Friday, 30 January 2009

Maraval in the rain

An old photo of the Saddle, a narrow pass connecting the Maraval and Santa Cruz valleys. (Photo courtesy the Trinidad Guardian archives)

If you've read Café au Lait you might recall mention of the Maraval Valley. The novel is a work of fiction, but this valley isn't, and I drove through it today to pick up my nephew from school. I lived there once, right after I separated from my husband, and for years I traversed this valley every day on my way to work. It was a longer drive than going through Port of Spain and taking the highway, but there was no traffic and the drive through valleys and over hills was lovely. My son was just five during the months that we lived in Maraval, yet he has vivid memories of the birds hopping around on the windowsill of his bedroom, of playing with the children who lived on the ground floor, of listening to music with his mom.

That was a weird time in my life. My ailing marriage was finally over; I had to come to terms with the prospect of raising my child alone; I was living on my own for the first time in my life. I surrounded myself with beauty as an antidote to all that I had suffered through: the special brand of coffee that I liked, music, my plants, a perfume I'd always wanted, long visits from an old friend whom I'd neglected during the tortured years of my marriage. He'd visit and we'd talk far into the night, catching up, drinking wine, playing Scrabble. After work each day I'd pick up my son and we'd go on an 'adventure' before going home. Some days we went to the mall, others we'd stop by the Queen's Park Savannah and I'd buy fruits from the roadside vendors while he ran around and climbed the trees. Or we'd drive to the marina in Chaguaramas, or to the back of West Mall (this was before all the high-rise condos went up) and sit and watch the sea. It was a shadowed yet strangely happy era. My son still loves the music of the 80s best of all; he says it takes him back to the Maraval time.


The Maraval Valley in the rain today. Photos taken above the golf course at Moka.

My son grew up. I left the teaching behind, lived abroad for awhile, came back. I haven't driven through Maraval in years - until today. It was raining. I like the rain. It was cool and lovely, the hills misty and shrouded, lush, green. Naturally, time has not stood still in the intervening years. The channel of the river that runs alongside the road is wider. There are large supermarkets and pharmacies higher up the valley where before there were only small shops and minimarts. Entire high-end developments have sprung up, and many others are under construction. Enormous brown gashes wound the hillsides which have been bulldozed for even more 'development'. The house with the tall rose bushes that I admired every day on my way to and from work is now indistinguishable from the numerous other houses flanking it. The house is there; the roses aren't.

So much has changed. The narrow bridges have been widened, and the road too in places, but the traffic jams, they tell me, begin way up in the valley where the road begins to rise sharply into the hills. They also tell me that the Saddle, that pass into the Santa Cruz Valley pictured above, is itself unrecognizable, bulldozed and widened, no longer the dark, one-lane tunnel with the sharp blind curve at the Santa Cruz end where I drove for so many years on my way to work, horn blaring to warn any unseen oncoming vehicle.

Those were different times; the Saddle Road was practically deserted then, and if the thought of being blocked and held up at gunpoint ever entered my head, it was for a fleeting moment. My solitary drive through Maraval, into the Saddle, then the descent into Santa Cruz where scarlet immortelles blazed over cocoa trees and pouis splashed the valley with riotous colour, was a daily adventure. It was spiritually refreshing, buoying me for the struggle ahead, and soothing me as I made the return trip when the battles had been lost and won for one more day.

I didn't get as far as the Saddle today, and I dread the day when I'll see for myself the mutilation of this lovely spot. Despite all the change, though, the valley retains its charm, its essence. But for how long? The prognosis, in view of what I saw today, is not hopeful.

19 comments:

Kaz Augustin said...

What a lovely and moving slice of life, Liane. Thanks for sharing.

Debs said...

I love your writing, is completely takes me to the time/place you're describing.

It also reminded me of the couple of years I had living by myself with my two when they were small, after my divorce. It was a special time that we all remember, even though we're happy now too, that was our own time somehow.

JJ said...

