Monday, March 30, 2009
Do you recall this? Is this image the last thing you remember before IT begins... or perhaps is this...
... what you recall seeing last?
Now I'm pretty good with pain and discomfort... but I had not been to the dentist in well over 20 years, since the last time I had a filling. Apparently I had fractured a tooth and the pain was growing over several days. OK it was time.
To my surprise and enormous relief I was seen immediately by Bella's dentist Dr. Tacoronte, who referred me to an endodontist, Dr. Sumaza in Mayaguez. I was treated within hours. The procedure which involved a root canal and preparation for the installation of a crown was nearly painless. Today, I went back to Dr. Tacoronte who began the process of repairing the tooth in preparation for the construction and installation of the crown. Again, virtually without discomfort.
So why is this in the Blog? Occasionally, guests require dental treatment and always consider leaving for the mainland. A mistake in my book. I am here to say that world class dental treatment is available in Rincon and elsewhere on the Isla.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Yesterday evening I went out to the courtyard here at the Lemontree and took several photographs of some of the flowers that we have growing. This orchid is not especially large or grand. The color is what attracts most people to these flowers. For me it was the shape. The exotic, sensuous, otherworldly form that caught my eye.
I made a black and white conversion of the above picture and toned it lightly. Here it is:
Take a look at the two images. For me the black and white version, striped of its natural color that shows its form and contour. The eye is not so distracted by the color.
Friday, March 27, 2009
This Friday Bella Jane and I went to Old San Juan in advance of our Saturday music lessons at the conservatory. Bella... the Tiple and Cuatro, for me the Bongo. But tonight, we headed out to scavenge for our dinner and found ourselves in the Plaza. In a display of technical virtuosity that surpasses most 10 year olds (well some) I popped out this picture of Bella with the built in photo boots camera on the Mac laptop by the Four Seasons Fountain and dropped it into the Blog. Why? Because I could. All done in nearly real time in the plaza... using the city wide wifi system.
Actually the temperature is wonderfully moderate, sky sunny and the night is not yet begun.
How great is this?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
When we get a moderately sized rain we get runoff from the many small streams that come down from the hills into the ocean. While a rainy episode at this time of the year is relatively infrequent and of short duration, they can be intense which is what pushes the contents of the streams into the ocean. This morning I was walking on the beach and happened upon this tree. It was quite large, perhaps 24 feet long. When the swell comes later today it will either carry the tree out to sea where it will decompose or it will push it up on shore where it will dry out. On occasion, I see family groups out on the beach with a small bonfire... sometimes cooking, sometimes just enjoying the fire and the water. It all gets used and is all a part of the whole.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
We are looking at a really substantial swell to roll in in a couple of days... which will knock out diving here as the water will be too rough to make the passage out to Desecheo Island. So, thinking about it I thought I'd bust an image I made there. This particular image was made at the Aquarium... one of my favorite tours. The crab was bold and just kept on moving, pausing and moving again. I had the strobe with me that day and was able to make this fetching portrait.
Its a red crab and was about twice the size of your outstretched hand. Moved pretty well and did not seem to mind my presence.
There is a ton of things to do here involving the water... below, on and beside. This is just one of them.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
This is a panoramic view of three of Rincon's iconic sites. Its a bit difficult to make out from the thumbnail but if you click on the image and expand it you will see on the left at the horizon, Desecheo Island; then, moving to the center, the Lighthouse (its the white vertical) and then on the right, Domes, the deactivated Nuclear plant. I made the photographs which comprise this panorama several days ago, shooting from the crest of the hill on Rt 413, known as the "Road to Happiness." We see these everyday, driving along the coast and yet, here in this picture, I see them anew.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
This morning I was out and about in Old San Juan, waiting for my 10::30 class in Bongo. BellaJane was at her 8:00 tiple class and I'm looking for access. Access is really no problem. The city of Old San Juan has provided fast public access in most of the plazas. Frequently, I'll head to the Plaza des Armas, hide at the small Kiosko run by Bennie and have a cafe con leche while accessing. The connection is called wifiwyg.com and the password is turismo. No secret because the site provides the password. On wet days the Kiosko has large (but somewhat leaky) umbrellas. Rather than risk the laptop, I'll sometimes head across the plaza to the Starbucks. It offers free Internet access via Centennial Cable. All that is required is a registration. The connection here is fast and like all Starbucks you can overhear all kinds of interactions!
Friday, March 20, 2009
While a moderate swell has arrived this morning, earlier in the week it was flat out calm and great for snorkeling. One of the destinations we send Lemontree guests is Steps Beach. This of course, when they are not getting warmed up on our own Lemontree Reef which is in front of the Lemontree.
