The rains have begun and we have had our first flood. It’s funny – the only time the sun is not out in the Caribbean is when it is raining but that doesn’t make it less hot. The humidity is sweltering and even more so when the clouds linger. But when the sun does come out, it is with a vengeance. Wildflowers pop their heads up in the most unlikely of places. Some burst into flames in the sun, others cling to the hope of the shade. These are some of the wildflowers in my neighbourhood. They don’t scream out at the casual passerby. But if you really stop to look, they reward you with casual lowland beauty.
These are photos of the life of a St. Bess family. It could be any family in St. Elizabeth, but it is mine.
One day I will tell you the stories of my cousins. They are a rainbow of colour in their characters; men with strong shoulders, easy smiles and dedication to their children and women who have toiled with love and determination to feed and provide for their children side by side with their life mates or on their own in their abandonment. One day I will share. But not today. Today the photographs will tell all.
There is a lane in a village up a hill and out of the way in St. Elizabeth. In that lane there are several houses and fields of crop between them. One or two of these houses have electricity, brought by wires run through the hills from the village. The electricity is very weak and flickers every time you plug in the kettle or the iron or anything really. But there is no need for air conditioning here. Here you smell the cool and deep inhales and exhales of the mountain spiced with rosemary, thyme and scallions.
There is a mountain in the kitchen. The house was built into the mountain but this particular stubborn piece just would not be moved. In the really cold mornings the mountain sweats. In heavy rain the water seeps in. But hey, if you can’t move it DECORATE IT!
A piece of fruit cake and coffee. MMMMMMM!
For homes without a tank the need to call for water is very real. We sat on the porch and my cousin told me she’s so glad we don’t need to pay out for water any more! The tank holds all they need and rain comes, thankfully, frequently enough to fill the garden tank as well as the house tanks. The tank is filled with fresh and clean rain water and everything we eat is cooked with it, our clothes are washed with it, and we bathe and wash our hands in it.
Red dirt rich in bauxite and rejecting nothing is ploughed up by tractors and sowed with seed. But there are great mysteries to farming. For instance, the man down the street who plowed up what was once a carrot field and planted nothing but woke up one morning to a growing crop of callalloo.
Waiting for the kids to come home from school, I sat with my book, my pen, and my popsicle watching the breeze dance over the mountainside.
Transportation is no easy thing. Much walking is done in St. Bess as roads such as this country lane are steep and gouged out with water trails in rainy season. Many an undercarriage has been torn up turning up this little lane. To get to school my cousin walks to the end of the lane and takes a taxi. Other taxis pick up primary school children like a bus and take sometimes 8 sometimes 10 little kids to school sitting on each other’s laps.
St. Elizabeth people value education and prize their educated. Every family is proud of their doctors and their lawyers and the whole parish is proud of their esteemed such as Colin Powell, a man from Lover’s Leap. Those who love farming will farm and those who do not must educate themselves out of it. But there is great pride in every occupation as long as it is honest.
Neighbours depend on each other and share their crops freely. Little man has come to ask his Aunty for tomatoes please.
Little boys will make toys out of anything! This time two bucket covers are used as steering wheels and they jostle one another to “drive” through the “gate”.
As evening falls the sky seems to grow even bigger. There is much peace to be had in the simplicity of St. Elizabeth.
They deserve their own page – the flowers of St. Bess. In the words of Aunty Adne, St. Elizabeth earth rejects nothing! Another post on its own will be the food being grown in St. Bess. Keep an eye out for it in the coming days.
She is the FIRST because I’ve never managed to keep a phalaenopsis alive before. And she’s gorgeous isn’t she?!