The last time I wrote it was before we knew anything. To think of the sweet innocence; having no idea of the devastation of the finca, of Puerto Rico, the hardship for thousands, and the current administration’s unconscionable neglect of it all. Who could have imagined any of it?
Now, after four months, I’ve found my footing enough, to write. I can usually talk about the finca without getting choked up. Tears still push behind my eyes. And, seeing photos of the main house; any of her little corners of magic that don’t exist anymore, that still does me in. I have a hard time fully comprehending that the big open air kitchen with all those hanging pots, and the hammock, right out by the hibiscus isn’t there. So much like death; so hard to “get”.
But, gulp. I’m going down in late February. Finally. I’ve been unable to go by an almost unimaginable string of losses, before, and after the hurricane. My husband Bill, who many of you knew, passed away from cancer last summer, six weeks before Maria. I won’t write about that here, but Bill didn’t live to see that Casa Nueva, the house he designed to withstand hurricanes, did just that. He also doesn’t know a month after the hurricane, a smaller home we’d bought for me in Washington State, was burned, not quite to the ground, but close enough to keep me here to deal with for the winter. (I’m counting on you to know I’m not writing for your pity — I’ve actually had enough of that.) Life has smoothed out. I am pretty zen — I guess. That’s what I hear. I’m lucky to be surrounded, and supported by love — of family and friends. — I just thought you should know why the captain of the ship, we call la finca caribe, hasn’t been back yet.
I am gearing up; both excited, and fearful — bracing for what I know will be dreadfully hard. It’s one thing to lose a place, a thing, or lots of things, but to to have to paw through the wreckage, sorting it into piles of possible building materials, trash, memories, and dreams. Oh that we be so lucky to find anything still worth saving — even a blue shutter. God give me strength. Every floor we painted, every tin roof we repaired, every sheet we folded, every mug we hung, every love note from guests tucked into the collage of the front desk. Yikes. My kids wouldnt let me do this alone, so I’m bringing along a crew to help.
Despite our earlier announcement the place was completely ruined, most of the wooden cabins are in fact are still there –in varying degrees of damage. The main house is completely gone. Well…actually, that would be easier. It’s there, but shattered and scattered over the property. Scott and Bill’s guess is that the 217 mile an hour winds went under the house, and turned her over. It’s the only thing that explains washers, dryers, and stoves, and everything else, strewn wide and far.
Although so many ask, it’s still way too early to know what our long term plans are. For now, our priorities are repairing what’s left and cleaning up the debris. Then we can take stock. We’re starting to organize work parties for the loving guests, hardy souls and inquiring minds who’ve been asking. We certainly need any help we can get. If you are a self sufficient self starter, whose fantasized about being Indiana Jones or a red cross rescuer and you don’t mind roughing it with generators and minimal other comforts, then email me at email@example.com. But know that you’d be coming as a friend, not a guest, on your own, and have to rent your own car etc. Alternately, if you are coming down and staying elsewhere, let me know if you want to come by to help for a day or two. We have a friend living on the property who can likely point you to projects, and even maybe some tools. So please, you’d have to let us know in advance.
Our dear managers, Bill and Scott have moved into Isabel, and are managing Casa Amistad. To say that I wish them well and will always be grateful for all they went through and did for the finca, doesn’t come close. I’m just so glad they found work at a great place on the island they love so much — that even has a little electricity!
I miss the finca. And part of my missing it, is missing you. Without the place, I’m left without a way of seeing you, of sharing the love with families, friends, the school, and all other community, groups. I’m still trying to figure out a way to stay connected in news way. For now, I’ll write here every so often, and maybe I’ll get my book published. I finished it the month before Bill was diagnosed. it ends on the happy note, that after 20 years of love, sweat and tears, “I’m the lucky lady who got the finca.”
So, don’t hold your breath for that. I’m still looking for time to write the epilogue. Writing to you came first.
With deep gratitude and great memories,
PS. Here’s a debrief from my son on the state of affairs on Vieques and at the Finca, at New Years. Nothing official — just his thoughts….
“All in all, Puerto Rico and Vieques are in MUCH better shape than I imagined. It clearly got REALLY bad there, and it took three months of hard work, but the locals and the geography are back on their feet. With 3 ferries running now, there is gas at gas stations, food and beer in grocery stores, the people are frustrated and tired and optimistic, and businesses are re-opening. However, the consistency of the ferries have been a problem, so I would suggest flying and not relying on them for transport. Casa Nueva and Cabanita are in great shape, nearly rentable (minus water and electric :). The bad side, is that Casa Grande and managers cabin were essentially 100% destroyed. Honestly, the worst destruction I found anywhere on the trip, and locals agreed it was possibly the worst on the island.
Red, Secret, Sun Bay complex, Esperanza beaches and the navy pier are open. Water is murky and some places/times has smelled slightly, but people say it is improving rapidly. The locals have played a major role in cleaning the beaches but it will take time. The beaches are all re-shaped, ie the wave breaks and slope of the sand are different. There are a handful of restaurants open, with good food with fresh fish. Several are expanding which is good to see. Mikey is rebuilding the Chez Shack dance floor at Tin box, and adding 80+ seats. Electricity is on for 20 hrs a day in Isabel II, but this is just FEMA generators running a microgrid. Water is on in most places. Locals don’t seem to trust the government and so most people are boiling it before drinking..
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