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Return to Guadeloupe - 2018

Introduction  Marie Galante   St. François  le Moule   Sainte Rose   Deshaies

Sainte Rose

A night time view of the beautiful B & B where we are staying this week. I think Dawn is making us Ti Punches at the bar.

Meditating with Hammers

The sound of a hammer hitting a nail is a message. It is not the message of music, not even the message of the African drum, rather a picture of the person who has hit the nail, their experience, their skill, even their mood. It is the rhythm of work. In my life I have mostly heard the sound of workers framing houses and putting on roofs. A good carpenter sets the nail with a tap and then drives it with three or four blows. There is a pause as another nail is gotten out of the nail pouch and the rhythm is repeated. It is a solid sound, the hammer stays in contact with the nail as it is driven nearly an inch with each blow. The pitch goes up as the nail shortens and the last sound is different as the hammer finishes at the surface of the wood. A good carpenter will not hit it again. It is done and he moves on. There would be a crew working on the house so the sound would gain in complexity. In the summer, the noise of house building would blend in with listening to baseball outdoors on a transitor radio during a lazy day in the back yard.

There are other jobs that employ hammers. I have been listening to men build forms in order to pour a foundation for a wall that our hosts' neighbors are building. We can't see them because they are just down the hill behind some bushes. Here the sounds portray a different picture. First of all they are masons. I think their hearts are in the water, sand and cement with which they make their walls. Their wood construction is only a temporary thing to shape the final work. The wood goes up and then it comes down and then up again in a different place until the wall is finished. Maybe they reuse the nails. The might be rusty by now. Although they chat when they first come to work, there is little talk once they start hammering. But these guys’ sounds are much more like the sounds that I make when I build or repair something around the house. A glancing blow adds a tinny sound and then the thud of the hammer hitting the wood, followed by the taps that you need to straighten out the nail. Then there is the ringing bell sound when I drive a spike into a piece of hard wood with a hammer that is too light. The nail doesn't move, the hammer bounces back which frees the nail to vibrate back and forth, ringing like a bell. Once it makes this sound it almost never works to just keep hitting it harder like I do. You just have to go find a sledge hammer and whack it in with that.

I think their sounds are a result of building next to a flood canal and having to improvise bracing so they end up nailing where they have no good place for their feet. Hanging over a railing to hammer a nail is very different from a framer's or roofer's solid stance. At the end of today, I heard someone nailing with a beautiful managed rhythm. I imagine the forms are up and he is going back to reinforce them before the concrete is poured.

Mostly this listening has been while we have been meditating and the rest while sitting by the pool and writing this section. My meditation practice converted the guys' banging, which should have been unbearable, into images and allowed my mind to try to see who they were. My writing practice made me dig deeper into the details, but we did head to the beach before I or they finished. We are not crazy.

Plage de Clugny

Clugny Dawn:
Plage de Clugny is a lovely beach. However it is also the place where a 17-year-old body boarder disappeared over a week ago when the surf was dangerously rough. I grew up loving the ocean. My parents, brother and I spent weekends riding the waves at Jones Beach on Long Island, NY and some July vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. As a youngster, I was fearless. I did have a scary incident at South Beach on the Vineyard that perhaps contributed to my becoming more timid about the waves as I got older. So last week, Stephen dove in, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. In the last couple of days, the sea has calmed down a bit, and I have really enjoyed being in the waves, today even being inspired by a couple of young men with body boards to body surf myself. It was great fun! So many memories of my own childhood as well as my children’s childhood on Cape Cod.

Clugny big wave Stephen:
We learned anout the death on French TV. On TV. I seem to remember that the boy was bodyboarding. In the newspapers they just said he was swept out to sea. The second picture came from the news article. I don't know if it is a stock photo or if someone went out to the beach and shot it. This event, combined with some other things, has caused me to start writing a murder mystery about what might have happened. Yesterday, while playing in much smaller waves, I got caught inside and was roughed up pretty good. It is the first time that I can remember that my back was arched by a wave. It also held me down for a while longer than I am used to. It all worked out, but it was enough for me for the day.

Trois-Cornes Hike

waterfall with Stephen Stephen:
Not the hike, but the rock at the top of the falls that was the destination of the trail. It was shaped like a tri-cornered hat. Dawn saved the day twice, both by choosing to take this loop trail in the direction that was suggested and after talking to two girls who had just come off the trail, she decided we should pick up a couple of hiking sticks from a pile at the beginning of trail. Both were good ideas. I have always been snooty about hiking sticks. I am proud of my balance and my leg power and feel that adding a weaker limb, my arm, to the equation and then needing to find a place to put the stick would slow me down and make me less stable. Within minutes of the start of the walk, the stick had found its rhythm. When not needed it would just tap along, but this was not the case in ninety percent of the time.

waterfall Dawn:
I took this photo deliberately from a distance because I feel that it shows a human being, in this case Stephen, at an appropriate scale with the rest of nature. We humans are but a small part of the natural world. Our attempts to dominate nature have surely brought some benefits to our own species, but our hubristic shaping of the environment is also wreaking havoc on all species, our own included. Will we wake up in time?

