christmas paradise adventure
This year for Christmas we are living in the Marshall Islands, a Pacific island paradise. Although the holidays bring nostalgia and missing my family, we have positioned ourselves to be a good $4,000 away from the possibility of returning home for a quick holiday. And so, even if it were a desire I don’t let it surface. What I’m doing here with River is the important matter at hand, and has the opportunity to kick into full-gear at times of holidays, and so I embrace that. For example, our Christmas isn’t about stuff. Getting stuff. Wanting stuff. Its about nothing. Having nothing and wanting nothing. Its about love and freedom and happiness and togetherness and making incredible memories in our beautiful world.
This Christmas we are on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Eneko. With a tent. And a bungalow. A generator to make coffee. Cold showers. A kayak. Yoga mats. A hammock. Masks and snorkels, fresh tuna, books, bathing suits, the brilliant Pacific lagoon, sunshine, sand, bare feet, and each other. All we need, and want, for Christmas.
When River makes a Christmas list, I tell her she can only list 10 things, and that 8 of them need to not be things, and all need an explanation. And then I tell her it has to be written in Spanish. Just so she doesn’t forget. So this year #1 was a sliding victory as An American Girl Doll named Caroline. Her reasoning: ‘She looks just like me, and I want to share our adventures with her. And no one here looks like me.’ Fair enough, and I like that reasoning, so I saved up. #2 a pink headlamp. Her reasoning: ‘I need one like you for when I am walking in the reef at night and when I am making pancakes. And I would like it to be pink because that is a good headlamp color for a girl. I would choose blue like my mommy crystal blue but then everyone will think its yours because your name and I am old enough to have my own now.” Fair enough. Agreed. #3 Candy cane hot chocolate. #4 The ocean #5 You (me). Yes. #6 Sunshine #7 Snorkeling #8 Kayaking #9 Chocolate #10 Love. All of the 8 latter I don’t think need her explanations, but she had very good ones, and I was sold on the entire list. Not one item was formed from commercials for useless products or comparisons to what others had. I felt that her list was formed from love and adventure and time with me and an American Girl doll, which, yes is a product, but is classic and she has been wanting a ‘real’ one for two years, and I was more sold on her reasoning behind her desire for it than on the actual overpriced item. She wanted it for an adventure friend, and for someone who looks like her while living in a land where nobody does. So I made it all happen. I ordered the doll from America and paid expensive shipping costs to the Marshall Islands. I told my mom about the headlamp and she got us matching ones (not pink), and last, I booked a 2 week vacation on a private island here in the Marshalls, and then I even coordinated it with an adventure retreat, in order to share our world and life discoveries with others, to make even more memories, meet new friends, and teach, share, and grow. Alas, we are on Eneko Island for two weeks completely free from communication and stuff, alone together every minute unless I fall asleep in the hammock or she disappears to read her little books and write in her ‘adventure journal.’
Christmas morning was quite an adventure. For two adventurers who seek it out, this was even an exciting adventure. It is rare for me to reach this level of adventure now, as I am almost ready for the Great White shark tank in South Africa, but it does sometime happen. And seeing adventure through River’s eyes gets me all excited all over again. Anyway, so Christmas morning starts a little lazy with gingerbread coffee in a hammock at the water’s edge. Waking up and walking outside to a pristine Pacific island morning with a crystal blue sky and smooth, rich teal sparkling water, displaying the varied depths and coral reef walls, and palm trees showing off their strongest green hues. Puffy white clouds and expanding sun rays. The kind of morning that is a gift from the universe and makes you stop and look around in wonder of how these natural colors are possible, and how lucky you are to be there, and thankful for sight to see. Like that. Our Christmas gift. After the hammock I told River to run and put her Christmas dress on and I led her to a palm Christmas tree, with presents underneath and a stocking hung from bark. She ran ahead and devoured her little paradise pile and thanked me a million times for her doll, saying I didn’t have to, I didn’t have to spend my money on her. Well. The fact that she was right got replaced by the idea that my 7year old says and thinks things like that and I never thought or said things like that until I had lived in India for 5 years with a guru and a revised life perspective. This is exactly what I wanted to happen to her when I left home. Value system reversal. Proud mama.
Next we went kayaking. Lathered up in sunscreen, walked down the beach, dragged the kayak by the string into the sea, and hopped in. Enjoying a nice peaceful ride discussing the coral bottom of the sea, until I noticed something blue flapping in the wind up on the rocks, down at the corner of the island. This blue looked strangely out of place in a place of raw beauty. ‘What on earth is that?’ I asked River. ‘Oh my gosh, that’s our tent!’ I figured it out. That blue. Flapping. The wind had carried our home clear across the island, to the edge of the rocks just waiting to take off to sea, into the vast Pacific.
Just then the wind picked up dramatically and I was having a hard time steering, the tent began flapping incessantly but wasn’t moving. Wedged between reef rocks, filled with water. I paddled across quickly against the wind and finally made it to shore. Jumped out and dragged the kayak onto the sand and ran out onto the rocks barefoot. The sharp volcanic reef rocks make it hard to run. So I mean, I stepped out there, one wobbly coral at a time, one sharp foot puncture at a time, trying to salvage our tent. No one else on the island. No shoes. No life jacket or cell phone. Just us and our adventure. On Christmas morning.
Just as I made it out to the tent, I looked back at the kayak and it had been lapped up by the shore and was drifting out to sea. ‘River!’ I yelled. ‘The kayak!’ She looked over and ran and swam out to it as I grabbed and held onto the tent in the gale winds. I tried to free it. River made it to the kayak and swam it back. I got the tent deconstructed so as not a magnet to the wind any longer, and started trekking back across the rocks carrying the tent shards. I broke into a run as soon as I made it back to the sand, and grabbed the kayak from her, threw the tent in the back, and dragged it in the water all the way back.
And then we put on pretty Christmas dresses and hopped on the island boat back to the mainland for Christmas dinner. Like nothing happened. Across the lagoon past tiny islands of white sand and green palms. Through teal and turquoise and Pacific Ocean made of ten hues of paradise blue. We held each other tight and watched it all.
‘Merry Christmas baby,’ I said. ‘Thank you for this adventure.’ She smiled. Each freckle sparkling in the sun. Her eyes reflecting the water and twinkling like moonbeams and diamonds.
Merry Christmas. From our paradise.
Crystal & River