Saturday, January 31, 2009
Today, we were in Old San Juan for the second semester of music class at the conservatory. For Bella Jane it was the Tiple workshop which is kind of like a small orchestra and also the beginning of the study of another local instrument the Cuatro. With the inducement of playing in a local paranda or music group I, Ted, have begun to study the Bongo.
I made the photograph above yesterday. I caught Bella Jane by the open window practicing. The scene was so timeless I thought to make it into a photograph that also seemed timeless.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I caught this pelican in flight one morning. The bird gliding silently across the sea moved without moving. A paradox? Sometimes they glide by in pairs or in larger formations shaped in a V. They are quite aware of what is below them and when they spot a ball of fish proceed to dive down, catch and then swallow the small fish. They might sit for a bit on the water and then awkwardly and slowly start to walk, skip, hop and fly in a take-off. At evening's end they will fly to roosts in nearby trees... and at dawn return to hunt. Fishermen are also aware of the pelicans and will follow them to spots where they see these large birds hitting the water. Sometimes when the smaller, bait fish come to the surface it means that below are the larger fish out hunting the small ones ... and so it goes.
Monday, January 26, 2009
This building is located in the pueblo of Rincon. It is decorated with the flags of Puerto Rico (the central flag) and that of the United States. The two national flags are flown side by side because Puerto Rico is a free state in assocation with the United States. So far so good... but what about the third flag... the orange, green and yellow one?
This flag is that of the Municipality of Rincon. From Wikipedia:
"The central white star represents the urban zone. The surrounding nine stars represent the nine wards of the municipality. The red and orange colors symbolize the vigor and the vitality of the city. The yellow represents Christianity. The green represents vegetation and the hope of the progress of the municipality. Finally, the white represents purity and the unity between the wards and the urban zone."
Friday, January 23, 2009
This sunset photograph was made as a storm, just to the south, was threatening. The storm never actually broke but it did create a very dramatic sky and wonderful colors on the water. Of course, this shot is looking due west. Normally, it is not really possible to shoot directly into the sun as it is just too hot and will blow out all the details, leaving most of the frame in deep, black shadow. This day the sun was partly diffused by the clouds... and I was using a neutral density filter. The filter enables me to capture more of the details in the face of a bright light source.
A sunset photo is a requirement of a tropical vacation. So is this photograph above just a cliche? One of thousands of such shots. We have all seen them and taken them. I took this photograph because I was fascinated by the rays, by the color fields and especially by the path the light carved on the water. I like the composition... the three broad fields... the way the eye follows the sun path all the way to the sun... and then the rays of sunlight shooting from the sun both up and out.
So is this just cliche? Or, perhaps that is not the right question. Here are better ones. Does this photograph make you, the viewer, feel something? Does it trigger thought? Is it a good starting point for you in thinking about the world and your place in it? If you have had any kind of reaction to the image then perhaps it is something more than just another cliche sunset photograph.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
This is a photograph I made one night in the town square in Rincon. This is the ongoing... domino game that men play day and night, rain and shine, in the center of Rincon in the town square. These guys are good. They are fast and, though the stakes are low, will clean your clock.
Dominoes is popular through out Latin America and it is also true here. Check out this strategy guide for some tips. A thousand years ago, I lived on and off for three years in the Republic of Panama. I acquired a taste for the game there... although I was never a good counter, I did manage to be able to hold my "bones" in one hand without having them flying around the room. The game is played with some gusto... banging the piece down on the table... for instance. Now its not always played this way... I'm just saying... be ready. In the photograph, the guys standing around the table are watching and NO talking, no pointing, no gesturing, no faces ... be completely still. This is THE game.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
In diving it is only natural for divers to hope to get a glimpse of the larger animals that can be seen by the reef. Turtles, sting rays, octopus, dolphins and so forth. Now, while I have seen all of these creatures and more at Desecheo Island and on our near shore reefs, there are other wonderful creatures as well.
Above is a picture of a small hermit crab in a snail shell hiding in the cleft of a sponge. This fellow is about as big as a thumb nail... including his shell. It takes some luck and patience to spot one like this. Usually they will hide or duck into their shell if they sense something large near by. Buoyancy control... moving slowly... being still and watchful are the keys. On some dives, I just hang by a small patch of coral under the boat for the entire dive... looking and shooting. its just amazing the diversity of life on the reef and it is all accessible if one gives up the urge to go on the chase for the big one.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Politics in Puerto Rico is a very personal thing. One supports one's candidate vocally and colorfully. The parties here are identified by color...RED for the Popular Democratic party (PDP), BLUE for the New Progressive party (PNP), and GREEN for the Puerto Rican Independence party (PIP). Nothing so tame as a mere button to wear (on those occasions you even remember it)....but if you are a PDP supporter, your truck is RED!
