Downtime …

I was recently reading an article from a fellow blogger on the importance of ‘downtime’ (The importance of downtime – Niraj’s blogs (home.blog) And, as much as this topic is universal, I wonder whether it transcends all ages and stages of life.

Can you have ‘downtime’ from a life of ‘downtime’? That’s the big question.

There were moments over the past 35 and more years when this word would totally escape me – it wasn’t even part of my everyday or occasional vocabulary. Very rare was it that I would have a moment to spend by myself or for myself. These moments, if at all, would have to be stuck in at the very beginning or at the very end of the day, when alas my eyes would close and I would drift away into a dreamland far far away not knowing whether I actually had this downtime moment of not.

I certainly tried to find that work/life harmony – exercising 3 times weekly, eating right including fruits and vegetables in my diet, savouring the ‘antioxidants’ from my daily glass(es) of wine, sneaking away on weekends to the coast to soak in some much needed sun and sea breeze. It was hard work finding this harmony and I used to wonder whether stressing on the importance of finding time to de-stress wasn’t a big part of the reason we were all so stressed. And most times I would just let the day go by and whatever moments were left in it for me, I would be grateful, joyous and feel ever so blessed.

And so now that my days are filled with whatever I want to do, I wonder whether it is still necessary to seek ‘downtime’. For my days can be quite full (note that I’ve removed the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary), and tiring. Am I in fact catching up on all the ‘downtime’ moments I missed over the past years. Or am I just in another stage of life where I am able to make that ever so important choice of doing what the hell I want to do.

Stay the course my dear friends. Work/life Harmony is important. We must however manage our expectations as to what this ‘harmony’ looks like. Then and only then will you be able to achieve it.

Dear Dad,

Circa 1950

For the past year and a half, you’ve been constantly on my mind. Covid-19 has sent the world in a tailspin, and as much as I miss you and mummy terribly, I’m forever grateful that you’ve been spared this ‘inconvenience’, and selfishly, that we have not had the added worry of keeping you guys safe. It would have been a lonely existence for you both, one which, after such a long and happy life, seeing your children and grandchildren almost daily, would have possibly left you bereft of what was most important to you – family.

We’ve managed well, though – and keep in touch with each other often. Meeting up when we can for quick get togethers at each other’s homes, dropping by to share excess fruit (Julie mangoes, Mummy’s favourite), Zabocas (the boys are still competing as to whose is the best), homemade bread (your eldest has become quite the baker), but most importantly, keeping our family bond strong.

You’ve left us with a legacy so ingrained that in this time of forced isolation, our family connections have pulled us through and we thank you for this.

Circa 1972

And oh the family keeps on growing – with some scattered across the globe, we still remain in touch thanks to the technology which baffled you so much towards the end. Your great grandkids keep us busy and entertained. Some we have not yet met due to Covid, and some on the way. And they all look ‘just like you’ – if not physically, certainly in their hearts which are full of love of life and family.

You would be proud, as are we.

Forever and always……

Saving the environment …

… one small step at a time.

I recently re-read the simple story of a young boy saving starfishes on the beach by picking them up and throwing them back into the sea. An older gentleman asked him why, when there were so many starfishes on the beach, did he think that he could make a difference.  And as he threw one more back into the ocean he said simply – “It made a difference to that starfish”.

I often wonder what difference I could possibly be making by collecting my one bag of bottles weekly and taking them to recycle.  Why do I continue cleaning up my favourite little beach when the ocean continues to bring debris from all parts of the world every single day, not to mention those indiscriminate beach goers who could care less.  Why should I go the extra mile to conserve energy by switching off unnecessary lights.  Why should I take the extra time to seek out locally grown food when I can just as easily buy foreign stuff in the supermarket all nicely wrapped in plastic.

Because, the truth is, every single small step makes a difference.

One set of bottles recycled can offset the use of precious raw materials.  One garbage bag of beach litter results in one bag less of trash floating around in the ocean harming our sea life.  A healthier electricity bill, less bulbs purchased and less energy being consumed are good reasons to turn off our lights. Helping grow our economy while limiting the use of plastics, seems good enough reasons for me.

Everything we do has a ripple effect, for better or for worse.  Your one tiny step to saving the environment will make a difference.  So go ahead and take that step.  Your grandchildren will thank you for it.

Bermuda

As a child, Bermuda was synonymous with the legendary Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, a place somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean where planes and ships were reported to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  Even though this myth has been dismissed by the experts, it is still ever present in my mind.

Bermuda is in fact an archipelago consisting of over 150 islands with the most significant being connected by bridges, making it appear as one landmass.  You can literally run from one part of Bermuda to the other in just over 8 hours depending on your level of fitness.  Or if you prefer, you can simply drive around at your leisure in less than a day.  But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in beauty.