(I bet Jupiter is going to make fun of this paragraph!)

The trail went up or down, mostly down as we worked our way from the ridge top where we parked the car to the river bed where the falls were. The stick placed forward on the trail coming down on mud did the same thing as a good pole plant in downhill skiing. It kept your weight over your feet. If your weight is back toward the hill, your skis or feet tend to shoot out from under you in a very unpleasant way. And this trail was muddy, as advertised. And slippery because of the clay.

We had been here before. Last year, when Thierry and Catherine had come over to visit us, spending the day the Botannical Gardens in Deshais, we drove over here with the intention of hiking this trail. But it had been raining for a couple of days so it was impassable. I think Thierry collected a couple of plant samples and I inspected the sulphur baths. It would have been nice to hike with them, the trail's slow pace in the middle of a tropical forest would have been amicable to conversation..

Dawn's arms But now we are hiking down the side of the ravine, one long switchback takes all the way back to the return trail for a confusing moment but we hike on. We reached an intersection that was mysterious at best. One sign pointed left and said parking, the other one pointed the other way and said nothing. I forgot to take a picture of the map at the top of the trail so we mulled and very soon a pair of hikers appeared and said yes the falls are that way. As we got closer to the river crossing that would lead us upstream to the falls we met more couples hiking toward us with differing opinions about whether one could cross. Dawn on the trail The French couple said “non” but the English couple said “We did it and I'm kind of wobbly”. Encouraged, we went on, crossed the river, found the falls, took a light-struck, interesting picture, ate lunch, snapped a picure over Dawn's shoulder of peeling a clementine. There were fish in a pool just below the falls where we had lunch that we couldn't identify. Photos were useless, but I did get a video of them darting about. After a rest, we re-crossed the river and slogged our way straight up the side of the muddy ravine through a couple of hundred feet of elevation back to the car. It took about three days to get our shoes semi-cleaned and they are still not clean and are not brought into civilized company.
Death on a Beach
Hey Dawn,

I like your paragraph, even though I know you didn't decide to make Stephen small. It was just where you were having lunch. But good, you ran with it. Hubristic is a great mouthful. I love it. Yes, there is some wreaking by humans going on in the world, but don't underestimate the power of the world to wreak back. You didn't even talk about the oneness of creation, in which I know you believe, but it is really hard to talk or write about, because when you do you assume the existence of the other.

(signed) Jupiter
Hey Jupiter,

Butt out, you are not in the travelogue. You belong in “Death on Clugny Beach”. Since we started writing “Death”, you have become part of our travels, but keep your writing over there. While we are at it, please be nice to Dawn. She is sensitive and doesn't like to be made fun of. I don't either, but I know a couple of things about you and might just blurt some out if you are not careful.

(signed) Stephen

Jupiter is a spirit who has hooked on to us. Together, we are writing a mystery about the death of a seventeen year old boy who was swept away from Clugny Beach at the end of January. Don't pay any attention to him he is not supposed to be writing here. Dawn evoked him. I am sure that he has a crush on her.

Another Palm Tree and the Spirits of the Terrace.

another Palm Tree

Another palm tree. Not as big as the first one, but friendlier. I think its spirit reflects our hosts who are gracious and kind. But the tree watches over us in our place for the week, a lovely covered terrace with their house on one end and our room at the other.
Drapery spirits
If I am on the terrace and the wind is blowing, I have guests, the drapes. They move in such a gentle human fashion that I find myself turning about to greet them, but it is just the drapes. They are like young brides, their hair cinched in back simply and their their straight slim dresses extend to the floor. Perhaps they are waiting for their bridegrooms. But maybe they have turned away from all that and are simply the virgins of the terrace who turn on the temple lights each evening. I had thought it was some mechanical timing device.

Terrasse du Port (Connecting the Dots)

dots DJK Stephen:
Back in high school I was a photographer. I worked for the school newspaper and yearbook. I don't think I have to say that it was all film then, and mostly black and white. I mention this because when I put these photos on the website, they reminded me of my battle with dust in the darkroom. They can strike whether you are developing negatives or printing photos. They can take any shape and can ruin a lot of work. Dawn is in charge of writing this section, so I won't say any more...

The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed, so our hosts suggested we try this one. We got there at 7:30, early for the French, and there was only one other couple seated. The sort of Spanish-looking man behind the bar said we could pick any table and took our drink order. Most places we have gone to in Gwada have been quite casual, but here were tablecloths and cloth napkins and little devices that projected moving spots of light all over the room. By the time we were finishing our drinks, the place had filled up with both tourists and locals. It was a place to eat fish, which we did quite enjoyably. The service was fairly slow, but what’s the hurry? Stephen insisted on taking a couple of short videos of the moving lights that looked particularly vibrant on my white shirt. We tried to figure out how these dots of light could connect to our video theme for Reach. Hmm, our concept is about connecting so how about “connect the dots?” dots Stephen

After dinner, I went to the toilette (twalet in Creole) and stopped by the kitchen to thank the cook. The host, bartender, server was feverishly scraping dishes while a wiry Creole woman at least my age was cooking. She had done an excellent job with the fish and appreciated my telling her so. As we were paying the bill at the bar, I said to the all-purpose man how lucky he was to have such a good cook. He told me that she was his wife and they owned and ran the place together. There have been so many wonderful examples of interracial marriages and families in Guadeloupe. Although during Carnaval season, the history of slavery is evoked, there seems to be a pretty relaxed racial atmosphere here

Well. I will say a little more. It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen to have these bits of light crawling arounds Dawn's face. We were seated in a corner. Dawn had her back to the main lighting in the room, so the dots were much stronger on her than on me.

