Island Muse Memory, nostalgia and creativity in the Bahamas
Memory, nostalgia and creativity converge in a wash of pink sand and blue skies. Anne O’Hagan revisits the Bahamas
YOU MUST TRUST your partner,” says our spitfire-quick South African yoga instructor, Tamara. This is how our “acro” – as in acrobatic – yoga session starts. Laying out mats on a lawn of spiky Caribbean grass, she has us on our backs in a flash, looking up at a Tiffany blue sky. A marshmallow cloud may float by, but who needs perfect? With the breeziest and briefest of demonstrations, she talks us into a puzzle ring of appendages, a human Turk’s knot. It wasn’t until after I’d piked off my acro-partner’s back, supported her aerial Superman pose and various other contortions that I got it. You have to be calm, not just strong, pre- cise in how you hold yourself and, yes, trusting.
It’s a dynamic that works for us. We are sisters-in-law, close in age, bound by family as well as shared creative pursuits. Taking a break for a few days last spring, we want to stretch and energize more than just our pale winter bodies; we’ve been talking about writing a book. We are readers, writers, wordy girls, both of us engaged professionally and passionately, on some level, with the development and creation of narrative. And as the product of matriarchies, we are also fascinated by the female characters in our families who came before. Who were these women of the 20th century who shaped us? What were their lives like? As much as we’ve learned from our own mothers, we have questions and, of course, time is of the essence. While the concept might still be abstract – part memoir, part history – our intentions are real, and where better to engage creatively than at a muchloved island retreat in a generationsold family house?
Tiny Harbour Island lies a mile or so off the tip of North Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It’s just a short hop from Nassau but feels a world away. In the 1960s, my sister-in-law’s intrepid grandparents bought property here. Three miles long with a beach the colour of Himalayan pink salt ground to a fine powder, its narrow laneways and overgrown gardens are a riot of fuchsia bougainvillea. Briland, as it’s called locally, is a bit of magic. No airstrip, no golf