When I make these extended visits that dip me back into real island life (as opposed to the fantasy of an all-inclusive resort), I realize that there are subtle shifts in what I care about and what no longer gets my attention.
My appearance is the first and main casualty of the caring department. Forget makeup, and if I remember to comb my hair more than once a day, that's primping. I wear essentially the same thing every day: a tank swimsuit, either topped with a beach dress or paired with an easy skirt. I'll add a shirt if I go to the store, for the sake of cultural modesty, but anyone who shows up at my house has to take me as I am. I just don't care what I look like.
But I do care deeply about cleanliness, both personal and environmental. Getting a shower after tackling a sweaty job like transplanting a tree, or after a day at the beach, is pure pleasure. And I work hard at keeping the house clean enough to discourage six- and eight-legged squatters. (My four-legged tenants - geckoes and frogs - are welcome, though, because of their assistance in controlling the others.)
I care about sounds, especially unusual ones. Why is the refrigerator making that noise? Did the pump kick on? What set those dogs to barking?
I'm not so sensitive to the time of day. Lunch is at 10:30 a.m. if we're hungry, bedtime is whenever we're sleepy and, of course, it's always five o'clock somewhere.
I don't care about most of the news from the U.S., having learned that a small daily dose of it is plenty. It's a relief to be away from the continuous newsfeed and relentless hype. Likewise, I don't care about television. I care about good music.
I care about tools: I want the right ones for a job, and I want mine returned when they're borrowed. But jewelry and shoes? Forget it. I live in flip-flops and have to remind myself to occasionally put in earrings.
When I go back to the States, some of these priorities will shift again. I'll be wearing proper clothes and makeup; I'll read newspapers; I'll let the apartment maintenance guy worry about hammers, hacksaws and the refrigerator noise.
But I will carry some of my island priorities back with me. I'll pay more attention to my water usage and the general fragility of nature's balance. I'll put a filter on the noise of American culture and try to focus more on the sights and sounds that feed my soul. I'll try to be more generous and less self-conscious.
Whether you're erasing cares or rearranging them, that's what it's all about, isn't it?