Sunday was a dark day in Barbados. No sunshine could penetrate the ash that had blown over from the La Soufriere volcano eruptions in St. Vincent. My anxiety rose as it became clear that this was a rather serious situation and that there was uncertainty as to how long it would last.
The fact that I started the day wondering if we might go surfing signified that either I had absolutely no grasp of the situation, or that I was in denial. It was raining and others have said that it was acid rain as it cut through the toxic ash hanging in the air.
The houses here are meant to be open-air, to have the breeze blowing through them. Since Saturday morning we have had to shut all the windows and doors, trying to preserve the interior from the ash that either rains down on us or blows around between plumes.
I can feel a thin layer of dust over my keyboard as I type, on my feet as I walk through the kitchen, and I can see it on the white counters. It is like the damp drafts in the old houses in England, there is no keeping it out. I keep telling myself, “well, at least I am warm.” But it is getting very warm. We cannot use the AC without damaging it or drawing more ash into the house.
Sunday was starting to feel a bit too much like a winter lockdown in Canada, trapped inside, and I started to panic. There was little information. I had asked various questions of locals and they said that they had never been through this to know. There was a press conference, where a seismologist stated that this could last days, or weeks. Weeks! This was feeling a bit too much like COVID all over again.
Mike & Ryan, a couple I have become close with, decided on the weekend that they would leave the following weekend if the airport opened again, and I am sad to see them go. In communicating with my friend Gaz, he asked if I were freaking out a little and if there was anything that he could do to help. I said, “I just need to know that I am not going to be the last man standing.” Gaz’s response was “Absolutely not. I am not going anywhere. Joe and Liz aren’t going anywhere. Cecil is around for a while at least. You aren’t going to be alone. And this will end.” More than knowing the details of how this will all play out, I just needed to know that I would not be alone to figure it out.
Monday morning, I awoke to sunshine. I had brought in some of my plants on Sunday hoping to revive them. I left one hibiscus plant outside fearing that it was already dead. It bloomed in the sunshine, covered in ash. I thought to myself, well, if that poor plant has the energy to bloom, I surely have the energy to persevere.
Hope is a powerful ally, easily eroded by uncertainty. I am tired, as many of us are, of having my hopes dashed that it is finally over and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The cleanup in Barbados begins today. A team of men have been on our roof all morning to remove the fine ash dust. We now know that La Soufriere could have another explosion that could send ash our way again, but it is uncertain how much time we have before that happens. In the hope that we have a reprieve that allows us to turn on the AC, have a good night sleep and rejuvenate, Barbados cleans up the ash. Have I mentioned that hurricane season starts June 1st?!