Bermuda is my favorite place. When I ventured to the island in April, I was seeking solace after losing my mother. Technically, I was still in the “acute stage of grief”.
Nervous that I might ease into a habit of hibernation amongst the hibiscus, I decided to chronicle my stay in words and images. I would write a web blog, for the first time in my life. Not only would this keep me accountable for getting up every day – it would be the perfect incentive to engage in conversation with Bermudians – such as The Premier.
I would have a creative and cathartic outlet through which to share my love for Bermuda, and any aspects of my stay that proved fascinating or curative. After caring for my mom for so long, would Bermuda care for me?
Having been to Bermuda eleven times prior, I feel a strong sense of belonging. In fact, I am so protective of our ‘mutual’ relationship, that I initially questioned my own judgment. Would going to Bermuda alone – to grieve – taint my affection for the place?
My counselor from Hospice allayed my concerns. “You need to feel your feelings, regardless of where you are. Just go!” she said.
For those of you whom have read my blog, “Smitten with Bermuda,” you may know how my story evolves, or perhaps just bits and pieces of it. It is hard to sum up my trip in a few words – because so many of my daily experiences in Bermuda enthralled me – even the most mundane.
As a visitor with insatiable curiosity and acute senses, Bermuda ignites my imagination. While in a taxi to Hamilton, I find myself wondering how long it takes a box of Cheerios to travel from General Mills in Minnesota, to the Bermuda Islands. Do locals take the M.V. Oleander for granted? I think that it deserves its own holiday.
Who are the pilots that guide the cruise ships through the reefs, to dock in Bermuda? Without their skillset, Bermuda could not count on visitation by cruise passengers. I think about how many individual visits are facilitated by a crew of few.
Interestingly, when I visit Bermuda, I view everything through the same eyes – yet through a variety of different lenses. This multidimensional outlook is what keeps my attention riveted.
There is the lens of an American visitor, who breathes a sigh of relief to TURN OFF CNN, and watch “Farming in Bermuda,” instead. The American loves to escape roads jammed with oversized SUVs, people preoccupied with their own opinions, and status symbols emblazoned on everything. Give me a pink bus, and a secondhand dress from Orange Bay.
There is the lens of a ‘Hamptonite’ – someone who was raised a community dependent upon summer tourism – often by wealthy visitors from New York City. The Hamptonite ravenously watches how tourists behave – depending upon whom they are, and where they are.
For example, in Bermuda, it is custom to wait until the ferry unloads and the deck hand signals before oncoming passengers board. I relish the civility of this procedure because it goes without saying, as most decency does.
There is the lens of an artist, who absorbs every last detail of my surroundings – from the visual aesthetics (the shape of the clouds, the subtleties of color, the rich textures of limestone) to the sounds of warm conversation.
The artist appreciates the gentility found in the Bermudian accent, the sound of the wake behind the ferry, the nightly chorus of tree frogs, and the mesmerizing sounds of children at church singing, “This Little Light of Mine.”
We must not forget the lens of the single woman, traveling alone who quickly observes that Bermudians will usher her away from any perceived dilemma. In Bermuda, I am on the radar of fellow women as if in a sisterhood.
One day, I brought a picnic from Salty Lime to Astwood Park. Ready to sit down on the spacious lawn overlooking the spectacular oceanfront cliff – I admit to having a fleeting thought about the perfect murder scene. Yet, this was a popular place for family gatherings and wedding photos. Surely, I could dine in private splendor. Not so fast! Two Bermudian ladies approached me with consternation, to gently inquire what I was doing alone on a cliff. In no time, they whisked me off to the safety of a public beach – not because I would be harmed at the park, but in case I should need help. Nobody would know that I was in an isolated place.
Lastly, there is the lens of an individual who is grieving an immeasurable loss. My mother never saw Bermuda, but she knew of my passion for the place. Needless to say, tears of grief would come, out of the clear blue sky – not unlike the transient rain showers that pass over the Bermuda Islands.