Miller Time at Les Bières de Lézarde

beer time with Dawn I can count on one finger the times that Dawn has said to me “Hey, let's go out and drink some beer”, but it did happen when she was feeling a little house bound by a day of my writing and photo manipulation. She found a craft beer place on the internet and it was only a half hour away. “Let's go girl” and we were off. Maybe a little less enthusiam and more finding out more precisely where is this place would have made the trip go smoother, but after a stop or two and a desperate call to google maps, (who answers when she has mothing better to do, and then when she gets bored, flips us a “GPS lost” and goes off with somebody else), brought us to Les Bières de Lézarde, a gorgeous brasserie, that sits atop a hanging tropical garden over a river bed. The meat of the matter were in all the vats and tanks that were making the beer that we were about to drink. Actually not that much, two for me, a dark and a white, and a hibiscus flavored one for Dawn. They were all pretty good, but aimed at the French market who wouldn't know what to do with an IPA if they saw one.

beer time with Stephen But for the Americans, it was like someone hung out a sign for free beer. The foursome that we talked to were from Washington, D.C. They were goverment workers hanging out in the Caribbean while the government shut down, then started up, then shut down again or didn't. Amazed that the government could do anything while they were away, they sighed and ordered another beer. They were two IT people and a doctor at Walter Reed and a guy from the IRS. The doctor was showing off a black eye from an encounter with a wave. We have been both looking at and swimming in pretty large waves. It is not the size of the wave that matters but the shape and placement. A lot of these waves break right at the shore, throw you down on the sand and then dump a lot of water on you. Imagine someone holding a three car garage full of water up over you and then opening the doors to dump its contents. You have to pick your waves and be ready for the consequences.

We took a couple of pictues. The place is in the highlands, the sea is faraway. We are in the core of the island. It reminded me of Costa Rica. (Dawn)

A hike to Plage Tillet and back

hike to Tillet

This photo is from the trail that at times hugs the top of the cliff. It wasn't long but it behaved like a stairmaster, always up or down. It goes down to the beach west of Clugny, passing the nudiste beach, which kept itself hidden. It starts and returns to the end of Clugny where we think the boy might have been killed on the rocks, so it hike had its solemn moments. The picture celebrates the diversity of shorelines that Guadaloupe has.

A note to my brother

mobile I wrote him a note to answer a question. I will follow it with our AirBnB review and more details and throw in some pictures.
We are finishing a wonderful week in a real b&b where we are given a great breakfast everyday. We have just a room with private bath, but have our own fridge where we can keep our stuff for our light dinners. Tomorrow we go to MangoPlaya in Deshaies where we will be for three weeks. We were there last year. It is our first housing rental repeat for more than just a night.

fish We had a lot of rain this week and I can't imagine a better place to hang out with the rain. On the terrace, we were dry, but could celebrate the waves of tropical storms that would sweep over us dumping torrential rain all around and then sweep out bringing back the sun.


Dawn doing yoga

wooden heads

About the Above Pictures

We should have spent a day photographing the terace and the things in it, and the lighting at night. It was the most beautifully decorated room that I can remember being in. She knew how add things and add things and then right at the correct moment, stop. It was a pleasure to come out of our room in the morning and see it in early light. Later in the day, after out swim, we would watch the turn of the earth suck the light of the landscape only to be replaced by lots of carefully placed lighting fixtures both out and indoors. The Buddha was more than twice life sized. The hanging fish she painted herself. The blue painting on the wall behind Dawn's yoga uses broken mirrore as mosaic pieces. The wooden heads are all about connection.

Our Review

I am writing this review in English to encourage more Anglophone visitors to stay with Nicole and Claudio. Although I communicated with them mostly in French, Nicole’s English is excellent which was great for Stephen as his French is a bit limited. Claudio even indulged me in practicing some Italian. They were lovely hosts, very welcoming and open. Nicole has created a beautifully artistic home, filled with color, shapes, great lighting, and unusual objects some of which she made herself. This is a true B & B, that is we live in a beautiful room with private bath, but share our hosts’ home. She made wonderful, copious breakfasts (that obviated the need for lunch for us) and we shared the kitchen when making dinner. They even give guests their own refrigerator. Don’t miss the table d’hôte as Nicole is an excellent cook, and it is enjoyable to share the meal together. They also have an adorable dog, beautiful, black “India,” and a pure white cat, “Coco.” Their pets are very “chill” and reflect the relaxed atmosphere of their home. I happen to be allergic to some cats but had absolutely no problem here as the living area is exposed to fresh air on both sides, and Coco never came into our bedroom. We highly recommend Nicole’s lovely B & B in Sainte Rose.

Last Stop, Deshaies