The February theme for my painting challenge group, Girls Just Wanna Paint is "tropical". Tropics, tropical. I haven't spent a lot of time in the tropics. Hmmmm. I began pondering, and was suddenly flooded with memories of a wonderful trip to Jamaica years ago with my mother and her friend, Mary. Sitting quietly, the details have come roaring back, sights, smells, sounds, personalities, adventures.. it's not that I'd forgotten the week away, just hadn't pulled it up for a mental polishing lately.
Brief details: my mother had learned of a small private house on the northern Jamaican coast for rent, a few miles east of Ocho Rios. The rent included services of a housekeeper and her husband.. May and Leonard (pronounced Le-NARD). May cooked our meals; fresh, flavorful, local ingredients. Leonard sort of hung around in the afternoons, and evenings. We played dominoes, "the real dominoes" as he put it, and chatted through the evenings. He spoke softly, and told stories of the island; excusing himself each evening around 9pm with a polite, "good night". Turns out, Leonard was sleeping in a small shed in the small yard, and was there to encourage any locals walking the road late at night to keep moving, rather than loitering outside the gate of the house with the three American women... I heard him about 2 in the morning the first night, on the street not far from my bedroom window. I could pick up a word or two of his patois.. "move along" "nothing for you here". Leonard's son was a police officer down in Kingston, and I had a sense they were both well known to the locals.
On day, we took a walk up and up along a densely wooded road to Firefly, Noel Coward's lovely retreat. Turns out that Coward had a larger house for entertaining down along the water near Port Maria, but he built Firefly as his private writing retreat. (from a local tour website - "Noel
Coward’s mountaintop Jamaican home and
burial site is an American-free zone. The
tropical sanctuary high above the brassy
resorts and impoverished towns of Jamaica,
links the Caribbean island’s present with
its glamorous past.")
Emerging from the humid, quiet, overgrown woods onto Firefly's clearing was a bit reminiscent of my first trip to Fenway park.. walking among the crowds, dense, noisy, close before climbing the ramp and gasping as the panorama unfolded below. We spent a few hours exploring and enjoying the breeze up at Firefly before beginning our descent. I recall that the skies opened and the resulting downpour produced raindrops so large you could almost catch one in your fist. Mom, Mary, and I each grabbed huge leaves, using them as makeshift umbrellas as we laughed, sang, and slogged our way back home.
Leonard picked up driftwood and roots from the beach and carved them into a variety of birds. Mom and I each bought one of his unique sculptures. For years, the birds lived in our respective homes. They were reunited when Mom passed away in 2006, and now live on my mantel.
I have enjoyed the idea of tropics, and am reveling in the memories of Jamaica with my mother years ago. Thanks for looking.