The early flight from Atlanta to Miami is filled with familiar faces from the Wendy and Adam camp in Atlanta some that I know better than others but strangers quickly became friends.
As the connecting flight we're on from Miami to Barbados is approaching the arrival time to the island set out on the itinerary, the clouds break slightly then more and more as the plane gradually dips in altitude to expose the deep blue rippling ocean beneath us. The deep blue becomes deeper and then a break in the pigment looks like to me as though God was meticulously painting this ocean when he accidentally spilled the most brilliant bright turquoise ink amidst the blues. Random in their shape but unmistakable in their majesty. Then came a lush green, tree spine arched landscape whose borders narrowly met amidst the brown sand and surf. Speckled with houses and gradually the bustle of commerce coming into focus. This is my first glimpse at Barbados.
The plane landed and the palm trees became a too familiar outline of the edge of all views. Sparse and tall and everywhere.
We exit the plane and the warm, humid, salty air is the first thing to greet you followed closely by the naturally polite, easy going people of Barbados. Being a scatterbrained, sleep deprived tourist I neglected to fill out the proper paperwork. I asked the lady working at customs what to fill out and then came my first encounter with the accent of Barbados. Somewhat Jamaican if I had to describe it but with a more British influence, I think. Slow and clear. Unique and utterly charming.
We get our luggage and are met by our van driver for the resort we're all staying at and where the wedding ceremony is to be held. A cheerful character named Randy who smiles while carrying a full cooler of local liquor, beer, sodas and water. I may have forgotten to mention that Adam and Wendy are consummate, thoughtful hosts and really know how to get a party started. We enjoy, hold a small meet and greet of attendees, embibe and are then herded onto the van and taken to the hotel.
The roads are old and narrow and we're driving on the left side of the road as is a lingering testament to the British before it was handed over to the people of Barbados to become an independent nation not that long ago. Winding and walking the harmonious line between the old and the modern. Much like the buildings and the small houses lining the roads. It's not old in a necessarily run down way but more in a charming way that is steeped with history and tradition of a fundamental comfortability and confidence with itself. Unneeding of an upgrade if what it has is still perfectly operational.
We arrive at the Fairmont hotel and draped on either side of the long driveway to the hotel itself is a naturally manicured path of greenery and palm trees. It looks like a military sabre team at a wedding posted on either side evenly except planted by nature, not man. How appropriate for what we all came here for.
The Fairmont is right on the water and the bright pink adjoined buildings comprising the property are dazzling. The pool, the landscaping, the outdoor bar/restaurant dotted with large umbrellas to bring shade from the unrelenting sun. And there, nestled by it all, is the true natural headliner of this performance: the ocean. Some of the most pristine water I have ever seen enveloping the coast like a cooling, crystal embrace. I stare at it for a while and look up and down either side of it, unsure if I'm actually seeing what I'm seeing with my own eyes. I then realize, I am. What a feeling.
The hotel staff is also very friendly and accommodating and you can feel that it's not in a service industry sense that they are. It's far more genuine than that as they'll laugh with you and are never shy about saying hello. Very Barbados.
I'm not staying at the hotel this night as I decided to come a day early from my original booking, at Wendy's recommendation, to be a part of the catamaran trip the following morning. I would have missed it otherwise. We congregate and more and more people showed up from all over the world to share this experience with Wendy and Adam.
Getting to meet close and extended families and an even more diverse batch of friends from all over the globe, the calibre of the company remained at an exceptional level. Having the high regard for Wendy and Adam that I do, I assumed that the people they're close enough to to make this global trek would be stellar as well. I was incorrect. They were even better. Countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Trinidad and England were all well represented with this group of folks.
We collect ourselves enough to be presentable and head out to a local restaurant for dinner. Most people at the large table I occupied with Wendy and Adam were strangers but, as is to be the theme of the trip, that didn't last long. All were kind, well traveled, educated, insightful and not a one lacking in a sense of humor.
We ate our meals, exchanged stories and anecdotes from our lives and countries and headed back to the resort.
As I said before, I wasn't booked to stay at the resort on this Thursday night of my arrival. Adam and Wendy made plans for me to stay with one of Adams close friends from the London named Jason. His parents have a home in Barbados. His father is from Barbados and his mother is British. Jason and I got to chat at dinner and got along splendidly. Excellent sense of humor, easy going and a very genuine person. He drives us to his family's island home. The driveway meets a house that is also brightly colored and adorned with palm trees and greenery. I was given my own room with a bed and air conditioning and sleep like a rock.
The next morning I awake, make the bed and get myself together. I also meet Jason's parents. Lovely people who are gracious and kind. His mom makes me a stout cup of coffee, which is a sure way to my good graces. His father and I talk about world music after its known that I'm "Wendy's musician friend". He has dark skin with a head of white hair linked to an equally white beard, divided by a brilliant ivory smile that appears boldly with his infectious laugh and is accentuated by perpetually smiling eyes. A total pleasure to be in their presence and I'll see them to joke around again at the wedding.
