Saturday, 28 December 2013

Tens of Thousands of Words

Road trip!!!

Ahh, yes. The sound of music to a vacationer's ear; a lovely note on which to end this year.

I'm happy to have shared these posts with you in 2013. Glad you took the time to read what I wrote. #writeorsuffocate

The road trip in December took us to Mystic Mountain Rain Forest, St. Ann, Jamaica.  It's easy to understand why folks take dozens, if not hundreds of pics, of a breathtaking view! It's an effort to capture "unphotographable beauty". :-)

The staff at Mystic Mountain were excellent! They helped make the day wonderful and unforgettable.

These pics say tens of thousands of words. Hope you enjoy 'em. Better yet, hope you go!

All the best to you and yours for 2014!

Mount Rosser, St. Ann

Mount Rosser, St. Ann

Mount Rosser, St. Ann

Folks riding the Sky Explorer, Mystic Mountain, St. Ann

End of the line - or the beginning of the next!

The Look-out Tower, Mystic Mountain Rain Forest, St. Ann

Jamaica's motto - "Out of Many, One People" - as it appears on the Coat of Arms

Flora and Fauna in Jamaica

The next few pics: Jamaica's Maritime History

Bobsledding and such


The Hummingbird - The National Bird of Jamaica
The Hummingbird - "Doctor Bird"

View from Mystic Mountain Rain Forest, St. Ann
Crystal clear water in the pool at Mystic Mountain

Bobsledder on track

Long water slide - for adults and children - ending in adjacent pool

Bobsledder on track

Sled - pool - slide - view

Mainly for the children...

Visit already! 

Humming Bird

Humming Bird 

View from the Look-out Tower - looking west

Riding the Sky Explorer - 700 ft above sea level - on the way back down

Canopy of trees

A gorgeous day for sailing

Las' lick!


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Year of the Tomato

This year was The Year of the Tomato. Before you start racking your brain and doubting your knowledge of world and cultural affairs, please note that this title was solely attributed to my home. See, I had tried growing tomatoes for the first time last year. I feel compelled to add a bit of background here. Last year summer, I stopped in at Walmart to purchase a packet or two of seeds - in late July! The Walmart Associate seemed just a tad annoyed that I would ask for seed packets in late July. He let me know that they were no longer available or some such thing. 

But, I was intent on planting. So, Plan B. I got home and made a visit to my fridge. I retrieved two of the store-bought tomatoes and sliced and diced them. I then prepped the soil in my planter box and got to planting. The long and the short? The frost came just as the first blossom did. With a heavy sigh, I uprooted the foot-long plants. They were lush and green but getting by solely on looks was not cutting it. I promised myself to "try again next year."

Last spring, in haste, I made my way back to Walmart - in MARCH! I got all the accouterments for soil preparation and seeds/seedling planting. At the end of April, wanting to follow the instructions to a T, we finally got to planting. (I invited my 4yo niece to participate, thinking that she would enjoy making this journey; seeing her handiwork come to fruition and so on and so forth.) My sis took some pics of the "then," as I had a really good feeling we would have something luscious to capture in the "now." We used the bio-degradable seedling boxes - the ones that you simply stick into the soil outside/in planter box, when the seedlings are a bit grown. I gave my niece her tray of boxes and I kept a few for myself. 

Imagine my horror when, one evening, about three weeks later, (my seedlings having not yet burst forth, but, in an act of clumsiness), I knocked my trays off the work table. This, coupled with the fact that my niece's seedlings had started shooting up, was too much for me to bear. Tears came to my eyes. Why? Why my seedlings? Not to say I was wishing such ill-fortune for my niece's lot, but, after all that effort, I felt the little tomatoes had me beat. I pouted, stooped and scooped up the dirt and poured it back across the trays, refilling each. In the beginning, they had been carefully planted - two seeds in each. Now, I just didn't care!

About a week later, finally! A burst of white and green. I transferred them about two weeks after that, into the planter box. Little did I know the journey was just about to begin. For the next two and a half months, I watered those plants - and waited; talked to them - and waited; nurtured their soil - and waited; infused their water with Miracle-Gro now and then - and waited; tied them to sticks - and waited; changed to longer sticks - and waited. The plants were healthy and big and a few of them were getting all sort of entangled with their neighbours. Friends and family would come by and remark on how lovely they looked. And I agreed. I just wanted to add, "But, I'm not growing tomato plants! I'm growing tomatoes!" Where were the tomatoes? Why were they taking so long my goodness gracious meeee!  It got to where I just told myself that I was just interested in seeing where all this would lead. Even though I could not remember how long the back of the packet had said it would take for them to bear, there was no way on earth - except in the planter box at my home, apparently - should it take this long! But, I kept at it.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I got home with the intention of transplanting some of them. Maybe they needed even more sunlight? I decided to dig up the ones not-so-entangled and move them to a garden area downstairs. Lo and behold! What did I see? The first blossom! I did my happy dance right there! Then, like any normal Twitter user (a probable oxymoron for another time), I tweeted a picture! You would not believe the joy that welled up in my bosom. Sheer joy. That was about July 10 (as if!) It was July 10. Then came another period of more talking to them - and waiting; watering them - and waiting, etc. On July 30, I spotted the first fruit - or three. Tweeted. I kept nurturing; they enjoyed an occasional shower blessing and more fruits kept coming. When they grew to, what I thought was, an appropriate size, I grew impatient. Again. On August 31, another pic. Another tweet. Another question: "Any day now, ripe?" 

