Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Lurks in Paradise

Halfway into our "intimate and elegant" Grand Cayman adventure at the Turtle Nest Inn, I have nothing clever to say.

Thanks to the free roaming roosters, I am severely sleep deprived and slapstick silly.

The fowl begin warming up their vocals at 1:30 AM with a low, unassuming "cock" that steadily builds into "cock-a" - by 6:00 AM they are "cock-a-doodling" with a vengeance. 

Thanks to my feathered friends, nothing about "cock" is appealing.

It's not quite 9:00 AM.  I've read a few chapters of a best selling, highly recommended, novel that is so good I'm convinced I can't write worth a damn.

I retreat to the kitchen where I make a pot of coffee, over-boil brown eggs and hand feed myself sour grapes.

Afterward, I head to the living room, strap on my iPod and hula-hoop to a strong, Bassnectar beat.

With a sense of accomplishment, I march back up the cool tiled stairs to quietly tug on my sun-scorched husbands chest hair.  Fully aroused, he opens his eyes and smiles - his way of assuring me that I am loved.

I pester him until he packs the cooler and joins me beside the mature, wrinkled gray trunk of our favorite palm tree.  Here, I focus on a cluster of wind-ripened coconuts that dangle from the crotch of an umbrella of bopping plumes.

We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our Island friend.  He's got enduring brown eyes, a firm, bulging belly and oh so sweet, puppy breath - a motherless, newborn stray discovered under a neighbors porch.

The French Canadian Keepers named him "Mango" but we mistakenly heard "Van Gogh."  Funny what your mind registers.   Despite the island reference, the name "Mango" conjures up Chris Kattan's character from SNL so we continue to call him "Van Gogh."

Yesterday, after a long stroll on the beach, the three of us dined on turkey breast, macaroni salad and pickles.  Somehow, word spread.  Now, whenever we open our cooler, cats appear.

In the haze of a leisurely lifestyle, I suffer a muscle strain along the right side of my lower back.  My best guess is that this is either a hula-hoop injury or the result of repeat, restless bolts from my cushioned lounge chair.

As much as I enjoy swimming along the barrier reef, I am afraid of what lurks within.  Sand sharks, moray eels, barracuda and stingray are common sightings.  If it's not included in the angel, flounder or clown family, I want no part of it.

For me, floating is effortless.  I can loiter alongside white caps for hours.  In contrast, my husband - eager to share an adventure, clutches his bright yellow life vest with both hands and frantically kicks his flippers.

We are polar opposites.  I'm quite certain that solo, we are unlikable.  On first impression I am overbearing, loud and outspoken.  He, in his aloofness, is often mistaken for being a prick.  Together, we sooth and compliment each other.

Along the shoreline, lumps of clear, green, brown and heavenly blue glass, turtle grass, plastic bags, wrappers and recyclables, intermingle with an assortment of mismatched flip-flops.

Ron, an employee of the Inn for more than 11 years, spends Monday to Saturday raking his way up and down the property line - but its like the mail, despite how much you pick up, tomorrow brings more than the day before.

Across the road, beside the Jerk chicken stand, is an abandoned house that deliberately bleeds Jimi Hendrix music into the street - all day and into the night.

Our bed is hard, the sheets are stiff, my pillow is flat.  

Our second night is marked by a murder - the fifth of the year.

Yesterday, a theft occurred in the adjacent condo while its occupants relaxed on the patio.

Last night, a fire in an adjacent bungalow persuaded us to abandon the island breeze and retreat to our air-conditioned abode where we dined on frozen pizza and watched complimentary DVD's.

Here, in your well-appointed, spacious living space, you feel trapped in your destination of choice.

As much as I try to focus on paradise, the impoverished islanders that corral us make me feel pampered, pompous and privileged; high-end characteristics I cater to when home.

The wilted, malnourished pitbull tethered to a clothesline stretched alongside our patio, feeds my tears.  She is clearly sick and depressed.  Half the time she doesn't care enough to lift her jaw heavy head from the sizzle of sun baked sand.

I sense the numbing trade winds are a welcome relief to the despair that lurks behind the boarded windows and unhinged doors of her owners shack.