Steps is the largest natural reef immediately accessible from the shore... you don't need a boat to snorkel it. Great if you just want a quick snorkel or feel a bit queasy at the thought of boat trip. The beach is named after these "steps" that are up on the shore, a strange sight and no one really knows how the steps came to be on the beach.
I like to go in the morning about 9:30 or 10:00. The wind is usually calm and the sunlight is high enough in the sky to illuminate the reef. The drill is to turn to your left on the beach when you leave the small dirt road off 413 marked by the blue whale sign which says "Playa Escalera." Then find a narrow sand channel which will take you into the water, try not to enter over the rock that rings some of the beach. Entering the water... swim to the right and you will hit the reef. Follow it out and around... come back to your entry point before you get tired. Most of all enjoy. The reef is teaming with fish, sometimes reef squid and turtles. The reef has plenty of coral including elkhorn and brain coral. Chill on the beach for a bit after you get out. Its a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Occasionally we like to go out with friends for a bit of dinner, drinks and the sunset. Last night we did so with friends who will be leaving to go back to the states next week. We chose Rincon of the Seas which is a moderately sized all inclusive resort located near town off rt 115. They have a lovely bar and restaurant poolside and with a great view of the sunset.
We enjoyed various libations and then hamburger (perfectly done and wonderful), salad, and several orders of a thick seafood/ shrimp gumbo called Asopao de camerones. Check out a recipe here. It will give you the idea.
One of the nice things about our small town is the variety of eating choices. Now at the Lemontree we have full cooking accommodations... but many guests also enjoy the various restaurants and bars. We have international cuisine, local Puerto Rican eateries, hamburger places, local bakeries, and of course the trucks and small tent operations by the road side which all have a devoted following.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
As one strips away the color from the tropics, a more graphic, if shadowed, perception becomes possible. To see the tropics in monochrome is to see them fresh… without preconceived ideas.
I think this is why this BW image fascinates me. A palm is an amazing structure. Its the symbol of one of the political parties here, yet for guests it means escape and the sense that "we really are not at home anymore." It symbolizes water and warmth. This tree is also an amazing object, unusual to the eyes of North Americans. The monochrome rendition helps us to see the tree not as something else, a "stand-in" or "proxy" but directly for what it is.
I made this photograph this morning and when I saw its crooked trunk and huge spread of fronds against the clear sky, I knew what I had.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Occasionally, when I'm driving into town I go under several long stretches of tree canopy and when the wind stirs and down come brown leaves, I think for a moment... aah... the fall, a crisp October day. The thought remains for only a moment because its not October... its March, or its July or some other month... not that the month really matters for leaf fall. Its also not a "crisp" day... the temperature is likely to be between 78F and 88F... never enough to be described as "crisp" even by the thinnest blooded North American. Its just that the deciduous trees here in the tropics typically shed leaves in the dry season and then that varies according to the severity of the season! The theory being that lack of water stresses the trees and they drop their leaves in response.
Occasionally I will "see" snowfall on the beach, usually at dusk... or mistake the rustling of leaves, again for the northern, temperate climate fall season. I wonder if humans become imprinted in some basic way early on to a seasonal cycle in the place they were born. And, if so, for people born here on the Isla... I wonder how the four solid northern seasons are reimagined? I wonder if instead of dreaming of a snowy, cold Christmas it is rather of a wonderful trip to the beach with family bobbing and talking in the warm tropical water.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Late last night a new swell began to fill in here in Rincon. During the night, living by the sea, you could hear the waves building even at the Lemontree. This morning with the clean waves at least 8 to 10 feet on the north side of Rincon and light winds, the surfing was good.
I was thinking about the surf and the vibe in Rincon and I think the surf and its followers have really shaped this town. If you follow the surf and its in, you need to be on the water. If you say... "I'll wait till I finish this report"... or whatever, the wind could change and you would miss the clean roll of a great wave. So its very much a "now" kind of vibe...
When the swell is in, the coconut telegraph gets activated and the word spreads... all kinds of people but mostly younger men drop whatever they had planned to do and are in the water. It doesn't last forever and if you are going to do it... you got to have your priorities lined up. For some relationships its tough, but when both partners feel the drive its all the better. Lots of guys here come down in the winter and when its over return to their jobs elsewhere... or perhaps head out to the next place where the water is moving. The surf life and the world of responsibility and work schedules don't mix well. The surf does not run from 9 to 5 or leave town on the 5:49. Being in the surf world even for a short period of time, a week or even a long weekend leads to a kind of blessed blindness to the structure and pattern of the "real world." That's what make it a great vacation...
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Several days ago I made this photograph on the beach... while looking at the trunk of a nearly fallen palm tree. These are the roots and some trapped leaf litter.