By this time, this felt like a roller-coaster journey. But, I knew I could not hurry the process. I simply had to do my part and Mother Nature would do hers. Come a mere four days later, I spotted the first ripe tomato! The usual: happy dance and tweet. And, "Thank You, God!" I also sent pics to family members and friends. Sheer joy. Not to brag, or anything, but these were some sweet tomatoes! I gave away a few dozens to family and friends and had the pleasure of gracing my meals with my home-grown tomatoes.

Fall came. Many of the plants dried up - the circle of life - but, even then, a few fruits were still coming. I just kept reaping until the frost came.

In this The Year of the Tomato, I learned quite a bit about myself - and my writing journey.

The Voice
Speaking of journeys, this is the morning after the night before Tessanne Chin was announced the winner of NBC's The Voice. I recall reading something she'd said about this being a dream come true; a remarkable place to be on her journey; giving thanks to God for "exceeding abundantly above..." Loved that! Indeed, most dreams do not come true overnight. They take work and commitment - and it doesn't hurt to have strong family support. Congrats again, Tessanne! You are an inspiration to fellow Jamaicans, and people all over the world. I/we wish you all the very best on your new adventure. #WhatARide!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Mandela's Death is All About Me. And You. And Him.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died last week Thursday, the fifth of December. Mr. Mandela was the main icon of the anti-apartheid revolution and one of the greatest fighters for freedom in modern times. Much has been written about his life and, upon his death, his legacy and impact and inspiration. It is a universally accepted truth that, indeed, the world has lost one of the greatest human beings ever.

It's All About Me
I held Mr. Mandela in high esteem. I recall the moment in Jamaica when friends and I heard he was released from prison in February, 1990. The clanging of pot covers, shouts of joy from hither and yon, and music filled the air - for a long time. At the time, I could not yet wrap my head around the enormity of the significance that his stand, his imprisonment and, then, his release, meant. After all, many of the historic moments were yet to follow. Still, I knew in my own heart I admired this man who stood for something, for so long, against so many strong and unrelenting odds. To overcome all of that, to the point of presidency of South Africa; to the point of continuing to work on behalf of others (even when he had done far more than enough by then), and to the point of inspiring countless lives, all that was a demonstration of an enviable measure of strength, resilience, persistence, humility, graciousness, forgiveness and kindness that few possess. And that is what moved me about his life: He was put through the furnace of affliction and he came out as pure gold.

I honestly don't wish to regurgitate everything we've seen in newspapers from around the globe and in books and so on. (The Toronto Star carried a timeline.) Information is now at our fingertips. What is not at our fingertips; what may not be touched on screen, is the impact and inspiration he was, just by doing what he did with his life. For me, he made the world a better place. He certainly left it better than the way he found it. And, I am so very thankful that our lifetimes intersected. True, I was saddened on hearing the news, but, after quick acceptance, gratitude took over.

It's All About You
There can be, and will ever be, only one Nelson Mandela. You are not him. I imagine that's the balancing act some people, now faced with the breadth and depth of the life of Mr. Mandela, have suddenly found themselves trying to manage. Of course, Mr. Mandela was around for a long time. For some people, the length of time he'd spent in prison was equal to or greater than how long they'd been alive. Since his passing, however, and the fact that news outlets everywhere have been at pains constantly to feed us with all things Mandela, it may be hard for some not to feel overwhelmed, under-valued and unfulfilled. All of a sudden, those folks are thinking that their not-perfect-but-ok life has taken a turn for the inadequate. I'd have one thing to say to them: Stop it. Ok, more than one thing. Remember that bit I'd written a few months ago, encouraging us to arise and shine? Funny, the excerpt by Marianne Williamson is usually attributed to, you guessed it, Nelson Mandela. I saw a tweet with the misappropriated attribution just yesterday. The truth of it still holds, however. And, how fitting that the same sentiment is used to reinforce the point I'm making:

From her book, A Return to Love, this is Marianne’s piece, the excerpt popularly known as: Our Deepest Fear.  (And, no, I don’t know her like that, but I don’t think she’d mind.)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Hey, you are who you are. And, you are neither called, nor expected, to be anyone else. Shall I start quoting Dr. Seuss up in here?

Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you. ~ Dr. Seuss

In the light of Mr. Mandela's life and death and legacy, it would be remiss of you to miss the point of his life. I'm positive that there are many lessons to learn from him. I found this AP report of athletes paying tribute to him particularly heartwarming. But, I believe the essence of his life was this: Do for others. That was it. Do for others. It may be looked at and dissected to reveal: Do something. Stand for something. Help others. Forgive. Be kind. And, so on and so forth. I believe that if we start feeling small in his light, we dishonour his memory and prove ourselves to be bad students. Let it not come true in our own lives - that we learn from history we do not learn from history. (So it has to repeat itself, is the idea.) Let's take the torch and continue the work. It will be alright, in the end. And, as that saying goes, since everything is not yet alright, I can assure you, it is not yet the end.

It's All About Mr. Mandela
After all - and we're not in any way deifying the man - he was one of the great ones. We cannot deny that there was something about him and in him; something that coursed through his veins and heart that made him continue the fight. He deserves the kudos and the accolades and the honours and the esteem and the pedestal and and and. Yes, he had support. But, he, himself, had to - and did - make the choice not to give up. And, after coming forth as pure gold, how magnanimous he was toward his former oppressors; how he lived the exemplary life of forgiveness and kindness. I like that quote from the AP article: "If I hate, I would not be a free man anymore." So thankful for his life and what he did with it.

Remember, remember, the fifth of December. What a life on which the sun set that day.

Walk good, Mr. Mandela.