St. Croix and Incredible Connections

I hadn’t really plan to go to St. Croix for my 60th birthday, but as fate would have it, I found myself on a flight headed there. My good buddy Edward Jones aka EC, was in town to photograph my 60th birthday photo shoot, and insisted that I go.  EC, had lived in the Virgin Islands for a number of years and still has many friends there. He assured me that if I were to go, his friends would take good care of me. He then introduced me to his friend Robin via text.

I arrived in St. Croix and there was Robin excited about making my 60th all it could be. At first I was a bit disappointed because when I arrived it was overcast and raining and this had been going on all week with the prediction that it would continue.  Robin reminded me that they capture rain for water. If a home runs out of rain water, then they’re forced to purchase water for bathing, flushing, cooking, for living and it’s not cheap. I was reminded of my first brush with this way of life from my days spent in Bermuda many moons ago. This reminder put the Weather Sister in check.  Connecting with nature and her gifts, yes indeed, let’s Give Thanks for rain.

Over cast and drizzling

First stop on our trek, a baobab tree. I was so amazed to see this ancient, West African specimen standing majestically on the island of St. Croix. Baobabs are one of the oldest forms of plant life on the planet. This one is a mere 250 years old. I hadn’t been near a baobab since being in Senegal some 30 years ago. So it was quite a treat to connect with this grand being again.

baobab tree

It wasn’t too long in Robin’s presence before I learned of her incredible project. Robin is in the throws of building a gorgeous house up on a hill.  Let me say, they are hills and then there’s this hill over looking what I can only describe as God’s land. The view is just breathtaking!  I was so inspired to see this insightful, brave woman take on being project manager for the house that she is having built; and she assured me that it’s quite a feat, time consuming, at times tedious and exhausting, but at the same time very rewarding.  Robin had the foresight and insight to purchase this land 28 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth today. To say I was inspired would be an understatement. I was deeply reminded of the long standing vision I have long had for my own life, to be surrounded by nature. Robin’s husband and three children support and inspire her quest to build this family compound on the land of her ancestors.

Robin caught in web of her vision

When it was time to eat, Robin and I got together to have a little nosh with another of Edward’s friends, a fiber and jewelry artist named, Kim Lyons. Then one of my neighbors, the famed Malene Barnett mentions to me on Instagram that she was just talking to Kim Lyons who told her she had met me that evening.  This world is so small. Serendipity and more connections.

Robin Barlow Jones, Anu Prestonia and Kim Lyons

In the late 80s I became the client of manicurist Olivine Calvin, better known as Ollie. Ollie was a very talented nail artist who hailed from St. Croix and carried that cool, Caribbean vibe wherever she went. Loving, nurturing with an easy laugh, Ollie was loved by many.  Never one to rush, if she was running behind and you were in a rush, Ollie would not change her pace.  And when it was your turn, she gave you that same time and special attention she gave the person before you. Ollie later became a Loctician at Khamit Kinks, and her Loc clients fell in love with her.  It’s nearly five years now since Ollie made her transition.  But since I was going to her homeland, I had to meet up with her vivacious sister Millie.  Millie is like the mayor of St. Croix, she knows everybody and everybody knows her.  Exuberant, positive, always smiling and full of laughter, she is still celebrating her own birthday which was on March 5th, a Pisces. Millie turned 70 and is still as fabulous as ever, as she sashays in her high heels and her great smile. And I forgot to mention, the week prior had been Robin’s birthday.  We were all in celebration mode.

Millie Calvin

Wouldn’t you know it, though my first two days on St. Croix were overcast, on my birthday the sun shown brilliantly!  I felt it was a sign of a bright future. I had already decided, come rain or come shine, on my birthday I was going to the beach and getting in the ocean. At that point I was down with the clouds and rain, so the sun was like icing on the cake.  Leave it to Robin to not take me to just any beach, we traveled to the gorgeous Sandy Point National Wildlife Reserve.  That day Sandy Point was closing at 4:00 in the afternoon and would be closed for the next six months, for the turtle nesting season. This signaled sacred ground to me and I felt so blessed to be at this place on this special day. I recalled my visit to Tulum, Mexico, when one night on the beach we watched as a great turtle’s eggs hatched and the little hatchlings made their way to the ocean. Talking about the wonders of the world!!! Turtles also signify long life as they are able to live well past 100 years old barring predators and polluted environments.

Sandy Point – Wildlife Reserve

The sweetest and wildest connection of them all was when Robin kept talking about her 28 years in Oakland and Richmond California. So I just blurted out, you wouldn’t happen to know my sister-in-law Fanta Lawrence? After I mentioned Fanta, all Robin kept saying, was “get the hell outta here.”  LOL!  Not only did she know Fanta, but Robin has another friend Amena.  For years, these two friends of Robin’s,  Fanta and Amena had been talking about their incredible granddaughter and Robin just realized a few months ago, that they had been talking about the same child, my great niece, Amenta.  So it was such a delight for me to go visit my great niece whose been spending time in St. Croix with her dad and paternal grandmother.

I connected with my great niece, what a treat!