It is located out in the middle of what seems like nowhere, approximately 1000 km to the west-northwest of North Carolina.  Even though I live on an island myself, it’s still kind of scary living so far away from any other landmass, considering the increasing number of hurricanes recorded annually off the east coast of the US.  But in essence Bermuda, even though it has experienced the wrath of hurricanes over the decades, receives some protection from a coral reef, and its position at the north of the hurricane Alley limits the direction and severity of approaching storms.  As safe a place to be I imagine, as any of the other Caribbean islands.

Bermuda remains one of the British Overseas Territories. With a population of just over 71,000, its inhabitants reflect its rich history of slavery, colonisation and migration with descendants from Africa, Britain, America, Portugal and the mixtures in between.  The buildings whether commercial or residential share a similar paint pallet all with white roofs, giving it a feeling of unity and purpose.  A very warm and welcoming people greet you and you immediately slip into the vacation-I’m-gonna-have-a-great-time mode. With an ocean view at your every turn, you remain calm, relaxed and always with a smile on your face.

We were fortunate to spend our time with some long-time friends or ‘locals’ as you would say, affording us the privilege of visiting every nook and cranny of this wonderful island by land and sea.  From St. Georges at one end to the Royal Naval Dockyard at the other end of the island and all the beautiful beaches, hilltop views, walking trails and restaurants in between.

Thanks to our very generous and gracious hosts, I’d say a time very well spent.

Blanchisseuse

In my humble opinion, there’s not a bad spot, view or beach on the north coast of Trinidad. Not all beaches are accessible but the views are certainly there for everyone to enjoy. The drive is long and winding but the lush flora and the oceanview makes is all worthwhile.

This is just one little beach with so much beauty to offer. Enjoy the pics.

30 – then and now…

When I turned thirty, some thirty-something years ago, it was a turning point for me.  I truly felt that I had finally grown up.  I was a big woman.  Married with two kids, just purchased my second home, a working career with a great future, and I was secretly thinking of adding one more kid to my small family.  Secretly because my husband didn’t know about this plan just yet, and quite frankly he never really knew.  It just happened – that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

It was a time full of excitement, lots to look forward to with a growing family.  Lots of places to go, people to meet.  I held a party at my home to mark the momentous occasion.  Friends, family, food, drink, music and dancing of course.  As you can imagine, there are a few stories that we reflect on from time to time with our close friends, in awe of what could only be termed as reckless behaviour in this day and age.

There was a certain excitement in my life with what I could only dream were many years of fun and adventure in my future. I was ready to take it all on.

My youngest son turns 30 today.  He has just recently landed a job ticking all his boxes.  He is single, not that this is a plug but I could take applications – LOL just kidding.  He’s just spent the past two days celebrating with friends – fete after fete after fete, as they say.  I tried to curtail his enthusiasm with sage advice.  It didn’t work.  He was determined to put his mark on this milestone.

He organised a party at our home.  Friends, family, food, drink, music and some dancing.  My husband and I retreated early to our ‘not so quiet’ space as we were no longer ‘needed’.  There was certainly a lot of noise, laughter, singing and from the Instagram pics, there was dancing as well.  Thank God he warned the neighbours.

The morning-after clues revealed in no uncertain terms that a fun time was had by all and that my thirty-year old was responsible.  The house was cleaned, leftovers put away or given away, and the bar empty or tidy – depends on the perspective.  But he was missing in action.  My husband insisted on calling him, but I knew in my heart that he was just stretching his celebration to the limit.  And he was. Going to be beach was next on his list of adventures. I was hoping that this was this last hurrah of the celebrations. A quick pit stop to stock the cooler, and he was off.

Turning thirty has not changed.  It is still a force to be reckoned with – no matter the era. It’s a turning point as you head towards the more responsible time of your life.  It is to a large extent leaving a bit of your youth behind.  A youth you’ve lived to the fullest, taking with you your memories, your joie-de-vivre and your optimism for the best future ahead.

Hike – Argyle Waterfall, Tobago

I’ve been going to Tobago annually for the past 30+ odd years.  Since my boys were toddlers and infants.  It’s such a lovely place to spend your holidays with your children.  Beach, sun and fun.  That’s all children really need to have a great vacation.  And friends of course.  And we are fortunate enough to belong to a group of friends who have weathered the test of kids, time and growing pains so that our children were surrounded by what they have grown to call their ‘normal friends’.  Friends who have been with them always.

As a form of entertainment, we have toured Tobago by land and sea.  It’s a small island after all.  So that’s an easy feat to accomplish year after year.  But by far the most enjoyable times have been our adventures by boat and of course hiking.

Our kids may no longer be with us as they are grown and growing their own families, but that hasn’t stopped the adults from continuing the exploration of Tobago without them.

