Thursday, January 31, 2019

Time To Jump In (Jamaica/Madison, WI)

Time To Jump In by Brandy Larson A white brahma bull stands alone on a high hillside - red earth and tufted green grass. We drive past with meadow and acacia trees on either side. The small fruit stand is next to a rocky outcropping on the edge of the road. Stopping for a cold coconut our vendor deftly hacks off the top of the green husk with a few strikes of his machete and offers a straw - cool and not too sweet - coconut wata. Down to the last drop he wacks the shell in half and we scoop out the jelly lining with a wedge of green husk for a spoon. Food of the Goddess. (Time to turn on the space heater in the basement to prevent the pipes from freezing...). A roadside restaurant trails fragrant smoke. My driver Jefta pulls in and we place our order as we watch the smoke rising from the wood fire coals roasting half jerk chickens. Sitting at a picnic table beneath a thachroof we sip from sweating bottles of ginger beer and Red Stripe. The pretty young woman who took our order calls us up to the tall counter as she chops the roasted meat into irregular pieces with a cleaver, crunch crunch, on a thick round of wood. She has prepared plates with chopped cabbage and carrot salad and a stack of white bread and butter in a basket. We nibble the meat off the bones, eating with our hands. (Put on some layers and insulated boots to brave the morning air. I brush off snow here and there to set out some seeds out mostly for sparrows, my flock of over 30 birds. I put out peanuts in the shell for a couple of crows that have also been hanging around. The suit is frozen, so they can't get at any of the much needed tallow). On the back veranda the sea is visible about 75 yards down our yard and a slope above purple flowering lignum vitae. The narrow path is footworn. A goat enclosure is on the left on the gentler side of the hill. The humble gate is tied closed with a bit of fraying rope. In the morning Miss B (79 and not counting), staff in hand, heads down to let them out to free range for the day. They come up behind her single file with a big nanny in the lead. The kids, many recently born, frisk about exploring, hopping everywhere and butting each other. They are tan and white, spotted tri-colors, some black, some grey and two white ones. Last trip I named her Milk and her kid Milky. Some are smaller African goats suited to this semi arid land, but recently some larger goats have come into the herd, the big nanny produces triplets instead of twins. Up in the yard they drink from buckets and nose around for tossed out kitchen scraps. (Clearing off the snow off the car again. There is a light crust on the top. I check the food I put out for the rabbit and the opossum last night. It has been covered in snow). I walk down the footpath to the bay thinking how long feet have smoothed the way, many bare feet even today. First the Taino people nearly wiped out by disease sometime after Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1503; the pirates starting around 1655; the Africans, freed in the British Empire by law in 1834, they (the men?) were eligible to vote as of 1838; and more recently the local folks, some descended more than several generations ago from shipwrecked Scottish sailors who stayed, became fishermen with last names of Elliott, Gordon and Strachan, who bought large tracts of land. Billy's Bay, named after a pirate, stretches for a mile to the north ending in tall sedimentary cliffs and below sharp reef rocks above the water level. I wander down the beachfront, one of only a hand full of people, wading knee deep in the surf and plan to go to Frenchman Bay Beach with bigger waves for body surfing and people to hang out with. Pelicans reel and dive for their dinner. I see someone out on the reef with a spear gun, maybe he'll stop by B's later and sell me some fish. (School cancelled again today, on Monday for snow and now for the bitter cold and brutal winds. The weather guy said it's colder here now than in Alaska or even in the Antarctic! Lowest temperature here in 20 years. Even my cat Alsan is getting cabin fever). I'm packing my shoulder bag with journal, book and swim suit. Coated in sunscreen I put on my sunhat. First I'll walk to the bakery (called the coffee shop by the locals) to hang out with some resident tourists and tourists. The bouganvilla riots over barbed wire fences and privacy walls of homes and villas. Tiny lizards dart here and there. There are cacti of many sizes and shapes, huge blue agave plants and flowering poincianas. Later at Frenchman I hope the surf is up. Time to jump in.

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