The monkey’s gift that floated through the bamboo cathedral sky.

This week the third graders in my art class worked on blending.  We looked at portraits painted by German Expressionists.  Emil Nolde and Paula Modherson-Becker were so free with their use of color  and loose brush strokes; allowing the subject’s heart and soul to jump right off the canvas and make us wonder who they are.

Outside of school, we worked on blending ourselves into this foreign world we find ourselves in, even though our hearts and souls often seem set on crawling back into our Vermont lives like a comfy bed.  And pulling the familiar comforter over our heads. Maybe even shedding a tear or two under those cozy covers.


There were definitely some trying moments this week when we wondered who we really think we are,

pig tongues anyone?

and question again our motives for pulling our kids up from their stable lives and bringing them here where there is so much that is unknown and strange, and simply not the way we are used to having things be.

We tried crawling into the bamboo cathedral, a path through the rainforest flanked by an extraordinary number of bamboo trees which arch across creating a stain glass roof with bamboo lead outlining geodesic shapes filled with leaf and sky glass.

Maybe we could hide ourselves in here, settle in, and  wait for the two years to pass.


The playful overhead commotion of monkeys jumping around in the trees made us want to look up instead of hide.  And then one of them threw us a gift.   As we were trying  (unsuccessfully) to capture one of these adorable and very speedy creatures on film, we saw one drop something in our direction.

We all stood in awe, as an empty birds nest floated down and gently landed at our feet.

Maybe we can make a home here after all.  A simple light as a feather kind of home like this gift from the monkeys.  Home doesn’t have to be so heavy and immobile as we think.  Maybe we really do carry our home in our hearts, or our hands, or our minds.  We just have to keep them all open.
We can just float down here and allow the beauty of where we are to dominate over the frustrations of where we are.

And we can give each other the space we need to soak it all in.


And we can get up early on a Sunday morning

avocados, coconuts, and plantains, oh my!

and go to the Central Market, where the locals shop.

Some of us are doing better at this blending project than others.  I may need to work harder to blend than the rest of my family, for obvious reasons.  The truth is, I stuck out like a sore thumb at the Central Market.  And it is so much harder to spot Elias or Nicole in a crowd here than in Vermont!  But I take heart in remembering the the German Expressionists, the third grade artists in my class, and the fresh produce at the market.  Colors are most heartfelt when they are vivid and unexpected.

The market was a feast for the eyes and the soul.

With every interaction and transaction the reasons we were here became easier to remember.

Fresh cinnamon, curry, black pepper, mauby spices, and sorrel sold here.

Onions never looked so good.
This is where you buy the not-so-hot, but so-delicious peppers!

We have come to absolutely love plantains, fried with the right amount of oil and dusted with light sprinkle of sea salt.

We haven’t yet ventured into breadfruit territory.  But I hear you can make a delicious au gratin with them.

We left the market with our bags full of goodies and our hearts wrapped just a little bit tighter around this culture we find ourselves living in.

The fresh avocado with lime on pepperoni pizza was a hit at home.

It is difficult to describe what happened with the rest of our sunday, especially since I didn’t bring our fancy camera along with us; just our old instamatic with an almost run out battery.

When Nicole’s new Trinidadian friend and her mom offered to take us out for a Sunday drive, we didn’t realize the magic we had in store.  We hadn’t quite anticipated we would be driving along in a four wheel drive SUV, top down, sea breeze blowing, exploring the back (and winding and hilly) roads along the shore.

We stopped very often, to either take in the breathtaking view, or to pick fruit from an amazing selection, as varied and colorful as what we saw in the market just a few hours earlier.

We picked plums (the ripe ones are a bright red and orange), bananas, oregano, sugar apples, coffee (unfortunately it wasn’t ready to drink), sorrel,  fresh cashews, limes, guava, and some tropical flowers.

Nicole, Elias, and our new friend Isabel tasting the fresh fruits.

Elias and our new friend Selina picking these cool red fruits that had the consistency of marshmallow.

They didn’t have much of a taste at all, really, but we all decided we loved them.

This is what fresh, just picked from the tree, guava looks like.

So maybe we didn’t all love the guava.

But the strength of our hearts’  hold on Trinidad seemed to grow exponentially today,

An all natural soap that grows on trees. Conveniently found on a tree growing next to a mountain spring fed stream.

maybe even by the minute.

So the lesson this week was about blending.  I don’t know if we passed or failed, but I don’t think we would have opened  the classroom door if that monkey hadn’t sent us down those cheat notes hidden in the birds nest.

We’ll see what next week brings.

6 thoughts on “The monkey’s gift that floated through the bamboo cathedral sky.

  1. Ellen,
    Interesting how the world can simultaneously hold both beauty and frustrations.
    Just remember that when you don’t blend in, you’re still a vibrant note in the whole composition.
    Oh, and that marshmallow-consistency fruit looks a lot like gum hannu at Bapagrama School (I forget the real name, but that’s what students call it, because it’s gummy and can be used for glue!)

    hugs from the beauty and frustration of southern Vermont,

  2. We’re all rooting for you! The little birds nest telling you to stay in the moment. A lovely reminder. Vermont will be here for you when you return. I do believe you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Keep on keeping on, you are doing an amazing job! How lucky your art students are…..and your sweet family too.

  3. Hi Ellen, Junie, Elias, and Nicole! Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous Trinidadian colors with us! Such inspiration all around! It can be so hard to feel uprooted and ‘unblended’ — Being there all together means you’re home — wherever you are! Your Vermont roots are firm…They’re just growing some really cool tendrils!

    • Hi, dear TrinidanianVermonters!
      Replying a bit late as the gremlins made your blog disappear for a while.Worth waiting for, for sure! Ellen, your words and pictures are magical and it is wonderful to see you all in your newl habitat. Thanks and lots of love to all of you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s