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Heaven on Earth

and all I wanted was to stay.

By Joe O’ConnorPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2024

She took me into her arms in a way that felt like home. Immediately, her warm embrace was unparalleled with almost any comfort I’d ever felt.

I was keen to get acquainted right away, so we sat down beachside for a cocktail. I thought I’d be feeling more timid about our first meeting, but I was completely at ease. Sipping on my non-traditional piña colada, and she on her far more impressive kava, with the sun on my back and the wind in my hair, in that moment there was no other place I wanted to be.

Bob Marley propositioned across the salty breeze as I introduced myself the best I could in her native tongue, “Mi kam long Niu Silan”, (I’m from New Zealand.)

Right from first glance, I swear I was in love. The seashells pinned into her braids, tiny ornaments freckled against her sun-kissed skin. If I could have refrained from blinking, so to not take my eyes off her, I would have.

As the minutes turned to hours, she shared with me the delicate intricacies of her culture. The importance of local, homegrown cooking, the beautiful hibiscus flowers, and the history behind the traditional rom dance. She elaborated on how she came to be surrounded by crystal waters teeming with coral, and I felt increasingly drunk on the detail of her life. I could hear the crashing waves, and feel the sand between my toes. Totally hypnotised by her vivid imagery, I'm sure that I could have plucked a turtle right from the air in front of me if I'd tried hard enough.

I remember men hollering out genially to us as they walked by, dressed in green, yellow, red and black, dreadlocks cascading across their shoulders. I noted that their lifestyle was not dissimilar to the latest wellness trends - though I've never once seen them on a magazine cover.

"Probably because their source of happiness won't part you with your disposable income." She rolled her eyes.

We bonded over our fears, too. How rising sea levels threatened to swallow up our future, and with it, our past. How our communities were being regarded as nothing but tiny, less-economically-productive fish in an extraordinarily large global sea.

“Our experiences are not so different, yours and mine, in a way,” I remember reflecting. “Both islands at sea. Connecting with the roots of our soil, cultivating what it means to be us.”

Before she could reply, the laughter of her children washed over me. Instantly, my heart felt as if it could burst. Her children danced into view, tight curls like petals bursting out of the confinement of a flower bud.

“Your children are absolutely gorgeous, they look just like you!”

She clearly glowed with pride.

Laughter and squeals abundant, her children shone a light on the world in a way that was both subtle but profound. Unlike back home, they didn't need the latest gadgets, and forget about screen time. Happy simply with each other, their joy was contagious and burrowed into my heart. With each passing second I could feel their positivity surging through my veins, filling up my whole body with appreciation and awe.

I sank into their contentment.

Barefoot and authentically themselves, I watched on as the imaginations of her children ran wild. Together making games with sticks and local dogs, they created their own intricate worlds mere metres away from me, their lives more full of meaning than I felt in my own. I tucked my overly-expensive while relatively impractical Birkenstock sandals further underneath my stool.

I couldn't tear my eyes away from their smiles, not even for all their mother's earthly beauty. Her children radiated so much happiness it felt tangible, and I wondered if I could somehow bottle its warmth. Could I somehow scoop it up and share it? How I could keep it in my heart for 'tough' days, the ones where you don't want to get out of your comfortable bed and flannel pyjamas?

Too quickly, the trumpeting of a conch shell in the distance brought me back to my senses, solidifying my dread that the time had come to say goodbye. I’d completely forgotten to check the clock during our time together, absorbed by the carefree atmosphere.

“Yu save wet long mi?” (Can you wait for me?) I whispered to her. “I promise I’ll be back before too long.”

I lifted my lei off over my head and slipped it into my duffel bag.

Years have passed now, but I still think about her often. To this day, when I shut my eyes, I can still feel her peace, her love, her sandy reality pressing up against my skin.

She embodies everything that is truly valuable in the world.

She is Heaven on Earth.

She is Vanuatu.

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Author's note:

* Photos were taken with parental consent*

humanity

About the Creator

Joe O’Connor

New Zealander living in London

Teacher of English and History, and sport-lover

Mostly short stories and poems📚

Feel free to be honest- one constructive comment beats a hundred generic ones

Currently writing James The Wonderer

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Reader insights

Outstanding

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Top insights

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (17)

  • jameel Nawaz18 days ago

    "Beautiful content! I support you and appreciate your support for me. Together, we can achieve great things! 🌟😊"

  • Novel Allen27 days ago

    Where is this paradise and angel located? Lovely story...what language is that. Digicel and Bob Marley=Jamaica, but the language evades me. Congrats on a great story.

  • Andrea Corwin 28 days ago

    Congrats on TS🎉The kids are the best, yeah?? I loved your story.

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • Mr Jhon29 days ago

    it is a mind-blowing story. https://www.homehospital.com.gt/

  • OMG what a story! Best! I love it!

  • Shirley Belk29 days ago

    I think you did, indeed, bottle the warmth of Vanuatu in the lines of your story! Excellent :)

  • Kendall Defoe 30 days ago

    Truly a beautiful story...!

  • Caroline Jane30 days ago

    You know a story is good when you sigh deeply after reading it. I feel relaxed by the experience you shared.

  • Hannah Moore30 days ago

    Beautiful. She's still waiting, and losing nothing for the waiting either.

  • Rachel Deeming30 days ago

    Joe, this was an absolute treat. I want to be embraced by the welcoming arms of Vanuatu too.

  • Christy Munson30 days ago

    The love shines through! Congratulations on Top Story, Joe. Richly deserving. 🥳

  • Oh, those moments....thank you for sharing such a beautiful experience. congrats on your top story

  • Sumayya Sharmin about a month ago

    So wholesome!

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    You completely transported me with your story telling to a place I’ve never been! What incredible photos!

  • Lovely story and some beautiful pictures

  • angela hepworthabout a month ago

    This was just beautiful ❤️

Joe O’ConnorWritten by Joe O’Connor

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