The tropics

I am in the West Indies, the Leeward Islands right now. This is my 19th visit to Nevis. My husband and I are staying in an inexpensive house rental and taking buses around, cooking at home rather than eating out, and coming much more into contact with the local "reality" than those visitors who stay in carefully manicured and sanitized hotels and resorts.

The house, which has a screened porch, is inhabited by quite a lot of different creatures: I think there are two species of gekko (a small dark one in most of the house, but a large impressive one in the laundry room) as well as a lot of Anole lizards (yes indoors!) Day before yesterday I found a tiny tree frog hiding under my flip flops in the screened porch.

Right at the beach access point from the yard, there is a veritable small thicket of juvenile Manchineel trees, which is really bad news: one of the most poisonous trees in the world. Don't touch! Don't even brush against the foliage or you will blister up like crazy!

There is a whole small area of dirt pock-marked with the craters of antlion larvae in the shady back corner of the house, and the entrance holes of tarantula burrows are all over the yard.

The tropics is an odd mixture. It is nature at its most exuberant, beautiful and rich, but sometimes also almost excessively deadly. There is life springing up everywhere, but also skeletal remnants everywhere too; not just the dead empty shells on the beach, but bleached out skeletons of domestic animals here and there, left to lie in place.

The two most impressive large "wild" mammals here are feral donkeys and introduced African Green Vervet monkeys, both species naturalized, and extremely adundant.

There are two magnificent native Mahogany trees in the yard of this house, but also two Neem trees and a Mango tree, both of those species are introduced from India. We humans have changed the West Indies so radically that it is hard to imagine what it was like before we arrived.

From the plastic trash on the beaches to the chert fragments brought over to Nevis from Antigua 2,000 years ago by the first human settlers, our species leaves indelible footprints wherever we go.

Posted by susanhewitt susanhewitt, May 01, 2015 16:10

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