Sunday, 30 March 2008

Fairchild Gardens in Miami

I was able to visit the magnificent Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Miami today and enjoy some truly gorgeous gardenscapes. Below is a clump of bromeliads that make a great statement next to all the different shades of green. The flower of a bromeliad.
The bark of the Eucalyptus Rainbow tree. This tree looks as if it is made of plasticene. Does anyone remember plasticene? That odd smell of childhood in the early 1970s.

I dare anyone to challenge him. He was big.

Just chilling on a log. Life does not get better than this.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Cozumel, Mexico

We spent the better part of yesterday on the Yucatan Peninsula. The ship docked at Cozumel, the small island jst off the mainland and we took a ferry over to the Eastern Yucatan peninsula to visit the magnificent Tulum Mayan ruins. These were just a few of the things that I saw...... Even though I live in the Caribbean, sea this blue is just as thrilling for us. This was such a typical holiday scene. It is also the beach that lies just below the Mayan ruins and I couldn't help but think of all the human sacrifices that this beautiful vista has witnessed. Sobering really. Human sacrifice is not something that I think about every day but the fact that it existed among a people who were highly academic and intelligent made me think lots about the power of ritual and the ability of a whole civilization to move to the taboo with apparent ease once it's justified by religious ritual. Makes you think.

The side of a hand painted plate.
These wonderful chess figures are amazing in their detail.
This looked a lot like something that I know as "Scambled Egg Cassia" but will have to get home to check my Tropica.

This balcony scene is so Mexico, it's almost a caricature.
A Mexican God in one of the the craft markets.

A bunch of bananas. There are bigger and more impressive than the ones we get at home.

Monday, 24 March 2008


I have mixed feelings when pulling into Labadee, Haiti on a sunny Monday morning. This island (half-island?) shares the island space with Dominican Republic. It is responsible for many firsts in the region.
Some are definitive Caribbean milestones- Haiti was the earliest Caribbean colony to overthrow slavery with François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, also known as Toussaint Bréda, or Toussaint-Louverture (born 20 May 1743 - died April 8, 1803), the important leader of the Haitian Revolution. In a long struggle against the institution of slavery, he led the blacks to victory over the whites, freed the blacks, and secured native control over the colony in 1797.

For many of us that live in the region, Haiti is both an historic beacon and a tragic example of all that can go wrong on so many levels. It was also the first island in the region to explode into a full blown Aids crisis in the 1990s. It is well known for its distinctive art
scarily real voodoo and Edwidge Danticat, renowned author who has written beautifully and eloquently about the Haitian experience and Wyclef Jean, performer who has worked tirelessly to draw international attention and aid to his homeland.
Below is a brief recent hostory of Haiti
In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Roman Catholic priest, won 67% of the vote in a presidential election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office on February 7, 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by dissatisfied elements of the army and supported by many of the country's economic elite. Following the coup, Aristide began a 3-year exile in the U.S. Several thousand Haitians may have been killed during the de facto military rule. The coup contributed to a large-scale exodus of Haitians by boat. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians at sea during 1991 and 1992, more than the number of rescued boat people from the previous 10 years combined.
From October 1991 to September 1994 an unconstitutional military de facto regime governed Haiti. Various OAS and UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government, including the Governor’s Island Agreement of July 1993, failed. When the military refused to uphold its end of the agreements, the de facto authorities refused to allow a return to constitutional government, even though the economy was collapsing and the country's infrastructure deteriorated from neglect.
I found them to be a proud and friendly but there is an underlying edge. The women, especially, tended to be more suspicious and less open. But one can hardly blame them.

I saw these shells and I had not seen them before any where else in the Caribbean.
The terrain is quite dry and rocky with unusual formations. And the above unusual nest like plant is actually a bromeliad.

David Rudder's Haiti (early 1990s) with its haunting lyrics- Haiti, we're sorry- put Haiti's plight back on the Caribbean agenda. It is impossible for us, the regional citizens not to take some responsibility for our fellow Caribbean brothers. CARICOM policy towards this little island has always been hazy to say the least and Haitians are not usually welcomed when they arrive in their makeshift and dangerous escape boats.. Unfortunately in the Caribbean these days, we're all trying to keep the pieces together in our own islands. Spiralling crime, inflation and poverty are just a few of the factors that affect us in our small post colonial societies.

What struck me the most in Haiti (and bear in mind that I only had access to approved vendors) was how similar they are to us in Trinidad in so many ways. Even in a society that has supposedly collapsed, the human spirit is still so resilient in songart and craft No matter how bad it gets, meals must be cooked, children are born and raised and there are good and bad people. But in Haiti many still work hard, buy school books and uniforms for their children and deal with the harsh lot that fate has handed them in the best way that they can.
So did I enjoy Labadee. Yes, I did. We snorkelled on a lovely reef which I will post about tomorrow. And it is sad that we enjoyed so much natural beauty in such an unhappy country but without these cruise ships, many would have no jobs.

In the words of David Rudder, "Haiti, we're sorry". We really are, we didn't mean to turn our backs on you.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Miami Macro

Every now and then I get a craving for serious macro. It's like a sushi craving- it won't go away until you give in to the impulse. Why do I like this style of photography so much? I guess it gives me that dreamy, other-wordly feeling that you sometimes get after a long afternoon nap. Kind of spacey but spot on- that's how my images make me feel when I get them right.
The first one is lavender- up close and personal. My sister Jennifer's Lavender plant in Miami.

