Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


Song of my heart: Beautiful, beautiful Barbados

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more


I let the music speak with no restraints. I let my feelings take over, carry my soul away into the world where beauty meets the darkness of day… Where my mind is like an open window where the high and healing winds blow…” (from the song, I let the music speak by ABBA”).
Yes, dear friends and readers, I am back from Barbados. As I wrote in the novel The Neglected Garden published in 2005: “I’m in love with this island. I hope to return to it someday.” And indeed, this vacation was my ninth visit to the “gem of the Caribbean Sea”.
I left a cold and still dark Ottawa early on January 11th to connect to my Air Canada flight to Barbados in Toronto. My dear friends, Mary-Lou and Ron were on that same flight. I met them in 2006 when I was invited to do a promotion tour in Barbados. We became instant friends and have remained so to this day. Sherry, their niece was on that same flight.
  Alberte, cultivating serenity in Barbados.

As did Anne in that first novel, I needed to slow down and re-establish contact with my self. In my carry-on bag was Andrew Weil’s latest book Spontaneous Happiness, my iPod and CD player with my favourite music, a magazine and an empty notebook destined to become a diary.

“Serenity is a garden we must cultivate every day.” I intended to practice silence and introspection, all the while enjoying the sights, sounds and scents of this beautiful tropical island. Our hosts at Pirates’ Inn offered a much appreciated, complimentary breakfast as a welcome treat the first morning. We later went to Big B’s grocery store and stocked up on food and drinks since all the apartments are equipped with a kitchenette. I indulged in an afternoon nap in my air-conditioned room afterwards. It was 34C when I arrived the day before… quite a contrast from our frigid Ottawa weather!
I was anxious to see the new boardwalk that was built along the seashore between Needham’s Point near the Hilton and Rockley Beach near the Accra. It is quite impressive! Built of solid concrete fortified by Canadian Nova Scotia granite rocks, it is planked with Brazilian hardwood and features circular belvederes or roundabouts where you can sit and admire the view of the ocean, the rich turquoise colour that marries so well to the deep blue of distant waters and the clear powder-blue sky. There, I listened to white-crested waves crash as they rushed to the beach, caressed it and returned. I breathed in the salty ocean air and decided I would walk along the boardwalk every day… after all, it took me directly to Rockley beach.
The next day, Sherry and I went to the beach. She likes to sit on the beach in full sun; I prefer a lounge chair under the palms or leafy trees. Around eleven the skies got darker as heavy clouds rolled in. Suddenly, it started pouring and although, Sherry joined me underneath the trees, we were soon soaking wet. It didn’t deter us though. We walked over to Quayside where I enjoyed my favourite Chai Spice Latte. We chatted till the sun broke through and quickly dried everything. We tossed our wet hair back and headed for Pirates’. I took this opportunity to read more of Andrew Weil’s book that afternoon.
Weil, a pioneer of integrative medicine, deplores the fact that depression has almost become epidemic in our modern society. All the new advances we enjoy have only served to create more solitude, loneliness and despair. People get depressed when they have to cope with setbacks and they quickly lose their sense of self-worth in our fast-paced, automated world. Too often they go on anti-depressant medication which is merely a temporary fix with its share of side-effects. It does not address their “mal de vivre”.
Instead, Dr. Weil proposes Martin Seligman’s approach to positive psychology. Human experience is whole and should include contentment, engagement, gratitude and joy… a rarity in many people’s lives… Well, here I was in sunny Barbados, enjoying all the sensory pleasures of sun, beach and ocean, songbirds and tree frogs, all the while connecting with my loved ones in Canada by phone, once a day. Practicing the second basic tenet to happiness, flow, the sensation of being wholly absorbed in a task that is neither too easy nor too demanding, was as easy as walking barefoot and sinking my feet in the warm sand. The third tenet is meaning: using your highest strengths in service to something larger than yourself. I was very aware that I was here to replenish my strength, both physical and emotional in order to feel gratitude, replenish my stock of creativity and give back.
Andrew Weil emphasizes the need to choose the right company because positive social interaction supports emotional wellness. While walking over to Rockley Beach on Saturday morning, I followed my intuition and initiated a conversation with two ladies walking ahead of me. Just like my meeting with Mary-Lou and Ron six years ago, I became instant friends with Therry and Lynn. Their favourite spot on the beach was actually where I sat the morning it had rained so they invited me to join them. Two well-traveled, well-read retirees from Montreal, Therry and Lynn enjoy life to the fullest. Conversation flowed easily from family life and careers to health and exercise, to favourite movies and books, to our past experiences of Barbados vacations.
Andrew Weil encourages people to exercise in a natural setting whenever possible. Walking, hiking, jogging or running, swimming, yoga can all be practiced outdoors when weather permits. It gives you the extra benefit of vitamin D from the sun and fresh air. Therry and Lynn’s favourite exercise is walking, coupled with the intermittent dip in the ocean. Their enthusiasm was obvious and contagious.
Later that afternoon, we decided to meet at the park bandstand where the Barbados Police Band was putting on a concert. Enjoying fine music and art is another recommendation in Andrew Weil’s book. The concert was great and although I couldn’t find my friends in the crowd, Sherry decided to join me and loved it. There is something to be said about outdoor concerts. Music is an integral part of my life. It makes my spirit soar! I especially loved the band’s rendition of Everything I Do, I Do It For You.
While I was in Barbados, I listened to Zamfir, Andrea Bocelli and Bryan Adams on my iPod, Pachelbel (in harmony with the sea) and Alain Morisod on my CD player. Music also soothes my soul and relaxes me. I use the last two to slowly drift into sleep mode. At home, I have a favourite CD that features pan flute, harp, birds and ocean waves. I fall asleep with a smile on my face.
Another thing I indulged in while on vacation was a good massage followed by a healthy lunch at the Coffee Bean Restaurant that features a quiet pond and Japanese-style bridges. Good food is always important, no matter where you go. I enjoyed breakfast at my apartment in the morning and most days, prepared a healthy lunch but I indulged in fine dining in the evening. We celebrated Sherry’s birthday at Mama Mia with Ron and Mary-Lou. The veal Marsala was delicious and I enjoyed a sinful dessert, compliments of the house. Another night, I experienced Japanese-style cuisine at Naru’s. My new friends, Therry and Lynn are excellent cooks. They love to experiment with different recipes and styles of cooking. We enjoyed dinner and music by the seaside at Blakey’s one night and Tapas on my last night out. Spending time with friends who have good eating habits is an important part of caring for your body. I was grateful to share this time with friends who have a balanced lifestyle and eat well every day.
Andrew Weil offers this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
A song constantly resurfaced in my head: “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
I remembered this passage from The Neglected Garden as I bade farewell to Mary-Lou and Ron after lunch at Pirates’ Inn:
“You’ll find peace of mind in Barbados. Beautiful, beautiful Barbados… resounded through Anne’s mind. The haunting melody filled her silence like the rustle of the evening wind in the palm trees.”
My final words are from the English poet William Blake: “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” I am grateful for this opportunity of vacationing in Barbados again, reconnecting with good friends, making new ones and finding time for myself. And you can be sure, if given the chance to sit it out or dance, I will dance!
I hope you do to! Blessings!