From the spring to election day, political parties here have parades. These parades take the supporters throughout all neighborhoods of Puerto Rico, with lots of flag waving, shouting in favor of the candidates, music blasting from loud speakers attached to the roofs of cars and trucks, and generally a great time!
This Parade for the PDP came by the Lemontree and stretched up and down the street and lasted for over two hours. The sheer joy and excitment of the supporters was infectious and soon we were all shouting and waving our hands.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I came across this poem recently about the sea:
The grey sea creeps half-visible, half-hushed,
And grasps with its innumerable hands
These silent walls. I see beyond a rough
Glimmering infinity, I feel the wash
And hear the sibilation of the waves
That whisper to each other as they push
To shoreward side by side, --long lines and dim
Of movement flecked with quivering spots of foam,
The quiet welter of a shifting world.
I think... besides the beauty of the words and their music, the poem is about the sea as a link between our world and a transcendent world. And, what about that word... "sibilation." I had to look that one up. It means a kind of indistinct, unintelligible or hissing sound... perhaps the kind that the sea makes as it moves up on to the shore... and then recedes.
I made the photograph one very dark night... I saw the lights and the people on the beach... heard the "sibilaton" of the gentle movement of the tide mixed, perhaps with the sounds from down the beach, perhaps the sounds of the "night birds" as well ... all connected in some way that I really don't understand... probably never will. But perhaps its enough now to appreciate the rough glimmer, caught in a side glance, of infinity.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
This morning, the ocean was quiet. Everything was so very still and there was only a light breeze. The water was calm and in the distance appeared almost glassy.
This picture was made of the water just in front of the Lemontree's beach when I was out for a walk on the beach about 11 a.m. today. I caught sight of one of our guests in the water. No... not signaling for help... just waving at me. Where she is, just off the beach is in about 8 feet of water its just right for swimming andhe bottom is sandy. Just to her right by the rocks is a small reef that comes up close to the surface. On a morning like this it is perfect for a quick snorkel. Guests have seen schools of fish, a turtle or even a small octopus in the rocks.
Of course, being real and a part of the natural world, the ocean at the beach is not always so flat. On those days when the sea is rough there are other pleasures by the sea. When it is calm like it was today, one must seize the moment... put off the trip to town, put down the book... and enjoy what is offered - take that swim and enjoy.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The IFC is a great resource for newcomers. Puerto Rico is a friendly and accessible place but it does have its own rhythms and particularities. Having a network to help the newcomer with basics like car registration and navigating the cable TV office make for a much smoother transition. The Club meets once a month for a luncheon meeting with speakers and also hosts social and philanthropic functions. The Club gives the newcomer and those visiting for a few months a group of friends and someone to "run into" in the grocery store or post office!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Today I just felt like a sunset. We have been having a run of wonderful sunsets. Rincon is known at the town of beautiful sunsets. One of the treats here is to head to the beach at sunset... or your favorite watering hole with a beach view and just enjoy the end of the the day. We stood out on the beach today with our guests and watched the sun go down...spectacular!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Today, I went walking on the beach. I stopped by some of my favorite beaches, Steps Beach and the Balneario beach. I like them because they seem to attract families, mothers and children, unlike the active surfing beaches. I was looking for a reminder of innocence.
I was reminded of a verse of a poem ... it went like this:
We took it all for granted
When childhood was alive
We hadn’t a worry in the world
When childhood was alive...
The girl pictured above was on the beach with her sister and mother. When you are with family and have a lollipop... still wrapped, can the world be anything other than right?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Pools Beach is a north facing Rincon surfing spot that seems to attract surfers and their admirers. Its a pretty safe surf break and there is plenty of sand to stretch out on. This morning the clouds were thick and threatening but the rain held off until later in the afternoon. Perhaps the word for the atmosphere today was "unsettled." Plenty of promise, much to see... and a possibility that it could go either way.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Last night I went for a walk on the beach... alone... but for my camera and made this photograph. I titled it, "Five Posts."
I left the Lemontree just before sunset and stayed on the seashore, photographing, watching, experiencing the night fall on the sea. As I watched and waited, I recalled a couple of poems by Walt Whitman... one of which is the same as the title of this entry. I looked up the first lines of the poem which go:
"ON the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining—I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of
You can read the entire poem here.
