Saturday, January 28, 2006

Seeking the sweet spot -- Part 3 (the end)

For a baleen whale, the sweet spot is sea full of krill. For our "domesticated" Bahamian ants, the sweet spot is (quite literally) the sugar bowl I inadvertently left open all night on the kitchen counter. For 21st-century humans, the sweet spot is a place I have called* Arcadia, somewhere between Wilderness and Technopolis.

Arcadia has the benefits of modernity -- medicine, comfort, security, education, the arts -- in harmony with the natural world. Arcadia has dark night skies, clean air and water, gracious landscapes, home that are comfortable and modest in scale. The antithesis of Arcadia is the strip mall, the sprawling McMansion exurbs, petroleum-based technology, non-recyclable waste.

My friend Aileen Vincent-Barwood called her book about Exuma This Sweet Place. She took her title from something said by a now-deceased Bahamian gentleman we both knew, Will Nixon: "I've traveled round and about but I always long to come back to this sweet place."

Over the years, I've talked to many elderly Exumians to whom I have given rides. (This has been the kind of place where everyone offers rides to anyone we see along the road.) They are always full of warm nostalgia for "the good old days" when they lived in the island settlements sans electricity and running water and walked barefoot to school. They talk about that life as if it were an idyllic Eden. But if I ask, "Would you go back?" the answer is an emphatic "No!."

So now their children and grandchildren must see if they can keep the best of what made and nourished this gracious, family-oriented and unselfish people, while gleaning the best of modernity and absorbing the likes of me.

*Most notably in The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe.