Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, November 23, 2015

Living with the hive

Sometimes, you don't have to look for the wild. Sometimes, it comes looking for you.
Bees in conference?

We are not sure when we first became aware of the bees. It may have been as long ago as three years that I started not turning on lights in the house before sun up. Lights on while the world was still dark attracted bees into the house; perhaps they were fooled into thinking the sun was up. Then, they started being attracted to the house lights after the sun set; perhaps they were thinking extra daylight.

After a few episodes of invasions in the evening, we called the beemen. These are the professionals who introduced us to the lives and benefits of bees in the Green Market Santa Cruz two years ago. The message is "cherish the bees, they are responsible for all your food."

It took a few months of waiting and planning. Bede was slightly daunted by the location of the hive at the top of one of the gables of the house - some 30 feet above uneven ground.  Bede Rajahram - 36 years a beekeeper - leads the All Trinidad and Tobago Apiculture Cooperative, prominent among beekeeping associations in the country. He has hives in northern valleys of Trinidad, and consults with all beekeepers - training many young ones - in the area. He said he only discovered that his father kept bees after he got into beekeeping. You think it's possible to have bees/ honey in the blood? Bede is aptly named.
You got bees? Who you gonna call? Bede (middle) with his team: Hassani (left) and Ambrose (right)

Ambrose started beekeeping 15 years ago, in preparation for his retirement from automotive engineering. His wife Marva is in the Green Market every weekend, educating about the benefits of pure local honey, encouraging visitors to taste what the bees have produced from different trees and forest areas.

Here's the story of our bees, told in photos. It's incredible with words alone.
Professional scaffolding to get up to this peak of the house.

We have to commend those who installed the scaffolding: Ricky Raghunanan & Company are truly professional. They installed the platform and adjusted it so that the beemen would be safe.

The day after the bees were removed from the roof and installed in a box intended for a safe place in a different setting, we saw that they had gathered - like a cloud or strange fruit - on the branch of the cassia grande. They hung there for a long while. Then disappeared.  We hope they are happy in a new home deep in the forest.

Ambrose takes the camera

Hassani is on the platform taking out the comb and bees.

Orderly arrangement built by the bees between the roof and ceiling.

Bees and more bees

Bees and their combs; there was no honey. Perhaps they were already planning a departure.


Hassani

Bede

Ambrose

Vacuuming the bees

All made from wax
Next day, the bees gathered in the tree nearby. They decided that they would choose their own new home. They left.




Monday, October 26, 2015

A little horsehair pot ... and the message on a turtle

My potter friend had warned me that the pots made by the native people in Arizona would be far too expensive to buy.  I still kept an eye out - you never know when you might be lucky.

We were leaving the Grand Canyon Park passing alongside another minor canyon of the Little Colorado river. Travelling on the plateau, the gorge looked just as deep - perhaps not so wide - deep and craggy. Then I saw a site that looked familiar - a little market. There were not many vendors in the line of small shacks but their products caught my eye:  dreamcatchers, jewelry, and pots.
Horsehair pottery

Horsehair leaves marks like some archaic writing
The artist's name is scratched into the bottom: Stan Sheppard Jr, Dine-Navajo

The first thing that caught my eye was the little pot, maybe three inches high. white clay with a random crazy pattern in black. Horsehair pottery, I was told. The clay is hand milled, a fine white clay that is rolled and coiled and smoothed by hand; fired and then polished not glazed. Hair from the mane and tail of a horse is embedded before firing. The hair burns away leaving black scratches that look like scribbles of some archaic writing. Sometimes sugar is used to create spots. Inside my pot looks like a star-filled sky - in reverse.

Sugar grains scattered on the bottom create the marks inside the pot.

I had already put my hand on the pot when the turtle caught my eye. I know the legend of Turtle Island - the continent of America - sitting on the back of Turtle Mother (Earth). And what is that resting on? Another larger turtle. The analogy is elegantly simple, seductive and so expressive. We are all riding the backs of turtles - and turtles upon turtles across the Milky Way.

Ever since she did her first study of turtles in Tobago, or even before, my daughter collects turtles. So this one was for her. The basic turtle shape looks like a mould. I've seen the basic shape in a green colour. This one was the same white as the horsehair pot, but the patterns etched on the back were mesmerising. Who could read the age old message? A message of aspiration, hope, concentric circles upwardly mobile. Wow, I thought, someone etched and coloured this in the ways that were handed down through generations.

The meanings of the patterns are explained

More explanations: what the turtle means; what the colours mean

The patterns are echoes of the Grand Canyon - all the layers and colours descending. Or is it that they are ascending? Precisely level, layers rising upon layers, rising to the mesa and the open sky. Turtles are soaring through the night sky. And the message on this single turtle is the same: not grinding down to the ground, but instead rising through ordered levels, to an area of openness and clarity.

Message on a turtle: feathers for flight; mountains and valleys; the staircase of life



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fresh in Santa Monica, Los Angeles

California - and Los Angeles in particular - has been in the forefront of fresh markets in the USA. The idea of producers selling directly to consumers from farms in the area, preserving quality - produce picked the same day - and reconnecting families with growers has since spread around that country and to communities concerned with healthy food.

You would think that on a weekend in Santa Monica, some market would be easy to find. In fact, we missed the one on the 3rd Street Promenade in favour of another that was further away on Virginia Street. And we never made it to Santa Monica Main Street Farmers Market because we chose to walk the long way along the coast, then turned back.

Here are some photos that tell the story of our market experience this October weekend in Santa Monica. In the Virginia Street Market, we got the best goat cheese, roasted peppers, flaky pastries, and local wheat pasta.

The Virginia Street Market in a park with school and library
Fresh peppers included hots such as jalapenos and cayennes

Favourite feature: the gas-flame blaster which roasted peppers. You could choose mild with bell peppers; medium bells with jalapenos; or hot, jalapenos and cayennes
Fresh berries

My favourite fresh berries were these guavas; the small ones were 10 for $2

Persimmons
Ginger root!

Carrots with their green tops!

Sweet potatoes
Greens
More greens!

Reds: sweetest baby Romas!

Purple melongene

Bok choys
Wheat harvested and milled in California valleys

And flowers!  

In the supermarkets too, seasonal displays herald fall, pumpkin season, Halloween, and the dying year!




Here's what we saw on our way to the Main Street market that we never reached:

Rasta bus on Ocean Avenue

Refreshing wall garden!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More than an ajoupa in Arizona

Wish gifts for newlyweds in 1990!

 Twenty-five years ago, they came to Trinidad as newlyweds. They were given gifts of ceramic art pieces from the Ajoupa Pottery. The gifts were wish symbols: for the house that they would make into a home; perhaps not a coconut truck, but viable modes of transportation; and a boat for the oceans that they would always live near or sail upon. Taken altogether, they were a hope for a full life, full of adventure, full of surprise, full and fulfilled.

Twenty-five years later, in Arizona, we are welcomed into the home of the couple who came to Trinidad in 1990, after the coup. The wishes have come true many times over.

Happy anniversary, Kris and Nathalie! 

A home in Arizona in the town of Carefree



Loving family


There's a boat for the lake
Good times!
Hopes upon which the sun never sets ...


And a return to Trinidad every year or so!