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Sailing into Sacred Spaces

A warm tropical sun caresses our bodies. Clean, cool water beckons us to go snorkeling. The British Virgin Islands overwhelm the senses with their spectacular physical beauty, especially as viewed from a boat. Luminescent water reveals more of the sea’s beauty. A school of small, deep-blue fish swims in synchronous harmony over and around boulders on the sea floor. One can almost hear the music of their movement.In the same way, I can also hear another sound — distant, old, human. It is the wail of slavery. Slave ships anchored here at The Baths off Virgin Gorda after their Atlantic crossing from Africa, to wash their human cargo before delivering it to the auction block. Chained in coffin-sized spaces, slaves often had not been on deck during their six- to twelve-week passage. I imagined the joy of the fresh air and the cool water on their bodies. But as one horror ended another began.The Baths are granite boulders, one and two stories high, tumbled on each other as though a giant hand had cast them like so many pebbles. Millions of years of wind and waves carved grotto-like passages. Sitting on deck, …

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