Happiness and simplicity

I’ve never been this happy before.

Let’s recap, briefly:

On Little Cayman, there are more iguanas than people, an incredible community of birds, and approximately 150 year-round residents.  We have a small general store, open until 6 each day (and charging $8 for a bag of Tostitos), a bank (open two days a week), and one restaurant/bar which is called the Hungry Iguana, or “the Iggy.”  The island is concise, if you will.  We seem to have everything we need, and nothing we don’t.  If you want to top up your pre-paid, diesel-generator made electricity, you must walk into the loudest, most ranshackle building you could imagine.  Every time I walk in there I think… well, no one would hear me scream, that’s for sure.

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Really, though, the only thing eliciting a scream from that place would be perhaps a rogue iguana attack or freak accident caused by lack of building codes, so it’s really a fleeting thought.  The perfect stage for a horror film.  There is no crime on Little Cayman, so it’s rare to hear human screams, anyway.  The first and only ever recorded murder on the island was less than a year ago, and it appears to have been motivated by domestic affairs.  Doors are usually left unlocked, and my “death trap” of a motorbike has a key that’s permanently rigged into the ignition for facile theft.

I digress.

I never thought that I could live happily without mountains and rivers and seasons and fireplaces, but here I am; and for the first time in years, I am sincerely happy all the time.  I’ve had to question myself, many times, because it’s hard to believe that I could be this content on such an aberrant path in my life.  Those who know me well probably remember my insatiable love for bending rivers and rugged peaks, which are entirely absent in my current locale.  I myself never imagined I would end up living on a hardly inhabited and largely uninhabitable island in the Caribbean, playing with hermit crabs and bugs to pass the time (well, the latter, yes, because I’ve enjoyed playing with bugs everywhere).  But life here has demanded that I learn how to enjoy solitude and routine, whilst truly become comfortable with my space and self.  My life previously craved this balance, but I couldn’t find it in the confusion of juggling travel, a relationship, plans for the future, attempted self-discovery, and personal passions.  It was all always so confusing and mis-guided and I actively avoided establishment of any sort of routine or monotony.

I used to regularly feel the way I do when I surface after a long dive and forget to add air to my BCD.  Well, I don’t do this anymore, because I’ve been working as a divemaster for nearly a year now. But imagine kicking hard to keep your head above water, while the weights in your vest keep pulling you under so you can only catch a slight breath between submersions.  The simple solution is to drop the weights, or add air and just lay back, but instead I’d fight in a proud attempt to stay afloat on the merits of my own efforts.  I’d put up a fight until reaching the ladders, crawling back onto the boat in an exhausted heap of disgruntled ego.

Lesson to be learned, is that there are two options: struggle to stay afloat, or take a moment to pause, drop your weights, and lay back.  It doesn’t always come instinctively, especially because fight is the much more available response in my brain than flight.  But I think that here, I’ve managed to pause, drop my weights, and lay back.  I have no bills to pay, no debt, no plans for the future, and nothing in excess of exactly what I need.  When I feel stressed, I get on my bike and go somewhere to work it out on my own.

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I have the luxury here to find a private place to go and think, and take the time to gain clarity with no one to answer to but myself.  I’ve spent hours looking at the clouds from salt rock dock by myself, contemplating their three-dimensionality and pondering the color spectrum, just because I can!  I’m allowed the pleasure of living in the moment, and honestly can’t say that I have any idea what’s coming next.  One day you might plan to cook pasta for dinner, invite all your friends, and then head to the store only to realize they’re out of $10 boxes of penne.  Plans change, life goes on, and you simply go with it.  There is no future and no past, and this truth has me floating effortlessly on the surface like a Portuguese-man-o-war.

I sometimes remember the things that I used to love in my life: fresh produce at the farmers market, meeting strangers around a campfire in the Whites, road trips home to visit the farm, cold nights in the Berkshires with my closest friends, having a coffee at the corner shop in Woods Hole, or dinner at Toms with the finest French wine and cheese.  Previously, while traveling, I missed these things as I remembered them with longing.  But since settling in here, I now look back at these memories with a content fondness–a distant warmth inside with a tangible peace that I have that in my past and this in my present.

Recently, I went over to the big island, Grand Cayman, for a weekend with one of my best friends here. It was the first time off this little rock in five months, and I couldn’t wait to see people!  But after meeting new and lovely people, I noticed the same sentiment repeatedly surfaced in conversation: “You live on Little Cayman?  How do you do it!? You must get so bored!”

I truly can say that this place has erased my concept of boredom entirely.  I am no longer familiar with the phenomenon called “boredom,” nor can I really relate to people who are.

