As I write this on an overcast, gray, rainy morning on my rock (very unusual for Grenada), I am reminded of so many mornings in my past life in London when I would join the commuters on the M25 motorway dressed in a Tahari suit, hair styled and makeup on, only to sadly end up looking like a drowned rat after running through the downpour from my car to the office. Why did I even bother? Back then I dreamed of retiring in the tropics (although I doubted my dream would ever come true) where my commute would be a 5 minute walk to the beach, and I could give away all of my work clothes, leather boots/shoes, hair appliances, and makeup – sheer liberation!
Flash forward a few years now that I am retired and living in Grenada year round… I have officially been liberated and it feels even better than I expected! Prior to taking the leap, I did, however, have this one minor fear: I suspected that the odds were high that island life would slowly turn me into a crazy Earth Mother. You know the type – I’m sure you’ve all seen them in communities like Chapel Hill, North Carolina or Eugene, Oregon in the Whole Foods Market wearing long batik print skirts with their unruly hair, moving slowly with their carts full of organic vegetables, herbal teas, essential oils, and Burt’s Bees Carrot Body Lotion. And as much as I tried to consciously avoid it, after over just one year in Grenada, my fears have come true – Earth Motherhood is upon me!
In my defense, it is practically unavoidable in this environment. It is always hot and very humid. Do not be fooled by the Weather Channel, which typically displays a temperature range of 78°F to 82°F in St. George’s, the capital city. Take it from me – it feels much hotter. Houses are not air-conditioned, so we spend the majority of our time outside to catch the maximum possible breeze. Our indoor space is used for sleeping and cooking, and sometimes eating when it is too rainy to eat outside on the veranda. All of our windows are open all of the time to maximize the wind flow through the house. This brings in a lot of dust, bugs, and lizards which seem to gain entry despite having insect screens installed. Lowering my standards of cleanliness has been essential to my sanity – otherwise, I would spend all day cleaning, which is definitely not what I signed up for in my retirement. While I do a bit of cleaning and gardening each day, most of my time is spent pursuing and developing my hobbies and interests and having a daily swim, along with an occasional dive on Grenada’s lovely reefs and wrecks. All is as it should be!
Life on the rock is world’s away from the mainstream, and living so much more in tune with nature has certainly changed me. As I slip further into my Earth Mother transformation each day, my former self can’t help but laugh at some of the more obvious signs that I can never go back again:
- After discovering that my favorite brand of deodorant is not available here, I decided to make my own. The only time I am not sweating is when I am swimming or relaxing on our veranda in a howling gale. Yet with three main ingredients (baking soda, arrowroot, and coconut oil) plus an essential oil to give it a nice fragrance, it is easy, cheap, healthy, and surprisingly effective. I had no idea that making deodorant was even possible. My daughter was horrified when I told her but interestingly, my son asked for the recipe!
- I have lowered my fashion standards dramatically. I wear the same shorts several days in a row, whereas in my past life, 3-4 weeks could go by before I would even consider wearing the same things again. I am not bothered by a small tear or stain on my t-shirt. I have never done so much cleaning, gardening, or cooking in my entire life and this is very hard on clothes – you can imagine the shape they are in. Bathing suits simply get a quick dunk in fresh water, are hung on a door knob, and worn again the next day, usually still damp. The old wives say you should never wear a wet bathing suit, but I have yet to experience any ill effects from it. Since the clothing for sale on the island does not really suit me (lots of polyester tops and leggings), I need to make my old clothes last until my next trip to the US or UK. Either that, or make my own. I bet you know where this is going… I bought myself a birthday present last month – a sewing machine with an automatic threader, so exciting!
- I don’t wear a bra most of the time. Bras have quickly become the most uncomfortable garments on the planet and loose fitting tops are de rigor. If I think that other women will be wearing their bras at a particular function, then I will wear mine, otherwise, I’m a free woman. In the world of mainstream fashion, most women cannot get away with this but here, no one cares and it feels great.
- I no longer get my hair highlighted or stylishly cut. I find there’s really no point since it is frequently damp and up in a ponytail or braid all the time. The sun naturally highlights it and keeping it off my neck is essential for tolerating the heat. My island friends don’t even know what my hair looks like when its styled, blown dry, and worn down. In the past, I always had several hair dryers at home (always good to have a back-up), and I never went out with wet hair, nor did anyone else. Thank goodness that work is over!
- I never throw away jars now, since I have expanded my culinary skills to include pickles, chutney, jam, and herbal tea using fresh herbs from the garden – all of which taste so much better than store bought. Grenada is called “The Spice Island” and is known for its nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger; though there is so much more grown here as well. The seasonal fruits and vegetables are plentiful, delicious, and inexpensive, if not free from neighbors and friends who cannot consume all that they grow. Most would qualify as organic because many farmers cannot afford chemicals. Not only do I hoard jars, but I also ask my friends to save theirs for me. An entire cupboard in our kitchen is reserved for jars and instead of bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party, I bring pickles or chutney, which are greatly appreciated. I have always had an interest in cooking and baking, but with so many choices of excellent prepared foods in the mainstream countries where I have lived, it made me lazy. The limited choices of prepared food here, along with plentiful time to experiment, are great motivators.
- Lastly, I bought a beaded ankle bracelet last week. That’s right – an anklet. It goes so well with my one-size-fits-all handmade dress from Art Fabrik, a wonderful local batik craft company. I have never owned an ankle bracelet. It seemed pointless while wearing socks and shoes most of the time in colder climates, but it fits in quite well with the “new me” here. The ankle bracelet not only covers some of the mosquito and ant bites I am plagued with, but my other half, Tim, thinks it looks sexy, so why not?
Life on a rock continues to surprise me. Who knows where this metamorphosis will lead, but these small things that I am doing differently, learning as I go, and the simplicity of it all makes me very happy. Maybe that is at the heart of being an Earth Mother – maybe it was in me all along. Perhaps you’ll find me next month, dancing and chanting under the full moon. Either way, I now know I had nothing to fear. Earth Mother it is.
Has island life brought out your inner Earth Mother?