Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Living for the light

First there's the fete across the valley pounding soca rhythms. When you think it should stop, there's the parang twanging like it's in your bedroom. And there's more - the old time calypsos now. And it is as if all the dogs in the neighbourhood couldn't wait for the party to stop before they create their own chorus of howls and woofs, piercing arfs and echoing barks. In the middle of cacaphony, some people can sleep. Others toss and wait for the silence. Me, I can sleep anytime anywhere, even standing up if I have to. But before the dawn is the time to be awake. From the cleft of a south facing hill slope, I watch for the light creeping through the mist. Maybe there's still the moon in the western sky, but it can't be seen through the fog. Only the light grows. A grey stillness waking the first parrots. Creeping dawn - everyday a new beginning! What wonderful promise awakens with this day?

The sun returns - this is Christmas every day!

Here's Rudolph in my tree - waiting for his moment on a dark dark night!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Christmas light

Not everyone likes Christmas. Apart from the many all over the world who don't share its central beliefs, there are a fair number of "bah humbug-ers" who could not be bothered with the trappings, trees or gaudily wrapped packages, far less the sentiments of peace on earth, goodwill to all men. And it is hard to disagree sometimes - with all the strife and anger and scheming in the world, right here in your own homes, neighbourhoods too.

But the spirit of Christmas is really about hope. It is the wish for a countervailing dynamic - peace, joy, contentment - against what it takes to live in the world. So whether you are hungry, or angry, underpaid, passionate and impatient about change, comfortable but still feeling low; whether there is plenty or sadness, this is what life is.

Just imagine. You are a mother whose child had to be born in a barn, warm with the smell of animals and manure. Only your companion - not even the child father - to help. You are cold, but on the move, because you hear there are soldiers coming to kill all sons under a certain age. When you do settle, there's a time of contentment when the boy is growing and playing and being as boys will be. But he is grown to be a man now - going into the world and returning as grown sons do. You cannot see the future. All you do is enjoy him in the present. He is bigger than you and comes to visit, picks you up and spins you around, laughing at your surprise! He has gifts, and he stays a week or two. This is the spirit of Christmas. This tiny respite - relaxation and rest - to laugh, to have meals together, to enjoy quiet conversations, to have hope. Because you cannot see the future, you cherish the good fortune of this time together, hoping it will bolster your child - against the cold, the tiredness, the pain, the just living, or dying, that is to come.

So yes, you can have Christmas at any time. But Christmas at Christmas is always to be celebrated!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas light

The appeal of the traditional tree has its origin in early Christian history when the rhythm of seasons in northern temperate countries was aligned with the church's calendar, and more specifically with the life of Christ. Remember the shortest day of the year is December 21; and in those early calendars "the sun returns"- the days start lengthening again - on December 25. We are creatures of light - our lives revolve around the sun. Daily rhythms - generally - follow the rise and set of the sun. Annual cycles too. Longer days in spring and summer signal increased animal activity and play. More sleep in fall and winter.

It may be argued that tropical peoples - those nearer the equator - have light all the time.  Perhaps we are more sensitive to smaller gradations in light. We too feel the "slowing" energy as the days get shorter in December, and the quickening in "mid-summer" May to August.

How and when we become imprinted with the symbols of the Christmas tree, decorations and presents are all too easy to figure out. Baby's first Christmas is followed by years of heightened expectations when the tree is mounted, lighted and decorated. To some, the perfect tree is the artificial Douglas or Norfolk fir unfolded from its box each year. To others, it's the real thing, or a tropical pine tree.

The point is that every Christmas tree today is a symbol - a whole set of cyphers for the meaning of life as civilized beings, as humans. Why else do we take trees - real or imagined, dried branches or actual living trees - decorate them to the point of gaudiness, and keep them as a place to accumulate wrapped packages intended as gifts. There are some people who do not "believe." But many of those who do, have actually seen "the light" - as the earth shifts around the sun - that is the promise of renewal, re-creation and another cycle of energy.

No tree ever looked like this! But it speaks for all trees!

Friday, December 3, 2010

What do you know...

What's my inner animal? My Chinese horoscope - based on the year of birth - says that I am a hare. Not the hare that sits in the moon according to the legend, but a metal hare, hard as flint - which incidentally is my Mayan birth symbol - flint knife which can generally cut through BS. In Western astrology, I am not even an animal, but the balancer, the scales - symbol of decision-making or in my case, indecision.

The other day, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) offered the chance to find out my "inner animal." Turns out I am the Giant Silky Anteater. This is an animal that - like the whale - gets to a huge size from eating some of the smallest creatures, termites. Anty is a loner - does not move or hunt in packs - and grows to about seven or eight feet long with a long bushy tail which it curls over itself when sleeping. Anty stands four feet high at the shoulders, like a big dog. She doesn't have any teeth, which gives her species name edentata (no teeth) Myrmecophagidae (ant-eater). Instead her mouth has an opening that is pencil thin, and a sticky tongue that can protrude to about 20 inches out.

Giant silky anteaters live mainly in the savannas of south America, with a range from Uruguay to Argentina, west to the Andes and up to southern Mexico. They find huge termites nests which they break into with long curved claws, three on each forefoot, each claw about four inches long. As the ants swarm to the breach, Anty laps them up with a long sticky tongue, swallowing thousands (maybe 30,000 a day) of the bugs whole and alive. With tongue flicks at a rate up to 160 times a minute, she doesn't feast for very long at a time, but will return to the same nest again and again. The nests are never destroyed but allowed to recoup before they are harvested on another occasion.

Female giant silkies bear one young at a time which is carried on the back of the female until it can fend for itself, about two years. It is noticed that the line marking the side of the animal lines up with the youngster riding her back, making the baby almost invisible. Courtship with the male takes place in fall in the southern hemisphere, (March to May) and the baby is born 29 weeks later. Adult silkies don't make much sound though the baby will grunt or squeal especially if it falls off mother's back.

Giant silky anteaters are a species thought to be over 70 million years old, already developed during the age of the dinosaurs.

So now you know something else about me!

Check your own "inner animal" on this site:
http://www.worldwildlife.org/inner-animal/inner-animal.html

My inner animal -giant silky anteater

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dreaming or shopping?

Christmas, the end of the year - this is my favourite season. But I don't think I ever got the hang of Christmas shopping. I wander into the shops without a list, and spend the time drifting from aisle to aisle, daydreaming. Here's a typical example. Oh, wow, there's a lovely ginger and orange blossom scented candle. Smells wonderful. Now who would enjoy this? I think that I would enjoy it, and it goes into the basket.

Or this: I need a star and some new baubles for the Christmas tree. But there are no delicate glass icicles to match the ones I bought four years ago. Only some rather crass and over-glittered bells and giant metallic shapes. I think I am prepared to look around a bit more...

On the other hand, my friend goes briskly and efficiently to the task at hand. Her basket is already full of decorations, the skirt for the tree, runners, and gifts for some of her friends. I sigh and wonder if I am missing an essential gene.

I  have brought in my tree, and it is a fantastic tree with its own character. Branches that look like they are dancing. Birds have already tried to put a nest where the star should be - maybe I'll let them.

Decorating - like shopping - will take its own sweet time, as I try to prolong the good feelings of this season for dreaming and wishing.

My dream tree: some say it's wonky - to me it's dancing!