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  • Writer's pictureEmily Brantley

If Da Earth Is a Body

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Beautiful places naturally inspire art. The splendor of nature is one of the few things in this world that can consistently bring us to a sense of awe as we try to conceive of the magnitude of this earth, of space, and wonder at the God who put it into existence.

Two days ago, I returned from a short but nonetheless incredible trip to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This amazing opportunity came through Swoop Magazine to travel to the island for a modeling photoshoot. With a tremendous outpouring of support from my friends, opportunity became reality. On January 10th, I hopped on a plane at LAX airport and headed to the Caribbean for the first time in my life, heart beating quickly with anticipation and wondering what this trip would be.

I love all sorts of landscapes and terrains, from forested mountains to the barren, dry deserts, but there is something about the tropics that agree with me most. I discovered that St. Croix is small, just 84 square miles, and you can drive the whole island easily in a day. It took some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road, a holdover from the island’s former Danish rule. With the largest reef in the Caribbean and gorgeous white sand beaches, St. Croix is a strikingly beautiful place. The landscape is dotted with the romantic deterioration of eroding stone sugar mills from the 19th century, and rum flows like water on the island.

Armed with my trusty new pocket camera, I snapped photos at every opportunity, finding inspiration for paintings and art at every turn. It took my tensed-up, LA self a full day to embrace the island mentality. On St. Croix, life is slow. You don’t hurry, you relax. You take the time to say Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening to everyone you come across. While locals are the epitome of “chill,” manners are important, and everyone is ready with a smile and willing to chat awhile.

I was grateful that we were given the first day to do just that--relax. It was as if I could actually feel the beat of my heart slowing from its usual breakneck, LA speed. Muscles relaxed, and I breathed deeply of balmy, ocean air. The soft sound of the waves, tropical birds and insects--all of these began to absorb into my mentality. I went to bed feeling happy and at ease. The next morning was an early one, and we hiked a mile at a place called Isaac's. Here was a gorgeous strip of white sand beach, and we made "base camp" at a crudely-constructed shelter we found there. Six hours of photoshoot and 1850 photos later, we hiked back up to the car. While there were a few shorter photoshoots on the trip, our primary work was done, and we were able to explore the island more freely. Botanical gardens, abandoned sugar mills, and beautiful beaches and rainforests all held delights for us to discover.

Throughout the island are little reminders of how much the local population respects nature. “Hey Man, Respect the Beach” hand-painted on a sign. One phrase in particular struck a chord with me, spotted while driving by a large dam. Graffiti on the dam’s wall said, “If da earth is a body, den a dam is a blood clot.” Respect for nature and the beauty of their island spoken in a local way, and a good reminder for this particular visitor of how serious our stewardship of the earth really is.

I hope you enjoyed sharing in my experience, along with some images you will very likely see utilized in my art in the future. Cheers to those of you in my life who encourage me to step out of the comfort zone, try new things, and be fearless. Oh, and...

Hey Man, Respect the Beach.


The Harbor at Christiansted, St. Croix


HUGE thanks to Swoop Magazine for the opportunity to travel to St. Croix! It was a trip I will treasure forever. Check out and, for Southbay locals, watch for their next issue coming out soon! You might see a familiar face…

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