My compassionate husband is focused on my sadness.  He has never been a great communicator - which at times, has added great strain on our relationship - but lately I've been able to recognize his endearing signs of committed love.

"You know, I saw Ron petting the Pit," he casually mentions.

This is worded perfectly.  Don't tell me what to do, or how to do it.  Don't steer me towards your natural course.  Love me enough to let me be me.

With that said, the current changes.

I stopped brushing the sand from my feet before entering the condo, stopped wearing my bathing suit cover up and stopped styling my hair.  I spent more time in the water and less time worrying about the negative effects of the sun.

I introduce myself to our neighbors.  I meet Marvin who, due to a birth defect, only has use of one hand.  Despite this, he digs a ditch that will support a post so that "Perla," his recently rescued pitbull, will have more space to wander.

I learned that his precious Perla is infested with heart-worms, but that her chances of surviving are good thanks to the generosity of our Inn Keepers, who make certain she is receiving the best possible care.  I know this is true because she wears a badge of honor - Blacky's tag and collar.

We read about Blacky online and in the Inn's welcoming literature.  As the official Turtle Nest mascot, this large, nappy headed stray, leisurely wandered his way into the hearts of locals and guests.  Blacky dined on left over steak, watched over swimmers and snorkelers up and down the beach, and snoozed in the shade of chaise lounge chairs until - at the age of 16, he passed on from an enlarged heart.

Thanks to Marvin, we also met Dominic and his big brother Montel.  They live down the way, by the yellow church, just beyond the cemetery.

Dominic is 8 and although he lives on an island, he does not know how to swim.  After three days in our pool, with gentle guidance and the use of our snorkeling gear, he now swims underwater.

Dominic explained to me that a "bad guy" murdered his Grandfather not too long ago, and that he caught the bad guy, tied him up with a rope, and dragged him to the police station.

I recognize a storyteller when I see one, so to encourage him to write, I suggest he and my grandson Jackson become pen pals.

Dominic does not yet know how to read or write, but Montel, does and he promises to help him. To insure that this will happen, we bait them with promises of New York Yankee's memorabilia. 

Before we leave, I introduce our neighbors to a couple who have just arrived from Montreal and are instantly comforted by a stray island cat that mysteriously snuggled its way into their room.

They were happy to carry on where we left off - to pet and sneak treats to Perla and to welcome Dominic and Montel as their guests at the pool.

My vacation began once I embraced all the Island had to offer.

My favorite moments involved time spent with our neighbors, walking Perla and Mango along the shore - watching Mango chase after Mark's shade and Perla playfully bite at the tide.

I returned home feeling warmed by one love and grateful for time spent with a man who respects and honors my need to find peace within myself.

Here's to honoring the true part in you.

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

for reading and commenting 
Special Thanks to Ron, Donna, Alain and Marleine for allowing us to be ourselves.


  1. Darling! So glad you gave us an update. I find the dichotomy of which you speak is part of a lot of vacation spots. It does bring reality right up in your face, doesn't it?

  2. I'm not sure I'd want to step in that water either. Yikes.

    Hope your back feels better soon and that you enjoy the rest of your stay.

    Sounds like a fun adventure to me, one in which I'd give my right arm to have right now. Enjoy.

  3. Sounds wonderful Shannon! Love how you welcomed the locals to your pool and taught that little boy to swim! And of course, the animals!

  4. Thank you so much, Shannon, for feeding the souls not only of your devoted readers, but of all those fortunate enough to meet you.

    And, OHhh... Mark's comment about Perla was perfect!

    LOVE is the message of this post. I am so
    glad you had this time with one another.

  5. Thanks Camille :) really hard to walk away from Dominic, Perla and Mango aka Van Gogh.

    Alicia, the day after we got home there was a report of a girl being killed while a giant, salt water CROCODILE!!!
    If I had known such a thing existed I NEVER would have gotten in the water.

    Bossy, Lizze and Elle - this post was prematurely published by MANGO. he's got a lot to learn about a laptop.

    Thank you all for reading and commenting! Shannon

  6. Wow! I'm so blown away by your writing! It's amazing. Thank you for visiting my humble blog and following me. I'm definitely following you!

