The gecko is in his usual place, clinging to the slanted wooden ceiling twelve feet above my head. The living room of our cottage is open in front, and I’m looking out into a blackness filled with the sound of the sea. People who live next to it probably get used to it; I don’t think I ever would.
I’m thinking the gecko could be a bit more proactive in his hunting; I’ve been gnawed by mosquitoes the last two days, and I see them now, tiny things casually floating around, pretending to be bits of dust. Our charming hostess has given me a bottle of oil of citronella, though, and this seems to help, though I don’t know whether the scent puts them off (luckily my husband finds it attractive; also luckily, he has nothing whatever in common with a mosquito), or whether they find the oil impenetrable.
If oil gums up their little probosces, so much the better. I had a massage this afternoon, in the massage hut—a small, circular stone hut, open to the sea (which is about fifteen feet away, crashing
(A big black cat has just leapt silently into the living room and set about eating a bag of CheeseZillas (a cross between your ordinary cheesy-poof and a styrofoam packing peanut) someone left on the coffee table. He’s welcome to them. Most of the Jamaican delicacies we’ve tried have been marvelous, from the ubiquitous jerk chicken—sold everywhere from upscale restaurants to the equally ubiquitous road-side grills, these being independent enterprises consisting of a proprietor with an oil-drum sawed in half and converted to a smoker/grill—to the grilled lobster tail soused in garlic butter I had for dinner tonight—but CheeseZillas are not among the marvelous)
…crashing on the rocks. This isn’t a beach resort; the ocean laps at the foot of limestone cliffs, and you drop into the water (turquoise over the inshore reef, a dark blue further out) from a blue iron ladder. There are places where one could climb up or down the rocks into the water—save that the underwater rocks are a) sharp coral/limestone rock, b) the surge of the surf scrapes you across said rocks, and c) said rocks are covered with an interesting variety of sea-life, including assorted tunicates, anemones, chitons…and an immense population of sea urchins. Ask me how I know this.
(If one happens to set foot or hand unwarily on a sea-urchin—no, I didn’t; my poor husband was not so fortunate—a goodly number of its sharp little spines penetrate your flesh AND BREAK OFF. They do eventually emerge again, encouraged by regular applications of spirits of ammonia (or urine. Everyone urged my husband—and another male guest who’d been much more severely punctured—to pee on the site). Luckily one does not pee on abrasions—I have three or four small ones on my lower legs—as women are really not constructed for logistical peeing.)
Anyway, being rubbed while lying face-down on a towel-covered massage table, looking down (when one can be bothered to open one’s eyes) at a charmingly artistic arrangement of green leaves, bougainvillaea flowers (pink, red, white, and orange) and small bits of white coral (along with a bleached sea-urchin skeleton) lying on the ground under the headrest and listening to the regular thud of the surf is pretty relaxing—even when the massage involves “Deep Tissue” manipulations by the redoubtable Nadine, a lovely (and muscular) Jamaican lady who told me assorted things in such a strong accent that I only understood two of them: “That de pectoralis muscle. It’s always tender in a wooman, stronger in a man,” (this in response to a high-pitched noise that emerged involuntarily when she drove her entire weight, centered on the edge of her hand, through said pectoralis), and “You got a lotta tension in you eye-sockets.” (Oddly enough, I don’t believe I have ever had my eye-sockets massaged before.) I emerged from this sensual experience pureed and covered thickly in aromatic oils, which I doubt that even the most intrepid mosquito could penetrate. I can also move my neck, which is a Good Thing.
(The cat has given up on the CheezeZillas and leapt silently back into the blackness from whence it came, a part of the night once more.)
It’s been a relaxing day, all in all. This morning we went, with our hosts and another couple, to church. St.Paul’s, an old plantation church, out in the middle of a sugar-cane field, surrounded by the bleached white bones of its graveyard, with monuments and stones carved from the local limestone. (Houses here are built on the basis of one of two strategies: solid limestone and mortar, basic bunker construction—or shacks made of such flimsy wood that you could push them over with a good shove. Both strategies are a response to hurricanes. It’s perhaps worth noting that many of the seaside bunker-type houses and inns are deserted, while the brightly-painted shacks are all inhabited and thriving.)
St. Paul’s is an Anglican church (Jamaica must have Catholic churches here and there, but none in close proximity to Negril), whose very small congregation (about 25 elderly black gentlemen and ladies—the ladies all dignified by large, proper church hats) welcomed us warmly to worship with them.
It’s a big, lovely church, airy and well-proportioned, with evidence of the donations of wealthy past parishioners—a beautiful old (the church was built in 1863) stained-glass window behind the altar, mahogany paneling in the sanctuary, and a clay-tiled ornamental panel inset into the aisle, reading, “Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me,” in gothic lettering. (Two little children were in fact present, a boy and a girl, obviously lugged in by their grandparents.)
Like many churches these days, St. Paul’s has a circuit-riding parson—a minister who tends several churches, and therefore isn’t able to preside over every service. Today was the 5th Sunday of the month, so the service was a modest “Matins and Sermon,” according to the notice-board out front, rather than the “Sung Eucharist and Sermon” that one gets on the 2nd or 4th Sunday, when the priest is there.
Both service and sermon were conducted with great conviction by the ladies of the parish, supported intermittently by a very elderly cassocked gentleman on the organ, who appeared to have a slight difficulty in coordinating the manual and pedal keyboards, but grimly pursued each hymn through its many verses, hunting it to a triumphant conclusion as the congregation at last managed to sync with him in time to come down hard on the last three notes.
You definitely get value for money at St. Paul’s; services ran two hours, including a rousing sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, and a blessing of the 50th anniversary of Brother and Sister Lynch’s wedding vows, wherein the Lynches came down the aisle to the strains of “Here Comes the Bride,” the bride beaming over a lovely bouquet of small palm fronds and deep blue flowers.
It wasn’t our usual ritual, of course, but it was both soothing—with a gentle breeze sweeping through the open doors, rustling the pages of the open hymnals and sweeping small leaves and dried blossoms across the “Suffer the Little Children” tiles—and uplifting, and we were most grateful to the congregation for their welcome of us to their worship.
The gecko has worked its way up to the topmost rafters and is hiding in the shadows, and the black cat is likely out having acute indigestion in the shrubbery, so it’s probably time for bed. I hope you all had a pleasant Sunday, too!