28 January 2011

Something New for My Birthday

My daughter gave me an amazing present for my birthday; she took me to a remote, beautiful, 100 foot waterfall in the rainforest after our run on the 26th. I did something I've never done before to celebrate- I swam naked in the (cold!) waterfall pool.

Yes, I did it! I felt exhilarated! I embrace this life stage and look for ways to expand my horizons, push my limits and just try something new. It was fun (although I did yell a lot). Crones rule!

Gratitude galore to my blogger friends for your wonderful birthday greetings. You warm my heart.

26 January 2011

Birthday Reflections

Oropendula, black birds with neon yellow tails and beaks, swish in and out of the immortelle tree in the yard. The tree's bright orange flowers seem more vivid against morning's blue sky. The oripendula have a distinctive deep, clucking sound unlike the chirps and trills of the other birds in the surrounding trees. When they fly off three or four at a time, their beating wings sound like softened helicopter whirls.

The sun is out and illuminates the wide, light green blades around the sugar cane growing next to the outside kitchen where I sit at the picnic table and write. Clouds and some of the left over morning mist gather at the top of the densely forested hills to my right. They cast shadows adjacent to the sunny patches making a quilt of light and dark on the ridge.The water tank to my left sprouts a mossy growth on its otherwise stark cement base. I drink sorrel punch made from the red sorrel flower. It's magical to me to drink flowers like some giant bee.

The birds have flown now, driven to cooler shaded spots by the tropical sun. Their songs are replaced by a flock of wild parrots flying oerhead with their harsh, remarkably loud cries. Have they no predators that they can be so loud and colorful?

Today is my birthday. I'm 65. It feels like a momentous age. Unlike the creatures around me, I'm aware of this life stage shift and I take stock of where I am and where I'm going. For years I've kept a self-discovery art journal inspired by my good friend, Annee. I take a few blank pages of this journal and pick out whatever magazine pictures or words that catch my eye and put them in a current moment snapshot collage. Or as Annee would say, whatever calls to me. I do this two or three times a year to visually represent what's up for me. It's always a meaningful process for me and I love to review these pages and see how they portend or document personal shifts and changes in my life. After my quiet time today, I did one and then arranged it on the picnic table in the outside kitchen since I don't have my journal with me. I like doing this. I'm not an artist but this fulfills my yearning to find other ways into myself through art.

The clouds on the hill have spilled down to me. I can hear the rain in the distance as it moves closer. In minutes the day has gone from blue, sunny skies to pouring down, drenching rain. The sound went from lovely to deafening as it pounds the corregated metal roof that keeps me dry. Minutes later, the sky clears and the sun reappears as if the rain never happened.

This peaceful day has taught me once again to show up, pay close attention and tell my truth. I trust all answers for this life stage will emerge from this.

24 January 2011

Coffee and Cocoa From the Source

Ripe coffee beans growing along a hiking path in the rainforest. This area of the rainforest has hundreds of trees from abandoned coffee plantations which were plentiful decades ago when Trinidad coffee was prized.

When they're red, they're ripe.

Then they're picked and put to dry in the sun. In two weeks the fruit is shelled to expose the coffee bean inside. Beans are then roasted in small batches and ground to make the morning cup of joe. My daughter's husband does this for their coffee regularly and has a secret roasting process for the best flavor!

Ripe cocoa pods on the tree. Trinidad was known world wide for its cocoa back in the early part of the 1900's. Abandoned cocoa trees still grow wild to the delight of young and old.

When they're yellow they're ripe.

When the pod is split open the beans are covered with a sweet, delicious white substance that can be sucked off one by one. It's a favorite treat on a hike. (This is my granddaughter who didn't want to be photographed but who loves cocoa pulp!)

If the pulp isn't sucked off it is put in a cedar box to sweat for five days as bacteria eats away the pulp leaving just the cocoa beans. The beans are then put dry in the sun for about a week. Great care is taken to keep them from getting wet in the inevitable rain. (They're more sensitive than coffee beans that can get wet, and dry and wet and dry again!) The cocoa beans are then roasted, shelled and broken into nibs which are  eaten plain and bitter and considered a health food in this neck of the woods! Or they're ground into powder for baking or making hot cocoa. They can also be sold to fine chocolate makers here or abroad since Trinidadian cocoa is rated very highly internationally. 
There's a growing movement among some Trini's to revive this old, potentially profitable industry.

It's all amazing to this girl from Boston who never knew any of these processes and now sees them right in her daughter's yard. I even helped spread the cocoa beans in the sun and pull them in quickly when it rained. They're done as of yesterday and bagged up for the next step on their way to chocolate.
I't a hands on, slower paced way of life that puts me in touch with the "behind the scenes" work of what we eat and drink.

