A prosperous couple from Upstate New York who apparently think they are moving to a wealthy enclave in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, or perhaps the Hamptons, have decided that they want to build a glass and steel mega-mansion in our little corner of paradise. Elbow Cay, with a year-round population of around 500, is noted for Hope Town harbour and its famous candy-striped lighthouse, and a village of quaint, 19th-century-style Loyalist cottages. It is barely 6 miles long.
Several months ago, residents on the island’s north end noticed bulldozers clearing brush on a “sea-to-sea” four-and-a-half acre tract. By the time the Town Council “noticed,” the entire tract had been stripped bare. The scar bisects the island; it’s so large I'm sure it can be seen from the moon.
As the Atlantic ocean winds began quickly to erode the naked dunes, the Council ordered the construction of a chain link fence. The fence, covered with green netting, borders the dirt road on both sides. It, too, is an eyesore.
Under cover of darkness, one frustrated local resident armed with a can of spray paint, expressed his opinion, using the words of an anonymous, early 20th century poet:
"Let no one say, And say it to your shame, That all was beauty here before you came."
The fence on the opposite side of the lane received similar treatment:
"This is a crime against nature and the Bahamas."
[Behind the fence -- a close up view.]
When photographs of the graffiti went up on the Hope Town Community’s Facebook page, tempers flared. For every visiting botanist decrying the loss of hundreds of native plants from the mature site (meticulously cataloged by botanical name), there was a voice claiming that a man had a right to do whatever he wanted with his own land. And, how dare someone deface another man’s property! Didn’t they learn that in kindergarten?
Others speculated on the identity of the graffiti artist – it can’t be a local, someone claimed, because locals tell it like it is, and to your face, too. Besides, someone else mused, the person must be well-educated, because they wrote in poetry and had excellent penmanship.
Ironically, both sides chose the same word to express their thoughts -- Vandalism!
I guess it depends upon your point of view.
My friend, Shelley Malone, says it best:
They tell me that rats have found new shelters on the North End
Their gray tails scattered as bulldozers descended on their homes
Lizards and soldier crabs tried to hide, but found no cover
They had no warning
The insects knew they were doomed when they heard the keening of
Gum-elemis taken by the root, painfully ripped out
Torn asunder and their history mulched
White crowned pigeons flew overhead searching for poison wood trees
Trees known by their families for years
Word spread through the leaf matter, deep with benign neglect
Creatures on the side of the Sea of Abaco were spared
They had a couple of days warning, a notice to vacate
One day, a chain linked fence and netting arrived
Forced by the Council
Sand blew from the unprotected and denuded dune
Someone wrote on the wall
“Let no one say, and say it to your shame, that all was beauty here before you came.”
The cry flew up “vandalism, vandalism!”
And nature laughed
It is paint on a chained linked fence.
The earth sighed and responded “I am life.
I am lizards, trees, birds and rodents.
I am oxygen and nitrogen. I am the balance you must have to live.
How dare you speak of vandalism!”
-- Shelley Malone, March 7, 2017.
[The view from "our" beach.]