They reminded me of how some contemporary art resembles designs and patterns that we see in nature. When viewed close up, natural objects and collections of these objects, formed by natural process, take on an appearance, which to our eyes, may suggest sensations or other objects far removed from what they were originally. This abstraction via magnification is a common technique in contemporary art. Similarly by taking one aspect of an object in nature and repeating that aspect can yield very pleasing results as well.
I was reminded of the work of Cy Twombly whose "scribbles" as seen below have some
passing resemblance to the imaged abstraction of the roots.
Some of our guests are painters... I wonder what kind of sources of inspiration they have taken back home with them from their time here?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Today I went out with a friend for our weekly photographic shoot. Today we decided to go to some of the surfing beaches, and although the waves were small, they were fun waves. Surf students were out practicing, and the line-up was well populated. It was a bit overcast in the morning with a little drizzle but it did not dampen spirits... hey its all water.
Rather than show a surfer in action picture I wanted to give a sense of the vastness of the sea and sky... with Desecheo as a backdrop these two surfers seem to have the world to themselves.
But wait you say you want a real surf picture... OK... here is one for you:
Oh I see you mean this kind of surf picture:
All in all it was a great day out.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Thought we could use another beach image and so here is a photograph looking east at Maria's Beach. Just the opposite way from the photograph in yesterday's blog entry in which the photograph was taken looking west at Maria's. The tidal pool formed by the beach rock breaks the the small waves here, allowing a visitor to sit comfortably by the seaside, listening to the lapping of the water and feeling the warm water and sand run between one's toes. For me its such a different view from the photo yesterday but its just a question of which way I looked... up or down the beach. As we have noted elsewhere and in other entries, the beaches here are relatively narrow, perfect for enjoying unobstructed walks or taking a quick dip in the ocean.
Monday, March 9, 2009
This image was made several days after a very windy swell, that dominated our beach scene for several days, had swept away. Now, the surfers were in the water, the walkers were out and in some places... snorkeling was happening. When you live by the sea you come to accept the beach that nature presents to you each day. You actually have no choice.
Sometimes it seems that we residents of the post-modern world expect that human agency can curb every excess and enhance every dip that nature sends...and yet, it just cannot work out that way. Our beaches are not broad expanses of sugar white sand that was trucked in from somewhere else. Our beaches have the sand that has come to them naturally with the ebb and flow of the ocean. The beaches here tend to be narrow and from time to time experience some sand mobility, depending on what weather systems are sent by the fall storms and winter swells and summer storms.
As for water sports...sometimes snorkeling is great... sometimes its just not happening. Same for surfing and occasionally for walking. In Rincon, we are blessed to have beaches that are north west facing and those that are south facing. The south facing ones are relatively calmer than the north facing ones especially when the swells roll in from the north. On almost all days you can find a great ocean side or in water activity here... from walking to parasailing. From jet ski work to a gentle soak. Depending upon what Mother Nature has dealt and where you are staying, it just may not happen right outside your door or as the brochures say "just steps away from the beach." It can be be found however a short walk or drive from where you are staying because Rincon is blessed to be a small town of many beaches.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
On Friday, in the late afternoon we were in San Juan and had some trouble getting into the Old City. Streets were blocked off and there was a heavy police presence. As we came into town we heard chanting and loud amplified speeches. After a bit we took out on foot down C. Cristo towards La Forteleza, the Governor's Palace, which is actually the oldest administrative (governmental) structure in continuous use in the Americas. Indeed a demonstration in front of the mansion was in progress. It was a protest on the part of government workers' unions who are the ones that will face significant layoffs under the Governor's financial rescue plan for the economy of the country. The Governor plans to fire between 30 and 40 thousand of these workers, as the government sector in Puerto Rico is the largest employment sector and the country can no longer afford such expenditures.
We plunged into the crowd which was largely happy, many of whom had pealed off to the local bars and were walking about with cervezas. The speeches by union leaders were stemwinders and were watched by police commanders with care...
...but the demonstration was really good natured and at no time did we get a sense that the mood was uncivil.
What will happen as the Governor's plan is implemented will remain to be seen.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
On our trips to Old San Juan we have previously written about the cats. They are everywhere however some are more lordly than others. This fine kitty is usually found accross from the Cathedral lounging in a shops doorway on C. Cristo. This morning before my bongo class I was doing a walkabout with camera and spotted this cat sleeping on the hood of a Jeep. It was windy and cool (relatively) this morning and the sun's rays must have warmed yo the metal of the hood. Also possible is that it was just parked (but unlikely) and still warm from the motor. Last night I saw the same cat in about the same place crossing the street slowly. Nothing makes this cat break into a sweat. Its an alpha animal... top of the chain and all that.
