<b>One man's island</b> Everything about being in St. Cecilia is simpler, writes Robert Benson about the West Indies getaway he's grown to love and protect like a beloved family member (he even gives the island a pseudonym to protect it). The way in which the natural beauty, quiet pace and warm community on this volcanic island eventually change the author is the subject of his travelogue, <b>Home by Another Way: Notes from the Caribbean</b>.
Benson, a spiritual writer and retreat leader, and his wife first encounter the island when they decide to give each other a beach holiday for their wedding anniversary. Under less than auspicious beginnings, they're ferried across a misty lagoon in the dead of night to a simple idyll that in two short weeks would represent the values that they aspired to live every day.
More than a decade later, they're still giving each other this journey away from the demands of work, children and homey clutter. They drive rental cars on the wrong side of the road, paddle in azure waters, read on the porch of their tiny cottage, and prepare meals in a kitchen with enough room for two cooks as long as they have their arms around each other. There are no theme parks, malls or movie theaters and not much to buy except pottery or honey (from bees that feed on exotic tropical flowers).
The characters and locations of this magical and beloved summer place become an annual meditation and talisman for a deeper existence, and the book ends as Benson and his wife mull over the possibility so familiar to vacationers who allow the warmth of eternal summer to melt into their bones of capturing the feeling full-time. Your life is shaped by the things that you desire, writes Benson, quoting Thomas Merton. And like any spiritual seeker, he realizes that he just may be willing to sacrifice all to achieve the blessing of simple solitude, with a backdrop of riotous bougainvillea and a turquoise sea, no less. Going to St. Cecilia may have started out to be about going to the sun, he writes. It is crossing a line about something else, it seems.