting for the boys to catch up. I hear gasps from the small crowd: people are smiling and pointing at me. An owl butterfly has lit on my hat. The owl features of the butterfly are so clear: When this arthropod flies, it looks like the face of an owl swooping through the air. I stand still and have Bill take a picture before it leaves. But, I needn’t rush, for it hangs on my hat for 20 minutes while I move slowly. I feel like Minnie Pearl with a butterfly as a price tag hanging from my hat.
Continuing to sweat, the novelty is over. I need the cool ocean breeze. The tour guide transfers the owl face off of my hat. I’ve stood still long enough for a butterfly to hitch a ride. That’s the speed of a relaxing vacation.
(The flowers from the Butterfly Garden reminded me of those in England -- perhaps not quite as exotic but beautiful garden inspiration!)