We are living in an outrageously exciting period in time (and I use the term “period” quite liberally, as this bit of time we humans occupy in the time-space-continuum is more like a flicker).  In the past decade, cosmologists have made giant leaps in space discoveries; four years ago we found the first evidence of other universes, and today, we can actually visualize where the Milky Way Galaxy is in this vast incomprehensible expanse of our own universe! If you care to see, watch:

How could anyone get bored, ever?  There is–quite literally–an infinite amount of information out there to learn about! So when I have time outside of work, I am either exploring the island, spending time with my friends, or scouring the internet and various books for interesting information that connects me back to the larger world I’m living in.  I take notes on everything I learn about and have either become a complete nerd, or a very interesting person (I guess it’s a matter of judgement, really) in the time I’ve been here.  I have a journal that my close friends now read every few days to see updates on interesting scientific findings or historical events that I find relevant.  I have a little table in my apartment where the world melts away around me, and my tunnel vision becomes focused on the topic of the hour: bat facts/behavior, virology, ways that plants communicate, and so on. DSCN1667

And at work, I get to actually interact with a little slice of biodiversity that many people will never see.  In fact, I grin with the knowledge that on every dive I go on, I see probably one percent of the biodiversity that I am actually enveloped in.  The coral reefs are astonishing, and the creatures are unimaginable.  Fragile and alien, are the words that come to mind.  Don’t even get me started on the Mantis Shrimp, we could spend all day geeking out on their mind-blowing characteristics. One day, I spent some time underwater with a photographer acting as a model for his portfolio.  One thing I took away from this experience is that I’m a rubbish model.  Another is that I am incredibly lucky to do what I do every single day.  This hit me as we were reviewing the photos, and came to the ones of the grouper.  When I worked as a waitress, I knew “grouper” as an expensive thing we had on the menu as a special from time to time.  Now, I know them as hilariously animated creatures, each with different personalities and preferences (and an animal I will never condone on the menu).  As I was posing in a cave, this Nassau Grouper came charging in, swam right up to the camera, then turned to me knocking me in the shoulder until I gave him a pet under the chin.IP2A5394

This particular grouper does this to me all the time, at this dive site.  Like how Patrick would run up to the door and jump on me when I came home from work, this guy comes barreling over the reef as soon as he sees the divers dropping down.  The other evening on a dusk dive, I actually hit him with my knee because I didn’t realize it was swimming so close underneath me like a well behaved dog on a walk.  I hope that I’m not taking this all for granted just because I live it every day.

Another thing I love about this island is that light pollution a myth of the past, and noise pollution can only reasonably be argued to exist on Friday nights from 8 to 10 at the beach resort during Karaoke.

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See, we don’t even light up the map.  On the nights that I venture out on my bicycle, I experience the most amazing thing on my way home: Space. I remember riding through Space Mountain at the amusement park as a young teen and feeling the thrill of being flung into orbit.  Well, my ride home through the dark night is, like, ten times better than that, because it doesn’t induce vomiting at the end. The road winds slowly through the brush, and takes a turn where the streetlights disappear entirely and the ‘roller-coaster’ ride begins.  There are no artificial lights as far as the eye can see, and suddenly it feels like you’re in the vast expanse of space.  Understanding that you began the journey on a tiny sand bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, it’s not hard to imagine that the Earth has suddenly dropped away and all that’s left is blackness and stars.  And in my useless researching, I’ve learned about the way the Cayman Islands sit above the surface, the tip of an extensive mountain range flattened on the top by wind and rain–phenomenons unknown to the abyss below.  So I stop my bike and think about my feet, planted on this little plateau, above an incredible trench and below an impossibly large thing we call space.  And for one hundred and eighty degrees, all I can see is blackness with the little white stars in the sky.  It’s magnificent, and it brings the most genuine smile to my face, which no one can see and only I can feel.

Real happiness is magnificent.  It’s analogous to being in love, but without the vague discrepancies in what’s happening between two complex realities.  It is my own reality, and I love that.  It’s very clear to me that happiness is, in fact, within and that I’ve had it all along; but only when I’ve shed the protective layers, torn apart the tangled webs, and settled down into a life that offers me the bare minimum, have I begun to truly understand what it means to be at peace.  I know this place isn’t for me forever, but I’m starting to think that there is no forever anyways, just this moment right now.

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9 Responses to Happiness and simplicity

  1. megan

    <3 i am so happy that you are so happy! i miss you. i need to get out there and come experience your little slice of heaven!

  2. vincent

    Merci Anoush, Christophe land I love your last post. Miss you very very much, love you

  3. Louise Topp McClure

    Wow – you’ve got it!
    It surely is good to hear from another truely happy person, especially since it’s you!
    Much love from a part of your past lives.

  4. Jen Strano

    I loved reading this! I hope happiness continues, it looks pretty on you.
    xo

  5. Trivedi Effect

    I enjoyed this post and amazing photographs. Keep it up.

  6. tabs

    i fucking love you <3

  7. Jenna

    Hi hi!
    I would love your email since you’ve dropped off the grid…

    :) enjoy paradise

  8. Bruce Luna

    Happy Birthday… tic Thinking about AT again next year

  9. Jeff Avery

    Hello Anoush, I certainly have enjoyed reading your stuff and I am very happy that you are happy. It is not always easy to get to that place and I commend you for it. I know it will continue. Jeff

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