In addition, I now have not one, not two, but three dear sister friends who have purchased property in St. Croix.  Retired educators, they are having fun with life. One after the other they have put down stakes in the Virgin Islands  and now I know why. I want to drink that Kool-aid too!  I had planned to spend my whole time in St. Croix sequestered, at my sister’s beach side condo, contemplating this next leg of my journey.  But the Universe had other plans.  Robin gathered me from the airport and we had one amazing moment after another and it was until my last evening there that I spent time on the other end of the island at my sister’s condo. This property is beautifully landscaped with a pool, just before reaching the ocean’s water which is quite wild, with big crashing waves. Like Robin’s property, my friend’s properties double as vacation rentals.

Pool side at my sister MK’s rental property

Sometimes you can’t plan for the good that the Universe has in store for you, you just have to allow yourself to be guided.  I was certainly in one of my favorite element for my 60th birthday, surrounded by nature and loving people.  I was  treated by a most gracious and generous host, the incredible Robin Barlow-Jones.  And the connections were made of the stuff you can’t even make up, just simply magical.  Yes indeed!  Let me give Thanks for my years on this planet and for incredible connections.

In my element

Many Thanks to Robin for a wonderful 60th.  Thank you to my dear sister Linda, for this such a memorable and generous birthday gift.  Thank you EC for a long time friendship and for being the incredible connector.

Me and EC circa 1993 in St. Thomas

Having a friend like EC is like the gift that keeps on giving.  Thank you EC for being such a dear friend and for making my 60th a memory of a lifetime.  From now on I’ll just refer to you as “The Connector”.

If you’re longing to connect with the sea, try our Sea Scape!

 

Celebrating My 60th Year!

This past weekend I celebrated my 60 birthday by marking the date with a photo shoot. My father was a  photographer for the navy; and as such I’ve been in front of the camera with a professional photographer starting in my youth.

Part of me was hesitant about this decision because when I mentioned it to key people in my life they seen to yawn at the idea. But I found certain images kept reappearing before me as if they wanted to be born. Finally, I called a long time friend, photographer Edward C. Jones, who I’ve known since our days at Howard University and asked if he was up for this venture. His was the first positive feedback. Even with that vote of confidence, I vacillated many times, I wanted to cancel, but eventually I went forward with this plan.

Part of my inspiration to do this shoot was to address “looking younger” than my age. What has been most important to me, is feeling vibrant and healthy. I have often felt humbled by these compliments and wanted to share that my looking younger and being healthy did not come from “good genes”. My so-called youthful appearance, I believe has come from a lifestyle of both discipline and sacrifice.  What has been most surprising to me is that as I become older, being disciplined has not become easier.  There is a part of me wants to rest on my laurels, but I know it doesn’t work like that. You use it or you loose it. I know that I’m only as good as my last meditation, my last yoga practice, my last act of compassion.

When in my 20s and 30s I was not out partying and drinking on weekends like many people are at that age. I was at home going to bed early, including on the weekends, after standing on my feet braiding hair for 8, 10, 12 hours a day. Instead of partying and drinking alcohol, I was consuming herbal infusions and fresh pressed juices, and in bed most nights by 10:00.  And practicing yoga helped mitigate the occupational hazards of that sedentary work of standing and sitting on a high stool for hours on end.  Yoga saved me.

I am still an early to sleep, early to rise kind of gal. I was also a vegan at that time and practicing yoga on a regular basis as well as doing aerobic workout regularly (mostly power walking and bicycling around Central Park when I lived in Harlem and Prospect Park when I moved to Brooklyn). In addition, I belonged to Ausar Auset an African religious organization that focused on yoga, meditation, a spiritually based lifestyle and many of the same spiritual concepts and practices that I am re-visiting through the teachings of the Buddha, via the teachings of Thích Nhât Hanh, I was also introduced to at Ausar Auset .  Most of my close friends from that time are still my close friends today and they are all healthy, vibrant and on no medications; and many of them are five to seven years older than I am.

I sincerely believe my decision to live a healthy life style was greatly influenced by loosing my grandmother, who was my best friend, at the age of 8. My grandmother was just 48 years when she died of complications from type 2 diabetes and stroke. Diabetes “runs” in my family. But as we all have learned by now, that it’s really the diet and lifestyle that “runs” in the family and creates the conditions that lead to type 2 diabetes.

On the table behind me, my Ancestor shrine with photos of my dear grandmother and other family and friends now on the other side of eternity.

My grandmother amazed me as I watched her inject herself with insulin; she was a courageous hero in my eyes. And like most grandmothers of that era, she didn’t exercise. My Grandmother was a hairstylist who ended up with varicose veins, that later crippled her when she had a botched operation on them.  Additionally, my mother has been very sickly all my life in and out of hospitals ever since I was a young child and the same is true to this day. I did not want to continue this legacy of illness in my family. But of course I did not realize this consciously as a child.

It has been an amazing journey to reach this age in my life, many years past my grandmother’s time on the planet. My inspiration for this photo shoot in addition to celebrating my 60th year, is to hopefully inspire others to take care good care of their selves and consider including the wonders and benefits of yoga into their lives to uplift both the inner and outer body as well as the mind and spirit. And to also say, “Here’s to you Grandma.”  I feel she’s never left me, she ever at my side. Feel free to reach out to me for a yogic consultations and or private yoga classes.  You can reach me at Anu@AnuEssentials.com

Grandma, I made it! 60 and healthy with a life full of love and joy!

 

Check out the my YouTube video of a little Vinyasa Yoga Flow.

Photos by Edward C. Jones @edwardcjones3 / Make-up by Prentiss Anais @the1prentissanais