Island time is one of those delightful double entendres. On the one hand it refers to pace, a certain slack attitude towards the clock. But it also refers to time well spent, away, in a place that refreshes the spirit and cleanses the soul.
If you have ever been to an island in the Caribbean you have slowly sauntered up to the more famous version of island time. That’s the one where the local population knows a clock exists, but their time zone is never in synch with yours.
Two means four, or five. As in o’clock.
Today means tomorrow … maybe.
One of my favorite West Indian expressions is “soon come.” This is as close as you are likely to get to an actual number on a clock or date on a calendar. It’s the universal answer to that age old question of when something will happen.
“Do you know when Felix will be here to fix my car?”
“Yea, mon, he soon come.”
“I’ve been waiting three weeks for the replacement part to get here. I can’t work without it.”
“No problem, me son. It soon come.”
Even though you may share a common language, after a few episodes like this you quickly realize that an islander’s definition of “soon come” is very different from yours.
You, being a logical, time-bound American, think that “soon come” means any minute now. They, being a civilized people, whose relationship to time is much more fluid than your own, mean don’t sweat the small stuff. The thing or person will get here when it gets here. Don’t worry yourself to death, mon. In the meantime, while you wait, have another Painkiller.
The reality is, in island time, whenever the thing or person arrives you will have forgotten that you were waiting for it or them. No worries. “Soon come.”
And so it goes. This, we are now going to call it healthy, relationship with time reduces stress and increases joy. The warm weather, cool breezes, and beautiful blue waters don’t hurt, either.
And have you ever noticed how youthful islanders look? Fifty year olds look 30. I have a dear friend who is into his 80s, but he looks and acts like a man half his age.
It’s not the water. Or the genes. It may well be their healthy attitude towards time. No problem – soon come.
Which takes me to the second, and ultimately more meaningful, definition of island time.
Whenever I get back to the islands, as I just did, I reconnect. It’s like rebooting your computer to take it back to its original state. Gone are the worries and headaches, replaced with perspective and a sense of returning to my own original state.
I spend time with friends and marvel that they seem to know everyone. Every few steps it’s hi and a hug. They love their home and cherish their relationships. If they don’t know someone they are still considered a friend, simply by being there.
These are hard economic times on the island of St. Croix. And complaining about the local politicians is a national sport. But they remain hopeful, and cheerful, knowing that better times will soon come.
So island time, for me, also means spending time on my island. Not only am I able to go home, to reconnect, refresh, and rejuvenate myself. But I am also able to go home to reboot. To remember who I am and why I do what I do.
We all need a place like that. A place where the trials and tribulations of today are exchanged, even temporarily, with a sense of belonging and a healthy perspective of what’s really important in life.
And that is friends, and family, and a relationship to time that places the emphasis on meaning and not speed.
Do you have a place to go where time slows and you can fortify your spirit?