“Get it off me!” I screeched as tiny legs scurried across my neck, the unwelcome sensation of a cockroach crawling from inside the shirt I just pulled on. I screeched to no one in particular, as the room was empty and the other cockroaches just looked at me.
This was my welcome to paradise.
Our new friends in the Virgin Islands National Park sure resembled the stars of La Cucaracha, whether they really were cockroaches or not. And they seemed to like our cottage – an upgrade from the tent site we didn’t receive at Cinnamon Bay – thanks to renovations underway this past November.
Our initial exclamation of “We’re so lucky!” vanished when we realized our lovely tent would have won over a never-been-upgraded 1970s era cottage with enough holes in the screens to keep nothing out. The owner told us they were being torn down within a year.
Still, we were grateful for this shelter when the rain fell at night and harmonized with the nearby waves for a perfect lullaby. The ocean was mere meters from our door, and the stars sparkled against a dark sky marked only by tree branches swaying in the breeze.
Each morning the memory of a hundred mosquito bites washed away as we stepped onto the beach at Cinnamon Bay, letting the warm Caribbean water soothe our skin while night faded into day. Soft hues of pink, orange and purple transformed a landscape swathed in dawn’s golden glory, creating an echo of the days when dinosaurs still roamed this earth.
Waves of white foam crashed onto a beach littered with smooth stones and small shells; blues began to appear in the gray waters as an early sun rose from her mountainous bed and reflected a vibrant sky upon her sea. Even the knowledge of eco-huts tucked beneath the lush trees couldn’t mar the scene: this was paradise.
Beyond the postcard scene
Yet the Virgin Islands National Park is so much more than postcard beaches. Hikes into the mountainous forest reveal layers of species tucked beneath leaves and hidden in the crevices between tree branches. Even ruins of days long gone provide shelter for the decay from which new life grows.
There in those forests, in the deep waters, and in the perfect sands, ecosystems swirl together in a delicate dance.
They chirp loudly at night and rise patiently every morning, each individual completing his or her task in an endless chore to keep the sights, sounds and smells of paradise running.
Paradise is life thriving at its best, of fish nibbling at your toes, crabs clawing at your hands, sand in your hair and yes, cockroaches crawling in your clothes.
The beauty we seek in paradise lies in the health of its ecosystems. Paradise needs the cockroaches, mosquitos and above all, the space to breathe and grow. I can’t help but wonder what our rented Jeeps are doing to paradise, and what our actions could do for paradise.
A picture-perfect postcard is not just a place to visit, it is a place where we play an important role of the story growing there. Our human impact is altering that scene – whether we notice or accept it.
Picture yourself in the vibrant ecosystems of paradise, not just as a tourist, but as an active participant.
I think when considered that way, paradise becomes a lot more meaningful. The question remains: what is our role in paradise?