I may not have thought of the clef of the universe but the walk back in the dark... with the tide rising... and dinner waiting, was cleansing. The beach was deserted. A soft breeze rustled a the leaves of the trees along the shore and it was if they were coming along home with me like a faithful dog keeping his master company. The stillness of the night, the sound of the heartbeat of the sea, the feel of the cool, the night air... and then, I was home.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Many of our Lemontree guests travel to Puerto Rico through San Juan. Because of the arrangement of flights, some find it convenient to spend a night either upon arrival or the day before departure in the San Juan area. When they do, one of the hotels we recommend that they consider for a night is the El Convento hotel in Viejo (Old) San Juan.
When we want to remind ourselves of the pleasures of urban living we stay at the El Convento. This is simply the finest hotel in the city. It is charming in an old school way. The service is superb and the appointments of the accommodations are sublime. Its location is where you want to be when you want to see Viejo San Juan. Dining here is pure joy with the food well prepared and the service unrivaled. The El Convento is a wonderful venue for a destination wedding and we have had the pleasure of seeing the preparations in progress as well as the charming tropical weddings themselves.
On this page you will see the Blurb badge for a small photo book I made of the hotel. The colors and feel of the hotel reminded me of an Italian fresco and so many of the photographs were treated to give such an effect as well.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Vegetation here in Puerto Rico is amazing. Plants will grow anywhere and everywhere. This tropical almond tree is a tenacious old tree and you can see it is growing right next to the decking of this beach house. The roots are spreading out across the beach and frequently are bathed with salt water and yet...it still thrives. The bark of the roots becomes smooth and gets a beautiful patina from the washing water and wind. The bark on this tree looks more like driftwood than a living tree! Check out this site for more information on tropical almonds.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Some days just require a beverage at lunch. I was looking around town today, doing errands, and stopped by the Villa Cofresi... and its popular beach side Tiki bar. There were plenty of people in the water... it was like a pool and plenty of people were relaxing on this long weekend.
Oh... that's right, what do I mean long weekend? Monday here is the commemoration of the birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos. Hostos was a fiery revolutionary who advocated the independence of Puerto Rico from Spain and then a Confederation with Cuba and the Domincan Republic. He died 5 years after the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain. He is a national hero. You can check out some particulars here.
The hand with the bottle... not mine... honest. Just saw the frame and took the shot.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Walking down the beach from the Lemontree is always fun. Each time we pass this boat we smile…how joyful this boat is and how happy its owner must be to step into it and go out and fish. You can see in the photograph that he has a wench to pull it in and out of the ocean and up onto the beach. All boats must be registered and are given a number and a seal that you see here. This fellow has also named his boat. He has named it Cucaracha. We don't know why he named his boat this but the song "La Cucaracha" is of Spanish origin.
The most traditional Spanish version is as follows:
- La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
- Ya no puede caminar
- Porque no tiene, porque le falta
- Las dos patitas de atras
- The cockroach, the cockroach,
- Can't walk anymore
- Because it doesn't have, because it's lacking
- Its two back feet
We see fishermen almost daily out with their nets and lines and some sell fish by the side of the road. If you are really lucky, one of them will become your friend and you will be on the “short list” for lobster and fresh fish!
We went over to Viejo San Juan a few days ago and in our walking around, came upon this choir singing in the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. During the extended holiday season, one hears music coming from doorways, rooftops, balconies and restaurants. On the terrace across from where we stayed in Viejo San Juan, an extended family was enjoying a happy and boisterious parranda.
Tomorrow, January 9th (after the last of the Kings days) begins Octavas and this continues for eight days. Originally these were more religious in nature and were used to glorify the Reyes and the Christ child. Octavitas began right after the Octavas and were eight more days of continued adoration. These were a prelude to la Cuaresma (lent).
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Even when it rains here in Puerto Rico, the days are beautiful! Today it rained in the afternoon, most unusual for us in the wintertime. And we were given an incredible reward, the rain cooled down the afternoon heat and...we saw this spectacular rainbow. This rainbow stretched across the mountain tops that reach high above us down here on the beach. We see many rainbows here at the Lemontree as we are able to see out across the beach in both directions as well as above us to the mountains. For this rainbow, it seemed as if we might be able to find the pot of gold the rainbow was so clear and distinct!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Today is Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico... and throughout the Latin American world. In the non- Latin Christian tradition, the sixth of January marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the day is known and is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany. The day marks the arrival of the wise men, traveling from the east, to worship the infant Jesus.
In Puerto Rico the arrival of the Three Kings is the real deal. This is the big day. The U.S. Post Office, banks, supermarkets and most shops and restaurants and all government offices are closed. The night before... we heard the parade caravans, complete with lights and sirens... featuring Kings who throw small bags of candy to those on the roadside. And, "yes," we caught ours!
