Eleuthera's Marvin Gardens

Three years after Hurricane Andrew ravaged Eleuthera there was evidence of destruction everywhere. On the way back to Gregory Town, we passed an empty A-Frame whose doors and windows had been blown out. A half-submerged car was visible in the little bay at the back of the house. In the front yard, a clutch of burrowing owls stirring in the late afternoon took no notice of us.

Closer to Gregory Town we turned back north along Whale Point Road. Here another ridge had been cut through to make a roadbed. While Conrad and Paul chipped away at rocks, I climbed the bank and made my way through sea grape, palmetto bushes and around huge termite mounds, toward the Atlantic. Where the vegetation ended an expanse of unbroken, slate-colored rock weathered into peaks and wedges began.

It would be a difficult walk, but I could see the ocean 200 yards away and set out toward it. Soon I was standing at the top of a sheer cliff. Sixty-five feet below the Atlantic thundered against it, throwing a brilliant white spray half-way up the wall. In the stiff breeze terns and gulls struggled to maintain their positions at eye-level against a sky whose blue had deepened richly in the late afternoon. I could see for miles. The scene was vividly colored-gray rock, white birds, blue ocean and sky.

I was alone, and it occurred to me that I might be the only person who'd ever been here. I felt blessed, like Columbus maybe, who sailed this coastline in 1492. Earlier in the day, I had read a cryptic message written in the piling of a bridge when the cement was wet:  “Columbus he standing up all the way around.”

I stood up and took a circuitous route back, following the cliffs north and then turning inland across the field of unbroken rock. Ahead rose a rough wall of stone several meters high that appeared to be a maze of concretized tree roots.

Carrying on, I met Conrad and Paul and told them what I'd seen. We made our way back toward the cliff. When we reached the wall there were shouts and exclamations. The geologists began photographing the structure furiously and taking notes. “Rhizomorphs,” Paul shouted. “A textbook instance.” I had stumbled upon a structure formed eons ago when sand surrounding fossil roots had concretized, leaving a tangle of stone tubing exposed in astonishing detail by wind and water cutting away at the base of the structure. I thought of Columbus again, and didn't hesitate to assume the role of explorer. “This land shall henceforth and forever more be called Marvin Gardens.”

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