Argyle waterfall, located on the northeast side of Tobago just past Roxborough, is one of the highest falls at 54m cascading down 3 levels officially.  And I say officially because that’s what is told to you by, well, the officials let’s say.  But we managed to hike up the sides of the waterfall to seven levels of pools and rocks.  Each level taking you through the lush green woodland that surrounds, and affording you the opportunity to relax and refresh yourself in the cool water of the rock pools that greet you.

The hike begins with a short 20-minute walk through wide paths adorned by huge trees and the lush flora.  The silk cotton trees were in full bloom and we were somewhat mesmerised by the seeds floating across our path.  You can hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance and your first impression upon reaching the falls is that this cannot be it.  But as you climb further you realise that that was just the beginning of what is truly Tobago’s finest waterfall.

Note though that there is a small entrance fee.

Green …

#WordPrompt

As I sit, my view is filled with the lushness of the natural green of my garden.  Green parakeets flit from one palm tree to another feasting on the berries and then cooling themselves off in the water captured in the guttering of the roof of my home.  They are funny little creatures, these parakeets.  The sweetest chirping fills the air as they chat with each other. I imagine them like children, playing with each other, hiding under the leaves of the palms, calling out to each other as if to say – “Look at me. I’m right here”.  Then flying off again dancing from one tree to another.  Laughing with the wanton abandon of kids with not a worry in the world.

My garden attracts all different species of birds and other wildlife.  I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by the lushness of the environment all my life.  Green is a colour that calms me and fills me with a great sense of peace and quiet.  In my garden the green of the grass and the leaves of my plants assure me that nature is alive and healthy.  Thriving.  Contributing to the environment positively.  It tells me that the creatures too are at peace as I notice the butterflies taking their fill of nectar from the flowers while the birds feast on the berries they love.

As I venture in the natural forests that make up a great part of my home, the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, I revel in the green that brings everything together – a perfect backdrop for the native flowers and wild bushes that nurture the many birds and insects that prosper in this environment.  Again, I am at peace with the world.  Everything seems to be in its right place.  The order of the universe continues regardless.

I’ve not always been an admirer of the colour green and all it implies.  Simply from a purely materialistic standpoint.  Green just never looked good on me.  It’s silly. But true.  However, as I’ve matured and learned to appreciate the beauty that surrounds, Green has become one of my favourite colours.

It has become a critical part of our vocabulary.  No longer an adjective, it is now a verb as we focus on the future of our world and our environment.  We want to ‘Green’ the earth again.  The concept of ‘Greening’ is on the lips of the CEOs of our largest corporations, our governments, the leaders of the world.  As we realise that without the natural greenery that surrounds, we are nothing.  We realise that what we have been doing over the past centuries does not complement what is there for all to not only enjoy but to profit from naturally, mentally and physically.  We have taken advantage and continue to take advantage not realising that the beauty that surrounds, the green in our world is there to ensure the longevity of our existence.

Green complements and nurtures everything in our life. From our physical beauty to the simplest things in life.  Our flora and fauna thrive with the natural green beauty that surrounds.  And with that, we too will thrive.

The Marianne River – Trinidad…

The mouth of the Marianne River

I constantly boast that there’s not a bad spot, beach or view on the north coast of Trinidad.  And even though I’ve driven along this coast hundreds of times, I am still in awe of its beauty.  The rugged coastline, the small, isolated islands embellishing the ocean view, the lushness of the flora lining the road and cascading down to the beaches.

There are many beaches that are easily accessible and some that take a bit of a hike to get to.  But all are beautiful, peaceful and welcoming.  The Marianne beach and its river mouth are no different.  Frequented by beach lovers daily, this spot has become a much-loved location for weekenders and those seeking a quiet getaway anytime during the week.

We simply intended to take a quick refreshing swim in the river, but lingered on peacefully until the sun set. Highly recommended to relieve stress and put a smile on your face.

Matura River Hiking Trail – Trinidad

Pristine waters of the Matura River, Trinidad

I suddenly felt that I was in the middle of a dream, floating gently down a body of water, not quite sure exactly where I was, for the beauty that surrounded was like no other.  The clear turquoise waters, the lush green forest, the babbling of the water running over the rocks, pool after pool after pool.

Swimming in the Mystic Pool in the Matura River

As a group of avid hikers, we were in search of the Mystic pool – one of the many pools which form the Matura River in the north-eastern part of Trinidad.   The nearby Matura beach is known as one of the best turtle watching sites in Trinidad, but I can assure you that there are other natural resources which make this small village spectacular beyond words – a dream for nature seekers.

The hiking trail is by no means challenging, except maybe for the short decline and ascent to and from the river, but the trek through the river, with its numerous waterfalls, picturesque gorges, and amazing swimming pools will more than make up for any discomfort you may endure.

We had ample time to swim, dive off rocks (mainly the teenagers in our midst), swing from the ropes hanging from the trees (not only the teenagers but the young at heart as well), snack, capture the natural beauty in our heart and mind and cameras, wade through the waters and, of course, loll in the many babbling brooks.