Traditionally, children will cut some grass on Three Kinds Eve leave it (the hay) under their beds along with some water and maybe a carrot. These offerings are for the camels who are ridden by the Kings. In the morning, the hay and water have gone and (if you have been good) are replaced by presents. For the adults, the real action is the night before... amazing parties lasting into the wee hours of the sixth are typical... along with musical parrandas going house to house.
Today, the seas were calm and the temperature was very moderate. We took a swim in the ocean...after all, what is Dia de los Reyes in Puerto Rico without a swim in the calm waters surrounding the island?!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Sometimes in a symphony you have higher notes and a swell of music that brings joy and lifts the spirit, and at other periods the music grows quieter, perhaps striking a sober and reflective theme. For our community here on the shore of western Puerto Rico, we memorialized the loss of one of our own this morning. Caren passed shortly before Christmas and today the varied and overlapping communities in Rincon gathered at her home and that of her husband to celebrate her life, to share memories and to provide a presence for her survivors. It was a moving gathering under the bright tropical sun, within sight of the garden she nurtured. Caren and her husband were some of the first people with whom we developed a friendship when we came down here almost five years ago. Caren will be missed.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I made this photograph in Stingray Bay on the way out to Ladder Reef at Desecheo Island. The depth was about 50 feet and the temperature in the water close to 85F. The Southern Stingray is not an unusual sight at Desecheo, although it is not an everyday occurrence that you get to see one quite so up close and personal. The larger creatures are what most hope to see... the Stingray, Turtle, Octopus, Crab and Lobster but really the wonder of Desecheo is the visibility and the shear diversity of life... soft and hard coral, micro creatures, schools of tropicals and yes... the occasional encounter with a creature as big as you are. Desecheo is one of the must do dives in the Caribbean.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
This image of the lighthouse (El Faro) in Rincon, reminds us that the newly tropically replanted and refurbished lighthouse park and overlook affords magnificent views of the stretch of water out to Desecheo Island and north to the surfing beach at Domes. This lighthouse is an iconic image of Rincon and a perfect place to get a sense of the sea and its power as it smashes up on the rocks.
Today a "swell" is in and the waves hitting the rocks around the lighthouse are spectacular with their loud breaking and huge sprays of water. Standing there today, one gets a sense of the real purpose of this lighthouse years ago as ships came along the coast and needed its shining beacon to avoid the rocks in the pounding surf. While today the lighthouse is the centerpiece of a lovely community park, when standing next to it, one feels small and can get a sense of its importance to sailors of the past.
Along with the lighthouse, Rincon offers much to see and do.
Friday, January 2, 2009
One of the fun things we like to do here at the Lemontree is take guests out on snorkeling safaris. Our favorite beach for snorkeling has some of the best off-shore sites in all of Puerto Rico-Steps Beach. It is located off Carr 413 and is marked by a blue whale sign (Playa Escalera). Park anywhere along the little road leading up to the beach from 413.
From the small dirt lane emerging out onto the beach turn left and walk down the beach about 30-50 yards or so. Although tempting, don't try to enter the water over the beach rocks... find a sand channel. Once in the water, swim to the right and you will see the reef. It curves and you can either follow the curve into about 15 feet of water or swim directly over the top of the reef in about 4 feet. In addition to healthy coral, like the elk horn pictured above, there are schools of tropical fish, turtles, and gently swaying sea fans. Take it nice and slowly so you will see everything...snorkeling is for dawdling! Go with a buddy and stay close enough to each other you you can share the experience.
Stay out until you think you might become tired (remember you have to kick back to shore) and then come back in via your entry point-again, not over the rocks. If you bring a towel and some drinks and find shade on the beach which is fringed by palms, its a nice place to set up for your "unwinding after the snorkeling" time. You can also take a break and then head back out.
Our favorite time to go is in the morning... about 9:30 or 10:00 a.m.. The morning has the least wind... which means the calmest water. The morning time means that the sun will be up enough to give good penetrating light to reef but not so blazing that you will be uncomfortable. Don't forget to sunscreen the backs of your legs and back!
For more on a Rincon holiday, Rincon Puerto Rico.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Slept in a bit, till 7:45, and then got up some coffee and tea and then a walk down the beach. This morning the sea was flat calm, almost glassy in places. The walk along the beach was serene and tranquil. Not many people were up and the only sounds were those of the gentle waves lapping the shore.
Truly... if I had a New Year's wish it would be that more people could have had the comfort and tranquility of a morning walk by the sea on this the first day of the new year.