Warmth of Memory / by D.M. Jerman

St. Thomas / Maegan's Bay / Valentine's Day-

I am wearing a yellow floral print vintage swimsuit from the 70s. Haven't yet tested how it will hold up in the surf. (Turns out later- pretty well.) It is in good shape and is comfortable.

A steel drummer plays for a couple getting married on the beach. We see three weddings happen today. The day is glorious for it, too. To hear the soft crashing of the persistent waves is delightful, and so far bugs haven't been too big an issue. Our resort (Sugar Bay on the East End) is nice but the food is bad and a rip-off so we are scouting elsewhere to eat. The open-air truck-taxi rides to places are some of the most fun and easy sightseeing.

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St. John / Caneel Bay Resort (Honeymoon Beach)-

The Ferry over is 7$ one way, happens on the hour until 11pm, and takes about 20min. The resort this beach is attached to is primo. The water cool and clear. A floating swim platform a fair ways out, and sailing vessels dotting everywhere beyond. We find goggles we keep and use to dive and explore the grassy bottom, and stay and sun until late.

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St. Thomas / Secret Harbor Beach Resorts (Sapphire Beach)-

Don and I walk out of Sugar Bay (4 stars, 2 beds, only turned the TV on once) and down to Sapphire, which takes us 30 minutes along the skinny road with no shoulder. We are there until we parasail at noon for an hour all along the shorefront, which is lovely. I have a "painkiller" rum drink before we jaunt into Red Hook to Secret Harbor to have lunch and beach it thru sunset. Another floating swim platform and another exquisite view.

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St. John / Cinnamon Bay Beach National Park and Campground-

Another day in paradise, parked in a grove in view of a little craggy cay (Cinnamon Cay). I stroll down the way and the topography in terms of foliage changes a little as I go. Cactus and prickly undergrowth. I see curious tidepool phenomena kick up sandstorms in the wide waves. A two-toned kid in the bluff splashes around where they crash. An expression of absolute joy and freedom rides his face.

Down the other way, someone builds a mini Machu Picchu out of sand. It would be a lovely place to camp amid all these platform tents and more roomy hotel-like lean-to spaces.

A giant hermit crab rustles up as we drink Coronas. Our towels hanging in the mangrove.

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St. Thomas / Smith Bay Park (Lindquist Beach)-

We pay five bucks to get in and are happy for another place within walking distance. I think of the pair of donkeys I saw in the road yesterday, munching on tall grasses. Here, people are freaking out because they have spotted sea turtles. It's early yet, and we have found another lovely shady spot to lay down our still-damp towels.

A scattering of puffy clouds and a view of our resort over on the hill compliment the sweet weather after last night's pink sky.

Lots of people are snorkeling here, paddling around out where it is lush and dark. I spot bird tracks (Iguana too?) all over a giant tree and find a little blue crab claw. A sea urchin washes up who can fit neatly in my palm. The shallows contain a zillion tiny snail-ish muscles clinging to pools and rocky edges. Time to take a dip soon. Its easy to get hot doing all this exploring.

Equestrians come out along the strand. A little brown dove coos by. Everything is perfect and saturated with the bliss of itself. Natural and comfortable and dreamy at the pace of the clockless sun and the moonkept waves.

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St. Thomas / Bolongo Bay Beach Resort (My Birthday!)-

A pair of hungry pelicans stalks the waters that gleam choppy and bright in the slightly overcast light of February 19th. Meanwhile a black cat we nickname Panther comes over and checks us out for a moment before resting under a stack of chaises.

I yawn and read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. Perfect for this trip.

Leftover fish tacos for breakfast (delicious) and have only had shrimp and Mahi-Mahi for seafood.

Later, on what is the windiest of beach days here, I spot a baby iguana in a tree with the help of a local. They are very very green and blend in effortlessly with anything flora. Which is everywhere in full bloom. Iguana sightings are a daily occurrence.

I finish a roll of film. I try to not scratch at my bug bites too much.

The afternoon wears on and we read and breathe the sun. Two pelicans turn into 3. They stay, floating then flying then jabbing in the surf, then gulping their catch. Another boat full of divers leaves from the "Heavenly Days" bay and Don snags a chaise to ease his back.

Sand sticks and clumps to the little glass with ice I get at the bar for my G+T. I think about how the days here are for the drain. Time bleeds out into the afternoon heat and melts all your cares away.

We shift the towels to stay in the shade, and my fingers grow dry and soft and grey with grit. Drinks are stiff and cold, and the light is bright as a chime.

I lean on my knees and remember how this morning I did a search for nautilus tattoos and tattoos with red japanese-style suns that accented trees and other black shapes. It's almost time for another tattoo.

It was an early night and I slept well the night before. I hope for a late night tonight...

This beach is nearly empty. A few bugs are dancing. I prepare to eat an apple and am just getting ready to interrupt my husband when he finishes the book he was intently reading and tells me all about it.

I pull at the cups on my string bikini to get some sun on my chest. Four PM. I soak and drift. A mermaid in the salty push-pull. Fish are about, but few. The pelicans have finally gone for rest, or cooler waters.

Dinner time. The last round of divers are back. I drink all the water in my water bottle. 81% sober.

An Italian family come and chat up the beach. The evening light changes the colors in the view. I indulge a thought of the panic I might know if I didn't have a plan to leave here. It is a silent reflection: this place and time can't be special if you never leave. A contrail cuts across a palm, headed north. A reminder.

Before it crests the far hill to disappear, I open my legs to let the sun shine everywhere it wouldn't. Satisfied in my blatant worship.

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St. Thomas / Emerald Bay Beach Resort -Last Day-

It is Noon. In a couple hours we will make the trek along the shoreline up and over Airport Road and in to catch our first long leg. Back to Charlotte, NC, then Chi. I will go thru customs and security in nothing but my swimsuit.

The sun and breeze are high and dry. The water deep and clear and wet. It is a smashing last day. One more chapter to read in this book, and I don't mind baking a little.

After check-in, our gates change. I prefer to sit in the sun against the window and watch the flight to Atlanta leave from gate 6.

I shop. I drink a beer. A bird is chirping and bouncing thru, trapped and loving it. It's good luck, him. A big bird to San Juan is filling up. Soon we board. Soon we depart. I make a wish to return someday on all the remaining tropical sun that can spare itself.

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