That day is the day of the catamaran tour. Essentially, we spend 6 hours circling the Caribbean side of the island, stopping to swim and snorkel on occasion. The Atlantic side has choppier water and a higher likelihood of sharks so we stay where the water is calm and clear and a predator is unlikely to appear. I'm fine with this. With the great company and pristine beauty, it could have been days that we were on the water and I wouldn't have noticed. There's also a full bar and they feed us. Again, I'm fine with this.
During the snorkeling stop we join two other catamarans out in the water to look for marine life and we come across a sea turtle in the wild. It swam right by me twice and I reached out to pet it both times. It's leathery flippers were scaly and muscular and it's shell felt like the eggshell of a dinosaur, solid and impenetrable with a grainy texture atop the fortress. It's face was stoic and curious about all this commotion with all these humans in the water. Yet, it came to greet us and that was the highlight of the day for many of us. A rare treat to see this beautiful creature up close.
The next day is the wedding. The big day. The reason we've come all this way. I spend most of the day swimming in the crystal clear, smooth Caribbean waters and walking along the beach that, on occasion, has a large structure that I can't determine the use for jutting out that has been taken over by the sea. A now artificial reef that once had a human use but was turned over to the currents and surf and to time long ago.
There's an occasional bridesmaid sighting and Adam and his groomsmen are having their photos taken amidst the picturesque beauty of the place.
Then comes time for the wedding on the other side of the small resort I hadn't seen yet.
The pathway hugging the edge of the hotel buildings leads to the beach and a sudden open view of the ocean upon turning a corner. There are two symmetrical groups of neatly aligned chairs on either side creating the walkway in the center that leads to the arch where Wendy and Adam are to share their vows. These are the human touches superimposed on a canvas backdrop of sheer natural majesty. This view is the postcard of all postcards and felt fortunate that my eyes were drinking this scene deeply in my physical reality. There are a few small clouds drifting through the bright blue sky and meeting somewhere in infinity with its sister, the deep blue ocean. The sun is hot but these strategically dotted clouds pop into position to provide a couple of cool breaks for the people in attendance. Adam is in his suit seeing to guests and clearly getting himself ready for the ceremony. The rest of the families and friends trickle in as we all take our seats. The family is walked in and the lovely bridesmaids are coupled with their dapper groomsmen counterparts. Many of these people were strangers just a day ago and I'm now beaming with pride for them as they take part in one of the most significant life events that two people can share together.
All the cast members are in place next to the priest on both sides of the temporary altar. Then came the scene that a multi-million dollar movie studio could do no justice in duplicating: Wendy's entrance.
The gentle music of the steel drum band began playing "Here Comes The Bride" and she slowly rounded the corner escorted by her father. The meeting of her natural elegance and beauty coupled with the joyous significance of the day made my eyes a little misty with happiness for her almost immediately. She looked like something out of an old storybook that young girls would talk about to each other with dreams in their eyes and sighing quietly to themselves that that might be them on their own wedding day. The highest standard of the institution, seemingly gliding over the sand past those of us lucky enough to be in attendance.
The ceremony began and the poignant delivery by the priest was full of gentle power and wisdom. Adam and Wendy's vows were both heartfelt, much like their own character. Seeing some of the bridesmaids and family and friends occasionally dab their eyes during the vows was a silent and subtle tribute to the wave of love and community enveloping that small corner of heaven on earth.
The ceremony ended and the uproarious applause in celebration was genuine and continuous. We couldn't seem to cheer loud enough to satisfy the feeling it demanded. The celebratory evening to follow was filled with food, drinks, laughing, music and dancing for hours and hours. The dinner was right by the water's edge. Night fell like a satin curtain over the water as the shimmering specks of daylight slowly receded to make way for the army of stars and the moonlight. The bottom of the curtain collapsing on the earth is the occasional crashing surf along the beach and becomes the new soundtrack of the evening as one backs farther and farther away from the DJ and closer and closer to the rhythmic pulse of nature.
The night ended with many of us jumping into the swimming pool in our underwear but my tenure there was brief as the sun and food and drink got to me and took me into a deep last nights sleep. A truly boring end to an otherwise glorious day.
People came and went from the island on various times and days depending on their travel plans and where they call home. Many of us of the Atlanta crew who came on the same flight in were also leaving on the same flight out. The van for the airport left around noon and just before I boarded the van, word got out to the staff that I was a musician back in the US. A band was setting up to play and they asked me if I would sing a song with them. Being the loud mouth performer that I am, of course I said yes. I asked if they knew "Stand By Me" by Ben E King, one of my favorite songs, and of course they did. The band started up and I sang to the small crowd that had gathered there. Fortunately Adam and Wendy also happened along as this was going on and I was able to dedicate it to them. What a great way to punctuate an already perfect experience.
Bags checked, passed security and climbing the stairs onto the plane from the ground I turned around to take one last look at my brief paradise home. The same view that greeted me 4 days ago is now bidding me farewell. The palm trees, the air and the smile that cracks so easily from the sides of the islanders' mouths in a ready state to say hello, fearless in their connection to humanity.
I'll miss Barbados and will forever be grateful to Adam and Wendy for both the honor of the invitation and the new friends I have as a result of it.