It’s October in Blacksburg and it’s been raining for hours. A passing car splatters water on the asphalt. I hear dripping through the barely-open window. The dogwoods are scarlet, the oak and redbuds turn yellow, and maple crowns have begun to color like apple cheeks ripening from green to red.
While the autumn day hangs heavy and grey, I sip pineapple seltzer water and remember Curaçao. In Curaçao it was sunny, dry, and hot. Cactus spiked the island. Edging the dusty land was the Caribbean Sea: turquoise in the shallows near shore, deep sapphire in the depths beyond.
One day my husband and I took our rental car to the tip of the island to see the jagged karst landscape. We’d read about a big hole in the spit of sharp rock where swells sloshed underneath and slapped into the cavern walls, making a thunderous clap with each wave. We stood at the edge of the hole and watched the ocean move beneath us, clap the rock, and move back out to sea.
We drove our little rental over rutted dirt roads; spiny cactus towered over us on either side. On our way out, as evening fell, a bright green bird flew ahead of us in the in the corridor between the cacti. It had a yellow breast and emerald wings, and where we come from, we’d only see a bird like this in a cage, not out in the open sky. A second parakeet followed the first, and we watched as they veered off the path and flew free, no road restraining them, into the wilds of their cactus field.