Bracker Alta Solomon moved to Grand Cayman in 1998 after returning from college in the U.S., and returned home to Cayman Brac with her family in December 2016. Here, she shares a letter on her decision to move back to the Brac and how it’s going so far.
While untangling dry fever grass, my phone rings, it’s my sister Mia, I’m so glad to hear her voice but we, (Gordon, Ari and I) are cleaning – the leaves are piling up, limbs brittle and the yesteryear fever grass planted by a tenant needs to be uprooted and replanted. Our conversation is short, but I get the point, and [now] here I am writing about life on the Brac. How is it? Is the quality of life better? How do I feel? Do you regret it? Do you miss “Grand?”
I’m sure to some this move we’ve made would make no sense: Why? Why move back to the Brac, to less progress, fewer miles, fewer social outlets, fewer stores, entertainment, things to do, life?
Well, truthfully, for the last two weeks I’ve been pining away the fact that there are so few restaurants that have farm-to-table foods, fresh vegetables, salads – and by salads I mean something, anything more or other than lettuce and tomatoes … kale, spinach, arugula, bib lettuce, crispy lettuce! Less daily entertainment spots [and] “things to do.”
But, having said that, our garden is coming along fabulously and my seeds bought from Vigoro before our move have sprouted. Cucumbers, silver beets, jalapenos, beets, tomatoes, callaloo, spinach (from my dear friend Heather), and the weekly Backyard Farmers’ Market (check it out on Facebook) is a one-minute walk from our home and can fill that void of fresh veggies and fruits.
It’s a petty thing really, this annoyance of not getting what I want. My plants are entertainment enough, keeping me busy, and the sunrise and sunset in the yard while watering them never gets boring.
What else is missing? The need to rush, to get on the road before the dreaded 7:16 a.m. traffic starts (yes, that one minute means a lot!), the bumper-to-bumper, do-not-put-my-windows-down for fear of the choking muffler smog from the car in front or the car crossing. It’s a rarity for it to happen here – the smoggy yuck that is – because there are never traffic jams! What’s missing is the anxiety of being, or almost being, late …. That is what’s missing. (I don’t know if it is like this for anyone else here on the Brac, but time slows down.)
Obstructed views, that is what’s missing. No high-rise, sky-reaching condos, hotels, [or] homes blocking me from seeing the beauty [of the] ocean. “Oh sea of palest emerald merging to darkest blue ….” Just little Cayman-style homes dotting the roadside or tucked away in the bushes. Clean swept yards, bright flowers, conch shells, chairs to relax [in].
The highest thing here is, well, you know – the Bluff. It rides along with me when I’m driving to work, growing higher each mile; I love my drive into work. The sun is racing me, trying to get over at me while the shadow of the Bluff keeps me hidden. I look forward to my morning drives. I put the windows down and the music up, Sarah Groves and I have a date most mornings. The rays of sun start stretching over the ridge of the Bluff and the rock moves further and further away from the road the more easterly I get.
What’s missing is the longing to see my family (although I miss those left in Grand Cayman). I can, in three minutes out of my front door, be sitting beside my mother and father, enjoying daddy’s stories, or advice, or arguments that are unnecessary at times, but full of well-meaning, mostly always. I can sit with them and gaze out at Frenchman’s Fort’s rolling seas and windswept clouds reflecting those deep blues I swam in as a child (and got the worst case of sea itch in as an adult, with my sister Gina while looking [for] conchs.) This is what I missed in Cayman; and as we Brackers know when we say “Cayman,” it means Grand Cayman.
What I’d been missing was enjoying a meal from mommy’s kitchen – Brackers are awesome cooks – there’s no better pot to get food from than my mother and my sisters.
What was missing was time to talk about my day with my parents, and shar[ing] plans and enjoying my mother’s hand on mine and a kiss on my forehead. Time stands still a little while we sit on the edge of the low end of the Bluff enjoying the ever-blowing sea breeze.
What’s missing is the lack of support. Now family is all around, below the bluff, on the bluff beside our house. Support from sisters, mother, cousins (Chevala, Josh and Dean, I know I’ve told you already but I, we, are so grateful for all your help bussing the children back and forth to their activities). The children are free to come and go as they please (within reason) riding their bikes, scattering about, “scootering,” playing ball, fishing, visiting friends and family, spending time with their nanny and papa whenever they please, invading Gaga’s house for sleep-overs (thank you, Rosa!). I can see/talk to a family member face to face every day (that means a lot to me).
Lack of space: Yep, I’m not missing that one bit. Sometimes it seems like there’s no room in Cayman. Here I feel like I can, at any given time, plop down on the beach/bay/side-a-road and be alone, have lunch with the ocean, and not worry about sunbathers and loud music and passersby. That makes me sound like a hermit, does it not? Or unsocial. But I’m not, I just enjoy my alone time, with the sky, sea and sand, or Bluff … with one of those. Time to breathe.
And although I miss my job in Cayman at the NCVO terribly, I do not miss the rush. The push and pull of being responsible for so much, the after-work dinging of emails and phone calls, fretting that I forgot to do something that was due, call someone back – that feeling that I have to respond right away, even at midnight.
I do not miss the anxiety, but I must mention that I do miss the staff that became friends; those in need that were helped who became friends; those who helped/volunteered in one way or the other that became friends. I miss them all.
But, I am not missing the interruptions to my family time. There is so much less distraction; and for everything else that is “missing” from Cayman Brac, there is so much more that we are gaining. Tonight, I’m tired from preparing and organizing plant pots, raking leaves and sowing seeds; but I’m happy. And right now, the only thing that’s missing are my husband and son who are out enjoying watching a football match on the Bluff, a cool 15-minute, traffic-less drive away.
Come visit the Brac, you will not regret it – but there will be something missing – in a good way!
Ms. Solomon and her family live in West End, Cayman Brac at Frenchman’s Fort. She works for the Ministry of Education and assists her husband Gordon, an artist, with his business, Solomon Studio. The couple has two children, son Layish, 10, and daughter Ari-Mae, 8.