Day Fifteen: On the Water to Paradise Island

We started early this morning – two small boats carrying about twenty human beings down the river to the ocean. I sat with Lieselot, Sabrine and Jan. Normal conversations were punctuated with vistas of biabab trees, broad expanses of smooth water, and birds flying high. Other boats passed us by, mostly local folks out fishing. We waved and they waved.

Far, far away was Jackson Island, home of a lonely and all-encompassing white sand beach. Several of us began strolling by the water’s edge. The softness under my feet was a caress. The invitation was so clear – slow right down and feel the moments drip away. It was just me and my Speedo, a clothing choice that’s inspired quite a few giggles, and truth be told I wish I could have been nude. I realize, though, that ultimate freedom is an inside job. Paradise Island is just one more external thing … it’s not where the action is.

I sat on the sand for awhile, just drinking it all in. Ansou, one of our young Senegalese friends, probably was wondering if I needed assistance and lingered near me till I set off again. We walked along side by side, him apparently asking questions about Canada and me getting lost in his fast French. None of that mattered. We were together.

Our captains went out fishing, along with Jo and Curd. The group of them came back with several barracuda, which a Senegalese woman accompanying us prepared beautifully.

I had two beer, and that combined with the intense heat just did me in. I nibbled on the barracuda and spiced potatoes but my stomach wasn’t in it. Sabrine worried that I wasn’t well, and I tried to tell her that I was fine. It seems that I have a lot of mothers on this trip, as old as 55 and as young as 16. Although I bug them about it, it’s very cool that people care about me.

After lunch, six of us lay down in the shade. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Just friends resting, and occasionally snoring. It was lovely. Out in the sun, the seven teens were working on a fancy sand castle. Sometimes they’re verging on adulthood, and at other times they’re just little kids trying to build something pretty.

Before I lay down with my friends, Sabrine warned me that there were little twigs in the sand, with big thorns. “You should put on your shoes, Bruce.” I didn’t. I got up at one point to take a photo of the long beach and was thoroughly impaled. Ali was near me, saw what my face did, knelt down and pulled the thorn out. I thought of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as I smiled my thanks to the young man. We help each other.

On the way home, our two boats were often beside each other. Eva was looking over at her kids, and I asked her to share what she was thinking. “They look so happy.” And they did. Eva went on to tell me that Louisa, Jean and Giraud all hug her before they go to school and when they come back home. So wonderful. Plus they tell her their problems (most of the time). Even the kids’ friends trust Eva with their issues. She sounds like Super Mom to me.

We arrived back in Toubacouta just before sunset, in time to watch lines of birds heading to the big tree for a safe sleep together.

And may we too have a safe sleep within the spiritual presence of each other. Wherever we are in the world, our wings touch.

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