Early in the morning, when hardly anyone is on the street, I have begun walking the kantu di awa, waterfront in our local language of Papiamentu. First light exposes bobbing boats in the bay, laughing gulls shoreside and the small but staid Fort Oranje, the Dutch mini-fortress that for centuries has stood guard over Kralendijk’s harbor. It is about a two-mile stroll, a good start to the day, and a way that makes me appreciate the morning’s first coffee even more upon return.
But what has been revealing during my morning treks are the trees along the kantu di awa. They have special significance for people on this sun-drenched island offering shady respite form the strong rays above. And this reverence of people for plants is expressed in different ways along the waterfront.
Take, for instance, the Wish Tree. This diminutive plant has become a place of intimate personal expression for those wanting more in their lives. People leave notes on strings under the Wish Tree, sentiments in five languages. Some are local. Others are desires expressed by those from Uruguay, Panama, Brazil, New York City. I stopped my walk one day to read the writings. Health is an apparent topic. One note reads, I wish that Map’s knee pain is gone. Another boasts, …that Kristal and I live happy, healthy and good lives. A Panamanian writes, Having a family blessed by God with good health. One boy expresses his passion for a girl and hopes that she will equal his intense love. Another person, a Brazilian, does a laundry list in inspiring Portuguese, Greeting. Peace. Love. Light. Johon writes another list in Spanish, work, money, happiness, love in that order with the disclaimer if God wants it. A Venezuelan mysteriously writes, …freed and recovered from the Red Spell. And then there are competing messages about where to live. I wished I lived in Bonaire with my family—Mai from New York, and, I wish that all our future plans come true. New life in USA. Thank you. But I think my favorite wish is another simple list, health, happiness, love & adventure. What more do you need?
Next to the Divi Resort you can find what I call the Float Tree. There are over a dozen buoys hanging from the boughs of this local tree. It has a bit of Christmas bulb panache with a nice ode to the sea. This is the best collection of flotsam that I have ever seen.
Then there is the divi divi tree down on Kaya Playa Lechi (which is actually Playa Pabou, just sayin’) that proved to be too much of a challenge for the government. Island lore claims that the when the construction crew responsible for building the new seaside boulevard and pedestrian walkway saw the enormous trunk of the divi divi, they paused. If they removed it, it could be days of work under the hot sun. On the other hand, they could improvise on the Dutch urban architect’s plan and build the walkway around the tree. People now decorate the divi divi with white sea shells. Nature 1, Humans 0.
There is another example not too far from Cha Cha Beach. The Four Seasons Restaurant is housed in one of the older traditional Antillean buildings on the island. It looks to me that a roof was added around the perimeter to provide shade for those who wished to dine al fresco. But concessions were made for a towering coco palm that is the corner centerpiece on the property. A hole was built into the roof so that the palm could tower above in tropical splendor. Nature 2, Humans 0.
But by far my favorite trees along the kantu di awa are the two in front of the Martis family’s home named Villa Betty after the youngest daughter. It was Yellow Man, the son of the family’s matriarch, Ines, who hung the first decoration. Since the family hosts almost weekly barbeques under the shade of the trees for relatives and friends, it wasn’t long before the watapana tree became full of people’s hanging contributions—a smashed cell phone, a goofy rubber turtle, empty cans of Sprite and pineapple juice, a Dutch motorcycle plate, Donald Duck hanging by strings. Then a turquoise and yellow sign was hung, Plenchi Machi Ines, Mama Ines’s Terrace.
However, someone must have noticed that the calalbas tree directly next to the watapana was being totally ignored. That was soon rectified with people hanging flip-flops, a hat, and a clock (proving that it is always five o’clock somewhere) from its sparse boughs. Someone even staked a wooden Christmas snowman at the base. Plenchi Machi Ines appeared to be complete, but new additions appear all the time.So these are the botanical gifts that I get to see during my morning power walks along the kantu di awa. Trees have a special meaning on our sparse island. They are friendly sentinels that grace our shores. It is gratifying to see that they are appreciated and honored.