Thursday, 29 April 2010

Random yard shots: purple petrea goes berserk

Toward the end of the recent drought the purple petrea by the front gate struggled to flower for weeks, managing only a few scattered sprays. Two weeks ago the rain came and it got a good drenching. This is what followed:

Looks a bit like photos I've seen of wisteria, but not as drapey, and ours is a shrub, not a vine. The pink poui has also been displaying itself for weeks, almost too beautiful to be real, and now its gold cousin is popping all over the hillsides and verges. Makes me glad to be alive!

[I took these photos with my ratty cell phone camera. My son needs to drop by with his trusty Canon to do this thing justice.]

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Joy of Rejection

Today on Novel Spaces I take a look at some famous writers whose work was repeatedly, scathingly, cruelly rejected. Compared to some of their stories, our rejections are gravy.

WHO Was Rejected?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

CLS interviews Vaughn Stanford

My writing buddy Vaughn has an interview up on Caribbean Literary Salon this week. Some of you might remember him: he once caused a bit of a stir among a couple lady-bloggers who hang out here. He said if I didn't announce his interview on my blog I'd be in dire trouble and he'd de-friend me. I'd be so lucky...

Vaughn is an author and mathematics teacher in Trinidad. He has written, produced and directed theater plays, and also writes screenplays, short stories and novels. Remember ladies, we don't want his head swelling up now, so don't be too nice!

Interview with Vaughn T. Stanford at Caribbean Literary Salon

Saturday, 10 April 2010

El Tucuche, sacred mountain

Let me tell you about my favorite mountain. It's in the northern range of the island, to the east of Maracas Bay, that very bay featured in the masthead above (Ed. note: the masthead changes so the one you see might not be the one that features Maracas Bay). See the cloudy area at the top right of the photo? Go inland a bit, and east some more, and there's my mountain: El Tucuche. In school we were taught it was the second highest mountain on the island, and according to local lore, it was considered a sacred place by the Amerindians. The only known Amerindian glyphs in Trinidad occur on a rock outcrop here. I've hiked El Tucuche twice in my fitter days when I belonged to a naturalist group.

That first time was the hardest hike I've ever tackled, and I've been on quite a few. It makes No Mercy Hill on the trail to Paria Bay look like something in a child's sandbox. The first time I ventured up there I didn't think I'd make it home alive. On the way back down the mountain I was sick and trembling and wanted nothing more than to lie at the side of the trail and die. But, with the help of a fellow hiker (wonder what became of Vibert?) I made it down more or less intact (although my toenails slowly turned black and fell out and took forever to grow back).

El Tucuche, Trinidad
Image courtesy Carole Anne Ferris/CafeMoka Gallery

But the climb was so worth it. It's another world up there on the peak, where mists swirl through the trees and imbue everything with an eerie other-worldliness that defies description. The vegetation is different, and so is the fauna. Strange bird calls abound, and the frogs are painted in such brilliant colours they must surely be poisonous. This is the home of the El Tucuche golden tree frog, found only here and on that other bump on the local landscape, El Cerro Aripo. The ground is cushioned with super-thick, bright green moss that's a balm to feet that have been abused for hours.

After the last steep scramble there you are, on the plateau at the summit of the mountain, with the world spread at your feet. At first you're too exhausted to do anything but sit or lie there, semi-comatose, dreading the long, arduous hours of descent still ahead, but as your breathing slows and your heart stops pounding and there's a glimmer of light in the dark vortex of weariness that has become your world, the euphoria begins to set in. You did it! My first-hand experience of the devastating beauty of the physical world, especially on these hikes where I'm able to climb above the clamour of man-made existence, is one of the main reasons I'm not an out-and-out atheist. To me, it's as irrational to think that the universe is some random accident as my strange substantiation of intelligent creation must be to a nonbeliever.

But I digress. The second time around, El Tucuche was still a long, hard, exhausting climb to the top and back down, but I fared much better. The "never again!" of the first round gave place to "well, maybe I can be persuaded to make it a hat-trick".

There's an amazing footnote to the El Tucuche anecdote. Some years ago, there was an announcement that more accurate measuring technology had revealed that El Cerro Aripo, formerly believed to be Trinidad's highest mountain, was actually the second highest, and El Tucuche assumed its rightful place as the point on the island that comes closest to touching the heavens, a fitting tribute to that strangely shaped rock at the top of the world. Well, my world anyway.

...and another amazing footnote:
Raymond Banfield contacted me after reading the article above. He's a 90 year old veteran climber who has scaled El Tucuche more than 100 times over his lifetime - and still climbs it! His most recent ascent was earlier this month as part of his 90th birthday celebrations. The local media covered the event; the link to the Trinidad Express article is here.

Raymond "Don Ramos" Banfield gives the thumbs up signal on his historic
ascent to the summit of Mount El Tucuche, November 2010

Raymond is planning his next hike to the top for early next year. I can think of nothing I'd like to do at 90 that tops this. Keep on climbing, Raymond! You have become my great inspiration. Hope to see you on the summit some day soon!

- November 20, 2010

Note added 19-Nov-2011Raymond passed away on November 10, 2011, three days after his ninety-first birthday. I'll climb El Tucuche again, and I know he'll be there hiking next to me - in spirit.