Wow, great pictures.

wordtryst said...

Kaz, you're welcome!

Thank you, Debs. Yes, you certainly know whereof I speak - um, write. It was a special time and every now and then we get all nostalgic about it.

JJ, thank you. The ones from yesterday were taken on my icky cellphone camera so I wasn't sure how they'd look, but they work okay.

Lane said...

What a beautiful piece of writing. And beautiful photos. I hope such a lovely place with such memories can retain some of its original beauty. It's awful to witness special places changing.

akalol said...

Café au Lait is probably the most scenic book I read in years and reading this post today reminded me how much I like Maraval and Santa Cruz and why I enjoyed Café au Lait so much. It's better than a photograph and it should be a movie.

The destruction in the name of money continues, not only in Maraval, but all over the country. The land is being butchered and it won't stop until there is nothing left to stop.

KeVin K. said...

Well written.
Valerie and I will get down there someday. Before it's too late.

I linked on It Only Looks Random

Jozelle said...

Thank you for sharing that. I used to go to school there, and I also have fond memories. I haven't been back in a while. I think I have been afraid of the changes that I would see. Thank you for that little glimpse of home.

wordtryst said...

Lane, I too hope some of the beauty can be preserved. Change is inevitable, I know, but I don't see why it can't harmonize with the natural beauty of the place.

akalol, it is quite horrifying to watch, especially as I know people and organizations have been fighting for many years to try to preserve what we've got, and to change people's attitudes to the environment. What has come of all the work, all the articles, all the programmes, all the bills stuck in parliament? Money has shown emphatically that it rules. Goodbye mangroves, hello Movietowne. Goodbye hillsides, hello flooding. Maybe when it's all gone we'll collectively realize what we've lost. Maybe not even then.

KeVin, thank you. I hope you and Valerie do make it down here some time. Soon.

Jozelle, welcome to the blog. If you haven't been home in a long while you'll hardly recognize the place, I think.

kim said...

Beautiful. Perfect as I sit with my cup of coffee and get taken into your world.

Good Morning.

wordtryst said...

Good morning, Kim. That cup of coffee sounds good right about now. This office is cold! Well, 60 degrees is cold for me... :)

Glad you enjoyed the article. I too enjoy being transported into other worlds; I always remember your post and photos on the wild turkeys in your yard. Lovely!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I do remember it from your book. No wonder you were able to depict it so vividly. Like KeVin, I want to go there...

Magaly Guerrero said...

I have not read your book yet, but I'm buying it tomorrow. I read this post and I thought of my Dominican Republic, and the Mango tree I used to climb when I was grown up. It was my favorite reading spot. I went home to DR, and tree was gone :( There is a lotto stand where it used to be!

wordtryst said...

Zinnia, I hope you do visit some day before it's all died and gone to a better place, in which case you might be visiting in an official capacity. :)

(I'm beginning to sound like a tourist brochure, I think; maybe the Tourism Development Authority should pay me?)

Magaly, let me know if you enjoy it; I love getting reader feedback! They cut down your mango tree and built a lotto stand? That's just - criminal. And it's happening all around, you know. {{shudder}}

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Sometimes it's the memory of a place that holds its charm, rather than the newer reality.

wordtryst said...

Sandra, I agree. Maybe we edit out the negatives unconsciously so things seen through the lens of nostalgia seem better than they actually were.

Debi said...

So sad. But I guess that's what we have the capacity for memory for ... and memory in the hands of a writer is memory shared and a vision that never truly dies.

DiGgA said...

This takes me back to some of the best times in my life... Thanks for numerous great childhood experiences mom!

P.S. Time to get the D40!

:P

wordtryst said...

So true, Debi. Thank goodness for memories. I think that's one of the reasons I write, to preserve the things I remember.

You're welcome, son! You made it all so very, very special. You are the best kid evah! (Man, I so need that Nikon! Think I'll just appropriate your Canon... Joke! Don't look at me like that!) :D