We spent time with my 91-year-old mother-in-law, whose frail body is fraught with pain and challenges, but who was mentally sharp enough to beat me at Scrabble - several times! Whenever we are away from this island paradise, it becomes a values clarification. Once again we find that, as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home”.
To my surprise, I even missed the humidity, because the dry desert air of Nevada is very drying to the skin. I could feel wrinkles settling in new places.
Where else but here in paradise would one be greeted unexpectedly by friends with kisses and hugs and even a dance at the airport? Have someone willing to drop off the car and the house keys in an airport parking lot, knowing they’d be safe for our arrival? Walk into a house cleaned the day before by a friend, with shining white kitchen cabinets painted in our absence by friends? Have an island grandchild say, “I missed you so much! There was no one to talk to! When we can’t talk, I really miss you.”
And then there is the pristine beauty of sea, sky, land and foliage – the luxuriant blue sky, turquoise lagoon, yellow, white, pink, red and purple flowers, and greens of many shades.
Our taxi driver in Rarotonga turned out to be a philosopher, speaker and entertainer. We became such kindred spirits in a very short time that he offered to treat us as “precious cargo” without charging us. Of course we chose to pay him more than he normally charged, as he handled a mountain of luggage we brought back from the “land of plenty cheap stuff.”
People who visit here as tourists usually sigh with a bit of envy when they learn that we live on Aitutaki. Some whisper, “But what do you DO here?” as if there is nothing but sea and sand. Yet for us, experiencing the combination of people to love, friends to hang out with, children to play with, many ways to be of service, faith to share, our own creative pursuits and beauty to explore, there is never a dull moment. Naps are prized and protected so it isn’t all hustle and bustle. The quiet peace of an afternoon, reading or sleeping, is a gift to be savoured as well. We are truly living the dream.
There have been several deaths in the period we were away, including the tragic deaths of a young father and a nine-year-old child. Paradise isn’t immune from sorrow, loss, and devastation. Yet the sense of family that enwraps one offers a soft place to fall.
The icing on the cake occurred the first time that Dan and I went to the beach together, the evening after our return. He clicked away on his camera while I walked the beach with one of our grandchildren.
That first sunset was spectacular. At first soft pastel colours of pink and pale blue flowered in the clouds. Then, bands of gold and coral swept the horizon, deepening into crimson reflecting across the sea all the way to shore. There are daily miracles here. This is the home of our dreams, providing a life of joy and meaning.
We are immersed in gratitude. “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36) “O God, increase my astonishment at Thee!” (Baha’i prayer).