A Love Letter and a Goodbye

February 8, 2023 — 30 Comments

Ten years ago this month I arrived on St Croix – I had been warned Ag Fair would mean hotel rooms would be at a premium and there would be no cars to hire. They were and there weren’t. I didn’t care. I came to view a house on a hill in Christiansted.
I fell in love that weekend—in love with a house, a town, an island.

The sea glistened aquamarine and topaz under a brilliant sun then, as trade winds blew a squall across the island, the ocean sparkled through opalescence to the colour of mercury.
Apart from knowing the island had once been part of the Danish West Indies then sold to the United States, I knew little of the history but, as with everywhere I’ve lived, I would learn, would throw myself into whys and wherefores of what would become our new home.

We bought the house on the hill.

It proved to be a project and without Barry Allaire and his Merry Men, Mingo and Easy, and the raft of tradesmen who helped, it would have been a job of epic proportions. They, with humour, sensitivity and patience turned dreams into a livable reality. And after slathering coats of paint on all the walls, I know each intimately as colour brought our new home to life.

With the help of a friend in Denmark, we found the Census for 1839 and learnt of some of the occupants of the house on the hill. My book, Crucian Fusion, has a short story called The Sempstress about the women – all seamstresses – who lived here.

And then the garden.

From a jungle of creeping coralita to a quarry of rotten rock relieved of buckets of Chaney and beer bottles, emerged coral-stone walls covered in moss. A slab of concrete with no discernible merit slid down the slope. Two coconut palms soared over a rampant ficus vine whose suckers sprouted in ankle-breaking profusion. A woody magenta bougainvillea with quarter-inch thorns clambered over a flaking white fence.

Over the years my husband, John, has turned the space into a garden of surprises. Each seating area offers glimpses of another promise through a curtain of Gardenia, Duranta, Portlandia, Hibiscus, Jasmine, Oleander and Ginger Thomas. A nod to my Australian heritage comes in the form a Bottle Brush. Honeysuckle climbs the wall of the workshop, a pygmy palm hovers near the pergola, where once coconuts threatened life. A path leads up the hillside to a bench covered with Chaney which offers a perch from which to view yachts either in Gallows Bay or Christiansted harbour. “Simon, Dec 31st 1928” was etched into another slab of concrete, which became the base for a patio. There is another name now added. “JKG, Feb 2018.”

It is a garden for the birds, the bees and the butterflies. Fish swim in the pond, until the night heron pays a call. Frog-song and cricket chorales fill our nights. It is a garden that has been enjoyed by our Crucian strays. Bonnie a week’s old kitten saved from drowning in Christiansted harbour after being kicked by a gig worker at Schupes on the Boardwalk. And Stan, left to die of starvation and suppurating sarcoptic mange at Altoona Lagoon, who followed me home from a walk. All is not always paradise on St Croix.

John has been involved with the National Park Service and has spent many hours, and much energy, helping clean beaches and trails, turtle watch and speaking to tourists. There is much talk of the beauty here and yet, too often, it is not valued. Instead people desecrate the island with dirty diapers, tires, appliances and any other detritus imaginable.

On the flip side, energy and imagination, and the St Croix Orchid Society, has created a sanctuary at the St George Village Botanical Garden. The Sugar Factory Memorial Garden will eventually house one thousand orchids to commemorate those slaves who lived and died on the estate. John, along with others, spent a year’s worth of Saturdays moving rocks and designing this sacred space – they became known as The Rock Stars.

St Croix is where I found my voice as a novelist – Fireburn and Transfer – are stories that have now travelled the world as tourists buy the books and take a little of the island’s history, wrapped in fiction, back to wherever home is. Crucian Fusion, mentioned earlier, honors a number of those who live on St Croix, both Crucians and imports, who have made a mark. One of my fondest memories when writing that book is of spending hours talking to Doc Petersen— little did either of us know he would die within a year.

I have gone on to write two more novels – Have You Eaten Rice Today? and, in the editing phase, Finding Serenissima. Neither about this island but written here, with huge support from the St Croix Writers’ Circle, who meet every Monday at ten – the eponymous name of the book we published during the pandemic.

Tomorrow I leave this house on the hill that has given us so much happiness. I leave the island that I love, the people who welcomed me, guided me, taught me. Not because I have fallen out of love but because, after ten years, it is time for a new adventure.

St Croix is not glitzy but colours shimmer like gemstones – sea-grape jam is like a handful of amethysts quivering on my morning muffin. And the people, the beaches, the towns, the architecture, the culture, the food, the ocean that laps the golden shores, epitomize America’s Caribbean.