Per the hospice counselor’s wisdom, I would weaken without warning – in the ocean at Elbow Beach, while dining alone at Portofino, while ambling down an alley that had two of my mother’s favorites – a Yarn Shop and an Ice Cream parlor.
Because my mother appreciated the beautiful things in life, and taught me how to do so, I longed to share everything with her. Paradoxically, this meant that my joy could trigger pain.
Having been a full-time caregiver for several years prior to this trip, I had been living in a state of hyper vigilance, often unable to process the beauty around me, because I was operating from a mental space of anticipation and mitigation.
During the last months of my caregiving, I admired my mother’s ability to look at a chickadee with sheer joy, in her frail state- and to notice when flowers needed water. She had denim blue eyes, and the perception of a hawk. From her perch on our porch, she would say, “Just let me stay outside a little longer…”
In Bermuda, my senses returned to me, a sure sign that my mother was sitting on my shoulder. I noticed every bird, every sardine, every shadow, and every flower. My blog wound up being the perfect outlet for self expression – almost like a daily letter home from summer camp.
I stayed at beautiful, historic Bermudian guesthouses, which comforted me with authentic ambience, the warm embrace of family kinship, and unforgettable memories.
I delighted in homemade breakfasts and hot coffee, shared with company around a lovely table set with fine china, polished silver, fresh flowers and candlelight. I enjoyed casual wine and cheese gatherings on the lawn, playing BINGO with seniors at a local church fundraiser, and the opportunity to make eggs for a Royal Wedding breakfast (while wearing a fascinator that I had purchased at the Bermuda Aquarium!)
Bermudians have a warmth and openness that is striking to an outsider. Repeatedly, I marveled at the grace with which acquaintances embraced me, regardless of whether they worked at Vineyard Vines, or ran the country. This palpable appreciation for others resonated strongly, given the polarization in my homeland.
When attending church services in Bermuda, I was greeted by the Pastor – in front of the congregation (even though I hid in the back pew). The Pastor’s wife invited me for a beach walk. A family invited me to a traditional Bermudian Codfish Breakfast, to celebrate the end of the school year.
Having made a few connections via my previous trip, I was delighted to be welcomed back to the island by Gerald, the veteran bellman at The Rosedon Hotel, who had serenaded my family with “Amazing Grace” at Easter. Even my former Airbnb host (whom I had never met) took me to tea at Coral Beach Club, and offered to share her country club privileges.
New friends cropped up easily, too. One night, I was invited to join ’strangers’ for dinner on the terrace of The Dining Room at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. They said, “Won’t you join us? It will be fun!” These were the owners of Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa.
While on the island, I was escorted to an international yachting event by a fellow guest from Australia, and to a heartening Mother’s Day supper, by two Bermudian sisters returning to the island to reminisce about their childhood.
Meeting the Premier- that was an accident of fate- or maybe destiny? He was waiting for a table at Elbow Beach; we were side by side at the bar.
Needless to say, leaving Bermuda was hard. Friends on both sides of the Atlantic were watching my moves, knowing that I had adapted to the local culture so keenly.
Being back in the Hamptons is nothing less than frenetic. The July 4th holiday has been an extra long patriotic ‘free-for-all’ in our community. Regrettably, I am experiencing culture shock in my home country.
Over the weekend, I had errands to run. As I drove home, I gazed at the bucolic countryside, reflecting on the many reasons that visitors flock to our community. As I approached the roundabout in Bridgehampton, apparently I did not do so with sufficient zest. The car behind me slammed on the horn with such ferocity, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
What would these drivers do, if they encountered the digital frowny face, while speeding up to the roundabout outside of Hamilton? They probably would not even notice the charming sign, as I did.
Bermuda is a tangible reminder to me that beauty can lurk around any corner- or any circle. Needless to say, Delta is on speed-dial.
Daisy Dohanos is an American who recently spent more than a month in Bermuda, exploring and connecting with locals. Read more about Daisy’s experiences in Bermuda on her blog, Smitten with Bermuda.