16 January 2011


These amazing photos are courtesy of my freind, Jennifer. The rainforest of Trinidad has 16 different species of hummingbirds alone and this is merely one of them. Its body is an irradescent green blue color. Beautiful!


This is a rare shot of the hummingbird with its wings forward. She caught it at just the right moment of time for all of us to enjoy. Nature in all its glory.

What's amazing you these days?

13 January 2011

Simple Pleasures

Celebrating simple pleasures because they matter and foster gratitude:

1. A stroll with the one you love and even a quick snuggle.

2. Butterflies and flowers open to the sun.

3. Butterflies that wear their name on their wings (yup, the 89 butterfly)
and enjoy the salt on a friends arm in order to be admired.

4. Walking to school together at 8:25 knowing you'll be on time for an 8:30 start.

5. Knowing just how you want your hair braided
and wearing red ribbons to put some zip in your uniform.

What simple pleasures are you enjoying lately?

11 January 2011

Smoked Chicken, Plantain, and Rum Punch


Homes in the rainforest used to have outside kitchens with clay ovens (above) in order to cook without heating up the house. Now it's just my daughter and her husband's home that have one (as well as a kitchen inside). It's an oldtime, tried and true way of cooking for those who know the intricacies of cooking without a temperature gauge to guide the way. And it's a terrific way to smoke chicken (or other meat or fish) for a long period of time over fragrant wood until it's tender and yummy.

The chicken is on that grill platform (below) over the fire and covered with banana leaves. The fire is low and smoldering to cook the meat well while imparting that unique smoky flavor and unmatched tenderness. This was Christmas dinner after a few hours of expert care by son-in-law as taught by his grandfather. It tasted scrumptious.

He also grows plantain (look like bananas, only bigger) which are known far and wide for their particularly sweet taste and are specially prized in the holiday season. We in the family get to enjoy it sliced and fried lightly with a pinch of salt as often as we want, lucky us. The sweetness is remarkable.

And for juice each day, my daughter goes out to the yard and picks whatever oranges, grapefruits or limes are ripe, adds water and maybe a little sugar and we drink it. In the evening, add rum and it's a rum punch. I'm getting spoiled and becoming a rum afficianado. El Dorado12 year or 1919 anyone?

07 January 2011

Rainforest Environment

On a recent drive when we crested the highest part of the hill, this vista opened up between the dense trees. It's a view of the sea in the distance with part of the rainforest visible as well. Trinidad's Rainforest is in the Northern Range of the Island, in the cuff of the short boot which is the shape of Trinidad. About four miles from this spot is where my daughter, her husband and two children live (for more info click here).

Double River Falls is one of the waterfalls in the rainforest I've seen this visit. It's an easy hike and climb to reach this lovely spot. The brave hearts swim in the cold (really!) water pool at the base. The falls are full with all the rain we've experienced recently and the thunderous sound is both powerful and strangely meditative at the same time. The breeze off the falling water is nature's own air conditioning and had my grandson shivering.

On another longer hike, when we reached our river destination, we walked down the river and up a ravine to discover this little beauty. This time the brave hearts swam through the narrow opening between the rocks in front of the pool to have the falls pound down on them and scream with the chill of it.

A friend blissed out in the tamer river flow by the bank where we stopped to just enjoy the unique sights and sounds of this beautiful rainforest environment.

Taking time to be in nature brings me back to my center, the best part of me, connected to all that is. 
Makes me grateful for this gift of life and abundance.

04 January 2011

First Farmers

While hiking to the waterfalls pictured in the last post in the rain forest, I came across a long line of leaf cutter ants hard at work. Look closely and you'll see the tiny ants carrying (relatively) large leaf parts back to their comnunal home.

At first folks thought they were eating the leaves but, no, they were piling the leaves up so a certain kind of mold could grow on them and they then eat the mold. Growing food for their sustenance. Farmers. The first. Just one of the amazing things I've seen in the rain forest.

01 January 2011

New Year Wishes

May we fill our days with what inspires awe.

May we see the beauty all around us.

May we cherish those we love.

May we make time for fun with good friends.

May we sing each day with our whole heart.

May we delight in diversity.

May we celebrate abundance and eat locally to benifit our bodies and our environment.

May we know that the future is in good hands, that we shape it consciously,
and that love is the strongest force.

I'm grateful for your presence in my life, my blogging friends.
Thank you for your contribution to making these wishes reality.
May your dreams come true as well.