Last week, the Captain and I took the smallest and shabbiest charter airplane 60 miles due east from Fort Lauderdale, across the gulf stream, to travel to Bimini, Bahamas which is a tiny cluster of small islands among the vast Atlantic. We were without the kids for a few days to attend a sunrise wedding. After the morning wedding festivities ended, we had the rest of the day to explore the island.
We headed south out of the upscale confines of Bimini Bay Resort, into town. The main island is just a wisp of sand with the deep Atlantic to the West, and the vast Bahamian flats to the East. You can see the bonefish and conch fisherman bobbing out on the flats in their small boats. It seems to be an island with its head barely above water.
Bimini is known for its submerged rock pathways called the Bimini Road – relics of some ancient civilization. Some swear Bimini Road is evidence of the lost city of Atlantis. Whatever you believe there is some magic here.
We stopped at the ruins of the formerly famous The Compleat Angler hotel and bar. Its namesake is a famous old book dedicated to the art and spirit of fishing by Izak Walton. The hotel was made famous by resident Earnest Hemingway; who stayed on there and wrote To Have and Have Not. What remains is rubble and shards of glass; the representative of a heyday long gone.
Then we cruised over in the golf cart (a car seems ridiculously unnecessary) one block to an empty windswept beach. The water is a cerulean blue color like I’ve never seen before.
Bimini’s economy is struggling. It can’t attract the big yachts and big money because the entrance to the harbor is too shallow. Fighting off the wear from sand, salt, and the wind is a constant effort here. The locals are friendly but their burdens are visible. By the time we got into town after the wedding, most locals knew about the wedding and you could tell that the dollars spent here gave a little boost to the island economy.
Heading back into town from the beach and a roadside lunch of conch salad, we stopped at Dolphin House Museum and Hotel at the top of the rise of Saunders Street.
The owner is Ashley Saunders; poet laureate and resident historian of Bimini. We found him up on a ladder inlaying shards of red pottery to make a flower on the exterior corner of his hotel.
For the past 20 years, Mr. Saunders decorated almost every inch of the building with flotsam and jetsam, conch shells, whiskey bottles, and sea glass.
We got an hour-long tour of the museum; which is dedicated to the history of the island, Mr. Saunder’s book collection, the dolphins, and treasures from the sea.
We bought his two-part ‘History of Bimini,’ books. I also couldn’t resist a hair clip some crafty Islander made from a coconut shell.
The entire place is a feast of wild creative expression. I’m fascinated by creative people and enjoyed poking around every corner of the museum and two-room hotel.
I asked Mr. Saunders why he continues to adorn his place. He told me that many years ago he was out swimming in that magical blue Atlantic when some dolphins approached and swam with him. He said the dolphins touched something inside of him and changed him forever. That dolphin encounter has been the catalyst for vast amounts of energy and creative work – he dedicates it all to those dolphins who lit that creative spark inside him.
Do you have to be primed and ready to receive a life altering experience like that, or was that a random act of creative infusion by marine mammals?
You often hear about these experiences happening to prolific people. I think I’d have to stay a long time on that island to get the whole story about how a life of creativity gets lit from within. I do know that it’s hard work to keep your head on straight living on an island. You can find yourself off course easily in a remote and secluded place like Bimini.
Mr. Saunders is a deeply peaceful man, the kind of soul made heavy through the constant effort of a life of dedication and self-expression.
That’s how I feel about my life with a traveling Captain. Most people wonder how I can have a happy life with my partner traveling half the time. It’s a hard thing for a marriage and our kids. But I like to think I’m not unlike Mr. Saunders – dedicating my life to polishing up and making pretty the things I’ve got, with the treasures I find along the way, dedicating myself to something that I think is lit from within, and letting that process be my life’s work.
All photos credit Heather Serody©