Tuesday, July 25, 2017


I have known Mary for over twenty years. When we first met, she lived in
an earth-sheltered home in a community known as Rainbow Valley north of Denton, Texas. She was (and still is) a very interesting person. I shared many an experience with Mary, including a wonderful sweat lodge she led, a smudge circle of women held in my "barn", and even healing sessions conducted hands-on. Part shaman, established herbalist, former massage therapist, and now an islander who is still working for FEMA. She and her husband Jaye are both ready to fly to any major disaster in the United States.

As they are approaching retirement, Mary's dream and Jaye's desire both included living on an island in the sun. Having found a place, they moved there this past spring. I asked her to write something about the experience of living on one of the U.S. Virgin Islands after originating in a relatively small town in Texas. She sent me the following, along with a few photographs they have taken. 

"One of my lifelong dreams has been to live on a high hill right on the ocean, so that I can be one with wild, raging storms. It did not necessarily have to be on an island. I found such a house here on St Croix. (A long way from Texas.)

(View at the side of my house driveway. The island in the distance is Buck Island, which is a national monument made so by JFK. The islanders are very proud of it. Only goats and turtles live there. Day visitors allowed. Beautiful white coral beaches.)

My astrologer had been telling me for years that I was going to be doing some traveling. When I transferred to the FEMA Regional office and became a DAE (disaster assistance employee) for Hazard Mitigation, my traveling extended beyond Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado. 

I met Jaye when I went to work for FEMA in 2000. He was my supervisor for seven plus years, when he transferred to the Region. We had a good working relationship, and we then became good friends. Sometime around 2012 we started to get to know each other better, and did some traveling together - going to see my kid and his kid who both lived in Colorado. 

Jaye's son Kyle got married on Ambergris Caye in Belize about twelve years ago, and Jaye fell in love with Belize. He had dreamed about moving there when he retired, as he wanted to be some place that stayed warm year-round. Even though Belize has what appears to be a good Retirement Program for expats, I do not like Belize. Belize works from a very blatant graft system, and I am not comfortable with that.

Over the course of three years, Jaye and I made three trips to the Palencia Peninsula in Belize, one trip to Panama, and one to St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. His son Kyle and wife Johanna had moved there in August of 2015.

Seventh Wave (St Croix)

(I was curious about this Seventh Wave photo when Mary sent it. When asked, this was her reply)..
According to some old books on the movement of the waves and docking or beaching a boat, one would try to ride the 7th wave in as it is said to be the strongest and would take one further upon the beach. When watching waves pound on a beach or rocks, the 7th wave is nearly always the biggest or highest. Right after it is a small wimpy wave which would be when one would launch a boat as there is less resistance. Or so my dad always said. He was in the Navy in WWI. Also, 7 is one of those numbers that has a lot of significance in the cycles of things. [See A Little Mysticism, Please].

When Jaye's son Kyle moved to St Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, of course we had to visit. St Thomas is six miles long and about that wide in some places, with close to 50,000 people on it. It is the cruise lines shoppers' paradise. We stayed several days and discovered that St Thomas is just too small and crowded, the hills are really high, and the roads are treacherous. Jaye voiced his concern to Kyle, and he told us about St Croix. With all the wanting to be someplace warm, the Virgin Islands weren't even on the radar at that time.

Our Porch View
St Croix is 28 miles long and 7-10 miles wide; about the same number of people as St Thomas, more laid back, and though it has some high hills, they are not crowded together as much. We spent over three weeks here last July, and drove this island from stem to stern. We put over 500 miles on the rental car. We stayed 10 days in a condo high up on a hill that looked out on the ocean and Buck Island and the reef, and then the rest of the time in a resort that had like mini apartments. We got in touch with a realtor, and saw several houses. We weren't going to buy anything, we just wanted to get a feel for what the different types of housing were like.
View From Our Porch.

Jaye proposed somewhere along the line. On our return to Texas to prepare for the move to a rental house in St Croix, we went to the courthouse and got married. After deciding what to take and what to get rid of or store of our belongings, arranging for shipping, including our truck, we made our move to St Croix by April 1st of this year.

Our House
 In St Croix we drive on the left-hand side of the road. You can legally turn left on a red light! To be able to leave this island one must plan ahead. There are only two ways off here. By airplane or by boat. The airport can handle fairly large planes that carry at least 100 or more people, and it is about the size that Dallas Love Field was twenty years ago. Also, there is now a ferry that can carry about seventy-five people, that goes to St Thomas which is 40-miles away across open water.

All, that being said...St Croix is really not a cruise ship sort of place. The two major towns are old and though at one time they may have drawn more tourists and still do if someone is staying here for a few days at one of the resorts or rented a room some place. St Croix does not have a good port and therefore there are not very many activities near town unless one wants to charter a fishing trip, go snorkeling or scuba diving or just a sail. The main draw are these other things that one can do here.  There are high cliffs with beautiful clear blue waters. Lots of water sports, fishing, sailing and para-sailing; lots of beaches, and lots of places to hike and camp. Places where one can get away and be in the quiet. All of these activities take time and most cruise ships do not stay in port that long, especially as small an island as St Croix is. As far as I know, the cruise ships are no longer coming to this island. 

Christiansted (credit: Kayak.com)

We live in an area called the East Bank or End and we are about 3- or 4 -miles from Christiansted. It is kinda deceiving as there are many curves and small hills. Also, at the east end of the island is a casino. There are several large resorts, that also have nice restaurants, that hold special events. There are three yacht clubs, three or four golf clubs, and a brand new Cinemax high tech theater.

Christiansted Waterfront

There are two major towns on St Croix - Frederiksted which is at the West end (where the big cruise ships can come in closer and send out boats), and Christiansted, which is on the East side. These towns are the major hubs and the buildings there are very old. They are in repair, it seems like all of the time, with either paint, stucco, or whatever else it takes. Then there are several neighborhood business centers where there they have a general store, bank, and post office. There are three hospitals, and doctors of all kinds here. Although most people go off the island for specialty surgeries and such.

Rainbow Beach - St Croix

All beaches are supposed to be open to the public, though some of them are on private property and walled off, or on a resort where they may charge a day fee. There are plenty of places where one can find a path or road leading off a main road to a beach, plus, there are several public parks.

Before Hurricane Hugo, and a couple of hurricanes before that, took out most of the sugar plantations, the islands were sectioned off by the many plantations, and some had some very strange names. The neighborhoods that sprang up in those areas, kept those names. If you are not a local and know your way around, it is hard to find someone's house. Most house numbers are not in chronological order. 

I realize that I have given you several facts and not much "goo". While there may be issues, such as a lot of mosquitoes and "no see ums" nibbling at you at all times of the day, for some people all this beautiful sky and water is worth it. 

A lot of the islands along this arc are very commercialized and make a lot of their money off of tourists. Though some of the smaller ones can be a little more primitive, and do not have as many conveniences. The cost of food is about 1/3 more than in the States, as very few things are grown on the island.

Downtown Christiansted - (Credit: amay.com)

Here on St Croix, you probably won't find anyone living in a grass hut, even though there are some rough/poor places where people have pieced shelter together. 

I honestly can't say that I like it here better than Texas. I can say that I am comfortable here, and it is quite an experience. Sometimes the dream is better than the reality. Would I recommend that someone do this? Definitely - if they can do it without breaking the bank."
Mary E. (Smith) Hendricks

Not only do the island's sun, sky, and water appeal to retirees and visitors alike, but Mary sent me several days of the St Croix calendar of events that appeal to anyone looking for a good time as well! They have something going on every day of the week. One recent day's events:

Saturday, July 15, 2017:
Luke Slupesky at Cafe Fresco from 10:30am-1:30pm
League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands (St. Croix) monthly meeting 3rd Saturday of the month beginning at 1pm at the AARP office in Sunny Isles Annex. More info call 332-1482.
Bingo at Rhythms at Rainbow Beach beginning at 4pm
Open Mic Night with Richard Schrader SrGeron RichardsCedelle PetersenWinnie Oyoko Loving and Sherelle Freemanat at Dorsch Center from 5:30-7:30pmMore info.
Mercy Child for Sunset Sail at Lyric Sails from 5:30-7:30pmMore info.
Alex Scimeca at Castaways from 6-9pm
Dr. Roy at The Golden Rail at Mill Harbour from 6-9pm
Coral Fire for Buffet at Thali Indian Grill from 6-10pm
Bill Bass Steel Pans at Deep End Bar beginning at 6:30pm
Romanza at The Buccaneer from 6:30-9:30pm
Steve and Friends at Freedom City Surf from 6:30pm-9:30pm
Eric Vincent at The Galleon from 6:30-9:30pm
Summer Film Fest showing "Hidden Figures" at Baked CafĂ© beginning at 7:30pm
Satellite Watch: Hubble Space Telescope from W to ENE from 7:31-7:39 pmMore info.
Brian McCullough Band for Grand Opening of Two Fat Chicks Tropical Micro Brew Pub (old Pink Spot location) from 8-11pm
Karaoke at Lost Dog Pub beginning at 9pm
Disco Dance Party with DJ at balter from 10pm-1:30am
DJ Ninja at Divi Casino from 11pm-3am

Me? Give me Texas. By the way, Mary, tell Jaye that Austin stays warm (almost) year-round!

Dreams do come true,


  1. It sounds delightful as. Vacation spot, but I couldn't handle year round bugs.

  2. Scuba diving, fishing, 3 or 4 golf courses? I'm in.

  3. That is super cool and very brave of them! The no see ums would drive me back for sure!

  4. Thanks Marilyn! I would love to visit them! I've never been there.​