Livin’ on Island Time

Mother Nature is a great clock but a very unreliable calendar.

Living on an island, I quickly learned to tell the time, tides, and weather without any electronic devices.

From my bed, listening to the waves slapping the beach, I can tell if it’s high or low tide.

From looking at the location of dark clouds, I can tell whether rain is going to bless us or another part of our 120 mile-long island.

eleuthera bahamas aerial

When the sun zaps its rays into our very eyeballs, we know it’s time to get up – or for me to put on an eye mask to get more Z’s. Later in the day I can tell approximately what time  it is by the sun and shadows on our decks and porches.

We’ve tried clocks… you know, those round things with hands that go way way too fast. But electric clocks are no good on an island with frequent power outages and surges that cause clocks to run faster than normal. Battery clocks are better. But with our doors and windows open year-round, batteries rust and require frequent replacing.

I even tried a radio-controlled clock that syncs with signals from Colorado. But after awhile, even that went cuckoo, the hands flying around the dial in search of a signal.

Some strange phenomenon attacks clocks we hang in the kitchen. Whether it’s a $9 clock from Target or a $50 one from a fancy catalog, the clock always mysteriously stops working after about two months.

So Nature serves us well for telling time. After all, as expat retirees, we rarely have to be anywhere at a certain time. For our Bahamian friends, time is a relative concept. Our beloved caretaker will tell us he’ll come by Sunday morning; he’ll arrive around 4pm.

It has happened so often that it’s become a joke between us. Even if he calls at 8 at night, I’ll answer with “Good MORNING, Sherman!”

Telling the day and month is way more challenging.

With weather that varies little – ranging from “perfect” to “outstanding” – we can’t tell whether it’s February or April. Sometimes my husband will say he’s going to watch a baseball game, only to realize it’s December.

Knowing the day of the week is almost impossible, especially for those of us of “a certain age.”

floating pic_bahamas

*credit: Dana Freeman Travels

In the States, audible clues signal the day of the week. Trash pick-up is Wednesday. The recycling truck rumbles through the neighborhood on Thursday. The condo community’s landscape crew mows on Friday. The school buses don’t run on weekends. The mail truck doesn’t come on Sunday.

On the island, we don’t have trash pick-up or mail delivery. Usually, all we hear are waves, the call of the osprey, and the click of palm fronds.

Dave and I will spend 15 minutes or more at the breakfast table, trying to determine the day of the week.

“OK, Dave, you played poker on Wednesday,” I’ll say. “Was that yesterday or two days ago?”

Or he’ll say, “Kay, you had lunch with Sue at Tippy’s yesterday. Tippy’s is closed on Mondays, so today isn’t Tuesday.”

One day, Dave announced that he was planning his entire day around a college football game at 4:30 that Saturday afternoon. He’d run his errands in the morning, get dinner cooked at lunchtime (the dear!), get an early afternoon nap, then turn on the TV in time for the game.

I was in the bedroom napping when I heard loud stomping and swearing from the den.

“I spent all day waiting for that damn game,” he said. “But today is only Friday!”

At least he was able to watch the game the next day.

Once, I was preparing to head back to the states. Leaving the island doesn’t take much preparation, just gathering my passport, wallet, phone and flight itinerary.

I wandered into the bedroom around 7 the night before I was to leave. It was then my turn to scream:

“Dave, my flight was YESTERDAY!”

plane bahamas above

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Kay Tucker Addis

About Kay Tucker Addis

"Why can't you live in Alaska?"

That's what Kay's dermatologist asks her with annoying regularity. But despite removal of at least a dozen skin cancers (and half her bottom lip), Kay and her husband continue to live on Eleuthera, where the Bahamian government promises 300 days of sunshine a year.

Kay loves the tranquility of her island home, even though she rarely has electricity, water, phone, and cable at the same time. Three out of four is a good day indeed. (Maybe she shouldn't even count the phone; sometimes weeks can go by before she makes or receives a call.)

She goes to great lengths to avoid inside chores like cleaning or cooking. So she works in the yard, washes windows, and paints while her husband does the grocery shopping and food prep. The role reversal works nicely, even though it confounds some of their Bahamian friends.

Driving a poppy-red pick-up, sporting work boots, and wielding a machete, Kay often hunts in the bush for native plants. She's a little more careful these days, after having been caught on video camera "tiefing" (uh, stealing) plants from the yard of a home she thought was abandoned.

Gardening is her passion (aside from three grandsons stateside), but for fun she's also been known to watch ants and converse with her pet curly-tailed lizard, who stops by the screened porch every morning for his share of her granola bar.

(And she isn't sun-stupid. Despite residing on a pink sand Atlantic beach, she does appease her doctor by wearing a perpetual coating of SPF 60 sunscreen.)

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6 thoughts on “Livin’ on Island Time

  1. Kay,
    So totally relate to all of these What day/time is it ? things, with just a little twist. We live on a boat so we have to add, What Island is this again?, and my dear husband, also Dave, said to me the other day, or maybe that was a couple weeks ago…..?Anyway …..he says “we could go to Hachet Bay for this next storm it’s nice and protected in there) I looked at him very puzzled, and he asked “why how far is it?” “I could get out the GPS and figure it out but Hachet Bay is on Eluethra, and last I checked we are in the Exumas. Life at 6 knots would not get us there before the storm blows in. ”
    Love your writing. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rosemary, thanks! I can imagine that being on a boat does add another dimension to the time/day/month conundrum. And two Daves!!

  2. Someday in the not too distant future I will be sharing these Island ideologies and will also be a ” woman who lives on rocks”

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