I made this photograph with a 50mm lens. What caught my eye in addition to the kitty was the reflections in the smooth dark metal and of the building and roof in the windshield. Really an odd combination of perspectives... a little like Alice in Wonderland. Could this be the grin of the philosophical Cheshire Cat?
Friday, March 6, 2009
Well, despite the great northern swell it was a washout for surfing. The strong north wind hacked up the surf leading to basically unsurfable conditions. When I made this photograph at Pools this morning, the wind was so strong I had some difficulty steadying myself and the camera. Must of been at least 20-25 MPH. The effect of the wind is to push the waves over on themselves rather than holding the face of the wave up. So we get a lot of white water. No one was out on any of the breaks this morning. Perhaps later in the day when the onshore wind moderates and we get some off shore breeze it may improve but I don't think by much.
So the best strategy is to pull the covers over your head, snuggle closer and think about a great walk to your favorite bakery for brunch.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
We have begun to experience the forerunner of a significant winter swell. The front that has just pushed pass us from the north has behind it significant wind and water. Building today and through the weekend we will see dramatic waves on the northern facing surf beaches and some wrap around waves here at Lemontree Beach. We get these periodic swells several times during the winter season and when they do come they provide an opportunity to reflect on the interconnected nature of the world's weather patterns. The last substantial swell occurred here about three weeks ago. For me its a great opportunity to head down to the surfing beaches with my camera and try to capture as an image some of what surfing big waves really mean. For our Lemontree guests and other visitors it is a rare treat to really see what nature can do. Yesterday, the water was calm, comfortably swimable. Today it is rough... but tomorrow it will be surf city. The vibe on the surfing beaches is palpable and well worth the visit.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I wanted to pop up this image of a great motorcycle, the Honda Shadow. Why, well... because its a great cruiser bike, comfortable with a great sound. Rincon is a destination, not only for visitors from the mainland and overseas but for Puerto Rican's as well. There are very active motorcycle clubs here and on the weekends you can see large groups of scooter and motorcycle enthusiasts on the roads. They will do a particular drive which may include a stop off in Rincon before heading back to their home towns. On some weekends the watering holes and eateries are adorned with these great bikes out front. Now the Lemontree is not on a main road so we do not get the motorcycle noise... but on 115, which is the main drag... its a different story.
A thousand years ago... I owned a Honda bike. Riding it felt like flying. Just you and the wind and the sound of the motor. It felt like... freedom. Occasionally I see one of these machines, which are actually beautiful and it comes back. I have seen this particular bike several times. This time I had my camera.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Its been a bit since I have written about the diving at Desecheo Island and so I thought I would remind readers just why it is so well regarded. We have recently had a number of Lemontree guests who have booked a trip to the Island with Taino Divers, which is pretty much the only ticket out to Desecheo. Its a great day's outing for divers or snorkelers. I made this photograph after coming back from a deeper dive out at Candyland. This shot overlooks the sand channel that forms a divide between a zone of seafans and the shore line rock reefs. It was taken in about 40 feet of water. As you can see the reef was crowned with a wide variety of tropicals. Typically, these fish are a bit skittish of large bubble blowing creatures. Stealth and calm were the key for me. In truth when I am photographing the reef, a shallow dive is the best. You use less air at shallower depths, the light is better, and so you have more time to compose and see an image than if you are deeper and working hard to keep up with a tour. If you are a good diver and have a buddy who will hang out with you, some of the best opportunities for photography are right under the boat.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
This Saturday saw us in Old San Juan at the Conservatory. In addition to our lessons several of the music faculty put on a special production and overview of Puerto Rican music. Featured here are typical instruments. From left to right... the Guiro, a hollow and dried gourd, stroked with a wire or wooden brush, the Bongo's, the Conga, the Cuatro and the Guitar, and not seen are the cowbell or the tiple.
The concert presented the genres of typical music: Plena (a bit like our country music), Aguinaldo (like Christmas carols), Seis (originally a 17th century Spanish dance music), Vals (a bit like a waltz) and Danza (a structured stylized formal dance music). Within the types are the basic rhythms - each with a different beat. The instruments each have their own role in either establishing melody, foundational beats and supporting or filling melodies and rhythms.
The cuatro always began the musical piece as that instrument was playing the melody and then the others joined in. The guitar to play the chords corresponding to the key of the melody, the bongo and conga with traditional drum beats of the music and the guiro either following the melody or the beats, depending upon the song. Most traditional Puerto Rican music is very fast, regardless of the time (4/4 or 3/4 or 2/4) and vigorous. Listening to the melodies and beats, the excitment became contagious and soon everyone was tapping their feet or gently clapping their hands...impossible to sit still!