Certainly having fun…

Did we have a great time?  We certainly did.  A must visit for all nature lovers.

Hike – Brasso Santo Trail…

An early morning start with a drive to the beautiful Caura Valley to begin our hike.  Honestly our small twin island state abounds with such natural beauty, it is a shame that I don’t explore it more often.

Already as you drive through the Caura valley you can envision the peace and quiet you will be trekking through.  The mountains now awakening still covered in mist, the calling of the birds as they start their day, with the distinctive ‘tocking’ of the Bearded Bell Bird also known as the Campanaro, native to the upper regions of the northern range, and the peekaboo views of the Caura River as you near the beginning of the trail, all contribute to building the excitement for your journey.

The Brasso Santo Trail is home to hikers, bikers and hunters and much thanks must be given to our bikers who have made the trail passable with their ongoing efforts to keep it clear of fallen trees.

The beginning of the 13.5 km trail takes you along a meandering path criss-crossing the Caura River several times before making your way up the mountain.  The water is clean and refreshing, the river shrouded at times in Bamboo, and the banks are lined with the white peace lily giving off its characteristic scent.  You begin to relax and smile not realising that you will soon begin the gradual ascent to the top of the ridge traversing the northern range. Your elevation gain will be a total of 777m with a maximum height of 500m.

Along the trail there is evidence of hunters as you pass a makeshift shed and if you are a keen observer, you will notice our local version of ‘sentry posts’ created to spot unsuspecting animals all along the path.  These are strips of branches laced or nailed between two trees so that the hunter can either sit or stand unseen for hours awaiting their prey.

The forest is not dense and allows just the right amount of filtered light for you to enjoy the beauty of the natural flora keeping you cool along the way.

There are several check points on this trail – the ‘Belly of the Beast’ lets you know that you have reached what seems to be the lowest point in the trail. The ‘Bathtub’ – a very welcoming small pool of refreshing water filled by an endearing waterfall.  And ‘Base Camp’ – an arbitrary meeting and look out point where you reap the rewards of your climb with views stretching along the north coast with Las Cuevas beach to the west.

It is undulating territory as you leave Base Camp, primarily downhill along the path when you finally exit the forest and enter the open landscape where you can catch a glimpse of your final destination La Fillette bay.  You’re almost there.  And after a 4-hour hike, you are content knowing that you have just spent a relatively short time crossing but a small part of our beautiful northern range experiencing nature at its best, shedding some of your worries and anxieties.  I would say a morning well spent.

This trail is one of Trinidad’s finest.

The joy that is the Poui season…

The Poui tree plays a very significant role in our dry season in Trinidad, giving us a break in the otherwise browning of our beautiful Savannah – an iconic spot in our capital of Port of Spain, dotting the hills throughout the surrounding areas of St. Anns and Cascade with strikingly yellow flowers as well as brightening up our Savannah with magnificent pink and yellow blossoms along its perimeter and within its boundaries.  I have to admit that this is the highlight of our dry season and usually marks the slow transition to our rainy season.
Many years ago I experienced first hand the other side of the Poui tree, when I moved to Cascade and found that my new home was surrounded by Poui trees.  Both pink and yellow.  These trees provide lovely shade in the morning and evening and are home to many species of wildlife including a variety of birds – corn birds, doves, blue jays, kiskadees, hummingbirds and our local parrots.  They also provide a home for iguanas, squirrels and the odd woodpecker. I thought that I had gone to heaven and started building a garden that would prosper alongside these beautiful creatures – providing natural food for all things wild, including a small family of agouti.
But when the leaves started to shed making way for the flowers, my heart began to sink, slowly.  Every day for just about 6 weeks, there would be a carpet of dead leaves covering my lawn and drowning my plants.  It became a chore keeping my garden clean, and my plants un-smothered by leaves.  Slowly my dislike for these trees which had given me so much pleasure during the past year, set in.
Then one morning as I peaked through my window I saw a small burst of yellow.  And as I ventured outside, a small smile replaced the curiosity on my face.  I looked across the valley up towards Lady Chancellor and saw, spotted across the lushness that the yellow Pouis were coming to life.  It was almost as if they were calling out to each other across the valley saying ‘Here I am, here I am. Look at me.”
Over the next couple of days my trees were in full bloom and glorious.  What I could see from underneath was nothing compared to what those persons on the opposite side of the valley were experiencing.  And I smiled broadly.
As the wind blew, and the flowers fell, my garden which was once covered in brown leaves, were now smothered in a carpet yellow.  A sight to behold.  My dismay turned into sheer joy.
Now, as the dry season sets in, I look forward to the shedding of leaves, knowing that for just a short moment in the very near future, I will be blessed with a beauty like no other.