I’ve been painting on the beach using a church barbecue shed for a studio, which I occasionally share with a herd of goats that wander freely across the island. One afternoon I heard a loud sizzle and crack, and looked toward the highway from which the noise came. A white pick-up truck stopped in the middle of the road. The passenger door slammed, a man ran into the road and returned with an unconscious goat which was dropped into the truck bed with a thud and the truck sped away. The event was disturbing, not so much for the fate of the goat which was raised for meat, but for the quickness with which the goat met its fate at the end of a stun gun. Documentary images of speeding Toyota trucks packed with death squads and spiked with automatic weapons popped to mind. Before witnessing the startling efficiency of the goat harvesters, I had protected myself with the fantasy that deadly attacks could be avoided if one was quick.
This seemed like a good a moment to take a break and enjoy the day.
I decided to take a walk up Ram Head, the southern most tip of the island of St. John. To some this rocky mound that stretches on a long neck from the body of the island looks like the broad brow and curling horns of a ram. I don’t really see the ram, but I do see this thrusting spit of dome and cliff to be as bold as one.
The trail begins near a salt pond that the trade wind works to a lather.
From the salt pond I walked along a crunchy, coral-rubble path that skirts a pretty curve of bay. Soon the trail rose over a dry, sunny ridge…
that is home to barrel cactus and wild orchids.
At the crest of the ridge, Ram Head came into view. Without warning, a slab of cloud slid under the sun.
And in minutes the brilliant colors of the evening where extinguished and replaced with pewter. It was an afternoon for abrupt events.
As I proceeded up the trail, squalls swept in from the North, but each skirted Ram Head, which sat in its own patch of light.
On the crown of Ram Head, I saw the distant rain travel across the sea like a wet sable brush passing over fresh paper.
The tip of Ram Head…
makes a hasty drop to the sea, where the surf breaks over the rocks and swells the pools only to make a sloshing retreat.
Looking up and out to the west where I had hoped to celebrate the end of my visit to the island with a glitzy, sunset spectacle, there was only a cloudy sky and a sober stretch of silvery sea. I was disappointed.
But I soon noticed that the subtlety of the scene was just as beautiful as a dazzling sunset, and considering the suddenness of the other afternoon events, pleasantly uneventful.