Menorca: A New Definition of Paradise
In March of last year, most everything stopped. And we waited. For toilet paper, replacement appliances, routine medical procedures, work, live music, visits with family, visits with friends. You have your own list. Sometimes, it felt like time stopped, that we were frozen in our particular bubbles, while the virus hopped from host to host, finding every avenue in, killing or weakening so many, while giving immunity to others. Then the vaccine arrived, and we had our weeks of the summer of yes before Delta. And something that was already ugly, got uglier. American polarization. I am going to leave that right there. Because this piece that I am writing is not about politics. Or the virus. It’s about about a reprieve from toxicity due to a decision that I made in May: I rented a villa on the Spanish island of Menorca and invited some friends to go traveling again. Why are islands often labeled as paradises? Are they ideal, are they Utopias? Generally, they also have to be remote, cut off, like the Garden of Eden, to get the paradise designation. The outside world introduces the tree of knowledge, the gateway to sin. In the Balearic Islands, Mallorca and Ibiza would not qualify…but Menorca? Menorca is not an American tourist destination. It is not a German, or Japanese, or Italian tourist destination. Supposedly the French come here, but I didn’t see (or hear) any. The British come, though the island didn’t open to the UK as quickly as they did to the USA, and I did not hear English unless someone was talking to one of us. I heard Spanish. Or Catalan. Or a Menorcan version of Catalan. And since I do not speak any of these, the words were like music, joyful music, the kind you nod and hum along to. The entire island of Menorca is a UNESCO designated biosphere. It was declared such on the 7th of October, 1993, “taking into account the high level of compatibility between the development of economic activities, the consumption of resources, and the conservation of heritage and landscapes that it had preserved, and still does today at an exceptional level. Menorca is an intensely humanized territory, with an extremely rich tradition of rural landscapes. It is home to a remarkable diversity of Mediterranean habitats where there are plant and animal species exclusive to the island, some of which are in danger of extinction.” Is this the new definition of paradise? A place where human activity is compatible with the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage? Menorca is an island which provides everything its inhabitants need. Where there are chickens and cows (tallest cows I’ve ever seen) and ducks and pigs living their best lives. Where there are fig trees, and pear trees, and persimmon trees and cherry trees and grape vines and juniper vines, their fruit ripening in the hot sun. Where houses don’t have lawns because water is regulated. Where the sea provides every kind of food, but is not over fished. Where they make their own cheeses, sausages, wines, gin. Where they make their own shoes, the comfiest shoes I’ve ever slid my feet into. Where you do not see litter. Ah, but what about beaches, you ask. Beautiful beaches are a requisite for any island paradise. And what constitutes a beautiful beach? Does it need soft, white sand that stretches for miles? Does it need hidden coves surrounded by cliffs dotted with pine trees? Does it need warm water? Or water just cool enough to feel refreshed? Does it need calm water? Does it need surf? Does it need caves for exploring? Does it need paths to hike from beach to beach? Does it need a beach bar? Does it need sun loungers and umbrellas? Does it need isolation? Well…this is Menorca, an island of more than 70 beaches (one gentlemen told me there were 130 beaches), and there are playas that match all of these descriptions. Many of them are full of tourists. Spanish tourists. Speaking Spanish. Sweet music to my ears. Maybe the ultimate definition of paradise is: a place you do not want to leave. I didn’t pack my troubles and bring them to Menorca. I left the conflicts, the hurt, the worry in my home country. Which I love. But, man, oh, man. Woman, oh, woman. It felt heavenly to step away from our shores. From our battles and our grievances. And slip into the seeming fairytale that is Menorca. A paradise, and I am calling it that, which exists not out of ignorance and division, but out of dedicated awareness of what they have, what they want to preserve and what they are willing to do to make that happen. Paradise redefined.