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Jul 16, 2003

Ash Sunday

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July 13 was a lot of things. The second day of the 11th annual St. Barth Open Fishing Tournament, the day before Bastille Day, an important leg in the annual Tour de France bicycle race, and the day that the island of St Barthèlemy awoke to find itself completely covered in ash. It's like the song, on top of Old Smokey, all covered in snow, except it was gray, rather than white, created a post-apocalyptic landscape. My husband got up at the crack of dawn to watch the Tour de France on television, but when he opened the bedroom shutters he stared at the pool in utter disbelief. The water had been a clear crystal blue when we went to sleep, but was now pitch black. And every outside surface was covered in at least one inch of ash. Since our lovely indoor/outdoor house stays wide open, my kitchen looked as if someone had been grilling steaks for a small army and left the ashes behind. The cats were having a great time rolling around and sliding in it, tracking even more gray powder into the living room. Radio St Barth finally informed us that the volcano on the neighboring island of Montserrat had once again blown its stack, and this time the winds were favorable, or unfavorable as the case may be, bringing great clouds of ash and cinders directly our way. The sky was white with it. Oddly enough, the night before there had been a storm with thunder, lighting and short spurts of heavy rain, but no warning of what was to follow. People woke up and imagined all kinds of things. That the construction debris from the house next door had somehow blown into the pool. That the neighbors had a big BBQ and let the ashes fly over the fence. Phones started ringing at six in the morning as the coconut telegraph got cranked up. Have you been outside yet, one disbeliever would ask the next. Brooms and dustpans came out of the closet and every pool guy on the island was under siege as it was unthinkable to find your private dipping pool filled with black ash. My plants still look at little gray around the gills and I am waiting for a good rain to wash off the leaves. But ironically, everybody has opened the drain pipes on their gutters to keep the layer of ash on the roof out of the cistern, but that means a lot of precious rainwater will be wasted. In the meantime, the 16 boats taking part in the Bastille Day fishing tournament set out in a cloud of ash on Sunday morning, after swabbing the decks. On Sunday night, there were rumors that a second eruption would spew more ash in our direction, but we seem to have been spared that. By Monday the sky was blue again and local Bastille Day festivities were ash-free. The big clean up is finished and things are getting back to normal. At least for now.

More to come,

 

Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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