Then why am I leaving?

Right now, as I think about packing my suitcase, as I say goodbye to another friend who has made me so welcome, I wonder.
But I’m about turn 65. If I’m to have another global adventure it has to be now.

So, goodbye and thank you St Croix. For the friendships and the fun

30 responses to A Love Letter and a Goodbye


    Wow Apple, I love your adventurous spirit and can’t wait to see where the next adventure will be. Safe travels 🥰



    You make St Croix sound so inviting, sorry we never visited while you and John were resident. Best wishes on that next adventure! Can’t wait to read all about it!



    Apple, I read this letter and made me want to visit the island that you are about to leave. You transformed your house into a pretty dwelling where you wrote your books and your husband is leaving his imprint for future generations, you both must be proud for the good that you did for the island in retribution for what the island provided to you, a memorable 10 happy years. Best luck in your new adventure.



    Good luck in your new adventure



    Dear Appel. Wherever you og I believe you will contribute to the local community and be welcomed. We have enjoyed your letters and profound observations. Good luck. Best regards from Ulla Lunn, Copenhagen



    So sorry to see you leave! I loved your Fireburn and Transfer books. We have owned a condo on the west side for 16 years and although we don’t live her permanently, we are here for 10 weeks this year. We also love the people, the culture and island life and you will always feel at home here. Best of luck in your new endeavors and looking forward to reading more of your great work!
    Janice Born



    It must have been a hard decision; I can’t imagine leaving this island after 47 years here. Thanks for all you and John have done for St. Croix, and good luck in your new adventures, wherever you land.



    Thanks for this goodbye. Safe travels today and always.


    Cecilia Dinio Durkin February 8, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, I didn’t know! I never even made it to your Writer’s Circle! I wish I had gotten to know you better! But I’ll be sure to follow you here and hope to read about the next chapter! Best of luck!

    Here’s to new adventures!


    Katherine Hardee February 8, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    Oh Dear Apple,
    We will miss you!!! I feel I have known you for years reading all of your books but just recently had the pleasure of meeting you in person at our book club meeting. Please keep in touch with your island friends and reading fans. We can’t wait to see how your next adventure unfolds and the writing it inspires. Much love and many blessings!



    We will miss you! Thank you for sharing your art, yourself and your family with us.

    Wishing you all the best on your next adventure!!




    Dear Apple, I very much enjoyed Fireburn & Transfer. You and John added so much to our community and we are better off for your contributions. So glad to hear you had a team of construction associates to do the heavy lifting in renovating your island home! Until we meet again, stay well and keep writing!



    Oh Apple, thank you so much for writing this letter, something I have been unable to bring myself to do since leaving my beloved St Croix after living there for 32 years. Who better to write so succinctly of the charm and allure of such a beautiful and fierce place filled with colorful and powerful people. Those of us who felt called by it will forever be under its spell. For all those years I could not imagine living anywhere else. I was sure I would die there. Until the island mysteriously released me and I just knew my time there was finished. I came in with Hugo, left with Maria. The winds of change had their way with me. Nothing to do but embrace the next adventure. May you be blessed on yours, as you have blessed those of us around you.
    Jan Hart



    Apple–What a beautiful tribute to your lovely St. Croix. You and John have definitely made a lasting difference on such a special island. Your love for it will endure in the gardens, in your writing, and in your rich friendships.
    My best to you, John and your entire family as you move onward into your next adventure. Much love, Alvia.



    Thank you for the memories, Apple. Farewell to you and John.



    What a beautiful post Apple and I do feel for you. We left our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid after 17 years ago in 2016. There is so much we miss but we have found a new home, new friends and a different environment and still thrived. Bon Voyage and look forward to hearing about your new home. ♥♥



    I am heartbroken that you are leaving St. Croix, but new adventures call and I do so understand the need to fill the years left us with that which the heart most longs for. May every moment of those years be charmed.


    Dawson Charlotte Green February 9, 2023 at 1:48 am

    Wow. Where are you going. Do stay in touch. ❤️



    Why why why????, you must have a mighty adventure ahead l. Where to??wherever good luck, stay safe and enjoy xx xx



    Very interesting. I just bought your book today, Crusian Fusion. You must have a special kind of wanderlust to pick up and leave at 65. I hope to have that spirit as I get older. Good luck on your next adventure. I know you will learn a lot and tell us all about it.



    Oh my goodness Apple, what a shock to read this. Where are you going to? Do stay in touch . Much love Kathy x



    Good Luck on the Next Chapter of your life! Stay in touch w those special friends & enjoy meeting new ones wherever you land next


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