  7. Thank you Cheryl :) I can not get enough positive writing praise. thanks for reading, commenting and following!

  8. I agree with Camille, it was nice of you to ask those kids into the pool. What a bummer it would be to live in paradise and not be able to enjoy it.
    Sounds like a wonderful trip and the pics were beautiful. Glad you had a relaxing, recharging time. Your writing kind of puts us there with you.... thanks.

  9. what a fun posting. Thanks for stopping by the garden. Will be following on your journey.

    Kate - The Garden Bell

  10. Good writing again. Sounds like you had a fun time. I especially like the photos. It says it all. Now you are tanned and ready for Burning Man.

  11. Thanks Jaybird, Chris and Kate... :)

    caught Mark looking at snorkeling equipment online at 2:00 in the morning. He's committed to becoming a floater ...

  12. Awww I would have instantly drawn to the animals myself! The fact that you have shown someone how to swim and encouraged him to write what an influence you are......someone he will never forget! Sometimes you do just have to let it all hang out and just enjoy the moment!
    Glad you were able to leave your mark,make memories AND have fun!

    p.s. terrible about the girl and the Croc!! makes me leary now

  13. for me the next day always brings more laundry, not necessarily more mail. ;)

  14. I really enjoyed visiting your blog and sharing your world. Will be back again soon. : )

  15. I'm so glad you found me because now I have found you. Your writing and pictures are amazing.

  16. I love, love, love, love your blog! It is fantastic! Great pictures...I miss the beach!

  17. I love this for a few reasons.
    You've got talent, girl!!
    I am always troubled when I at an upscale vacation destination with poverty all around me. It makes me feel guilty & uncomfortable. When there are children near me who have nothing - I become profoundly sad.
    I love your photos - so descriptive and real.
    You & Mark look fabulous & happy.
    I applaud your ability to create community and to make those young people part of your world.
    You inspire me!!
    Love, Mairead

  18. ahhhhh thanks dear soul sister! love all over you!

    Also, Darlene and Jennee...thank you for the positive comments! :) big smile and gratitude!

  19. when I scroll from me in the sand, to pit bull - I see we have the exact same look in our eyes...

  20. I felt like I was there with you. See me smiling! :D I'm dancing in the sand, or sand-writing... Your post pulled me in and released me like the ebb and flow of the sea. Yes, writing is therapeutic, cathartic, and JOY-US!



  22. ((((((Thank You GeL)))))))

    heading out to pick up my award, thanks Thang!

  23. Hey, Green Monkey, thanks for following HOLLYWOOD SPY. I'm not sure I could agree with your opinion about men :) you've presented in one of the posts, but I like your creative energy.
    Your blog is also lovely visually, charming design.
    Love the doggies from these pics :)

  24. Thanks Dezmond... I love a guy with a big head!

  25. when it's not empty, I hope :)))

  26. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm glad it made you smile! This made me smile-I went to caymen on my honeymoon in december.

  27. What a beautiful place and lovely vacation! Stopping in from WoW.

  28. Hey this looks a wonderful place and the pics clearly show that you had a fun time there!!
    Enjoy the beautiful day..

  29. I think this may be my new favorite. You know I am a huge fan, but this is fresh and different from most of your writing. Your description and detail is always excellent,but this is more better! It is once again, honest, tearing down layers, showing the world another aspect of your truth and insight.

  30. Your Friend FlickaMay 31, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    Thanks for the photo of the beard! Husband looks great. Also, I agree with the barking dog, you DO look good in your bathing suit. I am really amazed by your kindness to the residents and the animals.

  31. I luv the pic with ur pup laying against the wine bottle. I copied it to my pics on my computer and labeled it "Shannon's Island Pup".

    Ur heart as tender as mine when it comes to pets/animals.

    Many a time my best friend, Micky, would meet me at vet when I lived in NC. The vet automatically called her because they knew I would be in tears and incoherent. Imagine the struggle I had to go through with two pups that needed constant vet care and I had no Micky to meet me. We were in different states TN and NC. God had a plan then too.

    Remind me to tell u of my Pepper's passing one day. It involves Micky and Divine Intervention.


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison