By Corey Breneisen
It’s been nine years since first landing on your shores. You offered me a tropical sanctuary at a time in my journey when it was gray clouds and jagged rocks. You gave me mangoes fresh from the tree, an endless turquoise sea, and challenges that stretched me to look deep within to find my strength. I have had spectacular adventures like that time we went to Bath Fountain and covered ourselves in nourishing mud then soaked in the hot mineral springs. Or that time we were coming back from a road trip to Manchester to see double rainbows covering Kingston. Or when we devoured pound after pound of fried lion fish at Hellshire while Bob sang, “in high tide or low tide, I’ll be by your side…” Or the first night in our house when we heard the lion at the nearby zoo roar at sunset then again at dawn the next morning. Or in the Spring when the Poui tree carpeted our driveway in yellow flowers. Or the clouds of butterflies drinking the nectar of the Lignum Vitae trees. Or the abrupt intermissions at the most dramatic part of the new release at the movie theater. Or the spontaneous dance sessions around the jerk pans every weekend. Yes, Jamaica, we’ve had some great adventures!
You introduced me to the poetic words of Velma Pollard, “she turns to darkness/calm and eloquent/and fills it with her/moonbeams with her trees/cool water/slippering over/ mossy rocks/drip gentle/gentle/drip”; the art of Jamaican greats like Albert Huie and Barrington Watson as well as amazing contemporaries like Ebony Patterson, Oneika Russell and Phillip Thomas, Omari Ra- some of whom you gave me the privilege to call colleagues; the designs of Baughaus, Pinto Studios, Reve, Mutumba. This vibrant creative community not only welcomed me, but inspired me to venture in new artistic directions including entrepreneurship and Rae Marie Fine Soaps & Textiles. I will always remember what an honor it was to pitch our company to your prime minister and Sir Richard Branson. Before you, I never imagined myself as a CEO or business woman. You have unsettled me, Jamaica, in all the best ways possible!
I will always be grateful for the gifts you have given me. For a little island, you have quite an impact! One of my favorite things about greeting people on the street here has been the response to the question, “How are you today?” “Blessed” or the equally ubiquitous farwell, “Jah, Bless.” Yes, Jamaica, I am blessed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.