There's something about lavender that we recognize instinctively- calming, relaxing and soul satisfying. Heaven would be lying in a field of lavender.

While I am not a big fan of aniseed flavoured tarragon in my food- I love the bold little flowers- so brave and debonair in their yellow-ness.

Key lime blossoms- a hint of yellow, purple and green that will somehow miraculously transform into a firm, green lime. Isn't nature beyond amazing?
A shell that in perfectly symmetrical in its concentric swirls

Thursday, 20 March 2008

March Blooms Day Macro

Am I doing this right?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Mummy- 1941-2007

I still can't believe that my mother is not alive. I do feel orphaned even at 42. My father put this together- it's a compilation of her passport photos and it really hit a nerve with me as I remember her at every stage. And she always looked the same to me. She was still very young when she died at 66 but breast cancer took its toll. I miss her every day and think of all the things that we haven't told her this year. Grief is an extraordinary place.

St Kitts

St Kitts has been appearing in my dreams. If it is possible to feel a kinship with a place, this island would be the one place that I have travelled to and felt it immediately. Strange feeling, but a lovely one. I was in the mood to revisit it tonight and pulled up some of my old photos. I wish I knew the name of this beautiful flower. It grows on a large tree and I found it in the main Basseterre Square.

Despite having a Boabob tree in our savannah, I had never noticed the flower. It has an almost paper-like texture and is the lovely colour of tea stained cotton.
An example of early Georgian architecture in the churches. St Kitts was one of the oldest colonies in the British West Indies and much of the region's history can be dug up here in the museums and churchyards. The churches, in particular, have such a beautiful, austere look. In a region that was subjected to a spate of earthquakes and devastating fires that often wiped out whole towns in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is amazing to see these buildings still standing.
The cathedral in downtown Basseterre is beautiful in its symmetry. I believe this is the Catholic cathedral which is fairly unusual as St Kitts or St Christopher as it was known, was never a Spanish colony (please correct me if I am mistaken) and, as such, Catholicism was never as strong a presence as it was (and is) on islands like Trinidad. Tomorrow we head off for a Western Caribbean cruise. It's our first family vacation with Daddy since Mummy died in September and I hope he is going to enjoy it. They have done this particular cruise several times and I think it will probably bring up a lot of memories. But we are all looking forward to it.
I will have my laptop this time around and hope to blog on some of the places that we visit. We are heading to Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and back to Miami so I hope to document some interesting things.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Woodpeckers in the Garden

We see the woodpeckers from time to time and know that they have arrived by their characteristic knocking. But I have never seen a pair travelling together. Once again Wikipedia came to the rescue and I quote from their site The Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos) is a very large woodpecker which is a resident breeding bird from Panama south to northern border regions of Argentina, and on Trinidad.
The habitat of this species is forests and more open woodland. Two white eggs are laid in a nest hole in a dead tree and incubated by both sexes.
The Crimson-crested Woodpecker is 36 cm long and weighs 250g. It resembles the
Pileated Woodpecker of North America, but within its range the confusion species is the Lineated Woodpecker.
Adults are mainly black above, with a red crest and white lines down the sides of the black throat and shoulders, which meet in a V on the back. The underparts are white, heavily barred with black. They show white on the wings in flight.
Adult males have a red line from the bill to the throat and red on the front of the crown. In adult females, these plumage features are black.

The Strange things I saw in New York

This was not a fashion statement. It really was so cold that the dogs needed coats. I even saw one with custom made booties. Everyone in Manhattan walks their dogs. Meaning, I assume, that all of these dogs live in apartments or townhouses. The dedication that it takes to be a pet owner in a large city is admirable. While I have five dogs and two cats, the dogs entertain each other, chase a few lizards, lie around or when particularly bored, uproot my plants. Could I live with them in closer proximity to me? Hmmmmm. This is so not the scene that you think you are going to come across in uptown Manhattan. I haven't seen laundry soap like this in years. We don't even get it like this here. So of course I had to investigate what was in this haberdashery. It got better, believe it or not.
Lo and behold- Matouks gets around. Here it was in this little, West Indian/Chinese/multi-ethinic, everything you need to whip up an exotic recipe, store. And we Trinidadians know that you can't beat a Matouks Pepper Sauce
Okaaay then. Dried something fishy. Who would look at this and say.....yes!! That has to come home with me today. There's no accounting for culinary taste.

And it wasn't cheap!

Thanks World

Thanks everyone who has visited and made comments on the blog. Thanks blogger team.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Desiderata- Sometimes a Reminder is Good

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;f or always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantmentit is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Dusk in the Garden

This is my favorite time of day. Dusk. Lights are just coming on in the houses, dinner is cooking and all the lovely smells from the neighbours' simmering pots come wafting by. The speed of a tropical twilight is not to be underestimated. It seems to come up from the ground rather than fall from the sky. First the shadows lengthen and then the sky goes from blue to violet and then suddenly into clear night.
This orange heliconia is particularly vibrant and prolific. The bracts last for weeks on end. And this variety only grows to about 3 feet which is very manageable in the heliconia world.

One of my favourite begonias. I have never seen it flower but the leaves are so flamboyant that perhaps the flower is very insignificant. This variety catches easily by piece and provides much needed depth of colour in green beds.
Fern fronds make me happy.
This tanager is quite young with the pin feathers still showing on his chest. I have no doubt that his mama and papa are still close at hand, keeping a watcful eye. He has come for the bananafest that I have on my bamboo feeders every afternoon