As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

Bluffers Park

After reviewing the lessons that yesterday had to teach all of us (lessons for myself as well lessons for my son and daughter) we moved on happily to another trip to Bluffer’s part in Scarborough, ON. Bluffer’s park is on the vast fresh water (in terms of cleanliness not so fresh actually) but in places stunningly beautiful waters of Lake Ontario. It is one of a great many places to go walking or hiking in Ontario.

The sandy cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs can be accessed through Bluffers Park.]

The sandy cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs can be accessed through Bluffers Park.

Top of the trail in of the parks of the Rouge River system of trails which is only one of the many other places to go hiking or walking in Ontario besides Bluffers Park.]

Top of the trail in of the parks of the Rouge River system of trails which is only one of the many other places to go hiking or walking in Ontario besides Bluffers Park.

The park has sheer sandy cliffs that rise hundreds of feet into the air. Being made of sand the cliffs erode just a little bit every year. One time, the kids and I found a cliff face with a much gentler slope and climbed up it. It was much higher than we expected when we reached the top and turned around to look down. I’m usually somewhat fearless and try to encourage my kids to feel confident as long as they are not in physical danger, but I wondered whether we might have been near the borderline of peril on that summit. We quickly took a couple of pictures near the top and then made our way down. The beach at the bottom of the cliffs was more everyone’s speed. The kids found a small stream leading from the cliffs to the lake. I sat down on the sand and watched while they caught tadpoles to bring them home in my empty film canisters. Sailboats on the lake bobbed leisurely in the sun. After taking some more photos I took out my moleskin notepad to write. The kids rolled up their pant legs and squealed at the icy coldness of the water when the waves splashed on their feet. I of course smiled. Bluffers park is one of the sites in Toronto that always inspires me.

Losing Important things in Preparations for the Trip

Today was passport photo day. The kids and I went to the mall to try on sun hats for the prodigious amount of sun we would get in sticking to our plan to never come inside from the beach after the plane lands in Antigua. While at the mall, I got my son’s picture taken for his passport renewal. During the wait for the photo, we went shopping for pretty sun dresses for my daughter from Walmart, one of the least expensive stores in the mall. Technology sufficiently advanced is magic, and the self serve price check scanner was more than enough technology to make that shopping adventure magical for my kids. They took turns scanning the sale items we bought, making sure between themselves that each got an equal number of scans. When we got to the checkout line my son, soon to be eight, and daughter, soon to be six, then asked if they could buy some treat they saw near a checkout counter at the other end of the store. My usual answer was “sure … did you bring your money?” Though when I get home I often give them spare change from my pockets, they rarely ever remember to bring it, which ends the discussion right there. The point was to try to get them to practice counting the money in their piggy banks and getting them to recognize that spending it decreased that amount. However after years of me telling them they should have  brought their money whenever they ask me to buy anything, they did begin bringing their money and indeed had it today. Since I was in the line and didn’t want to lose my place, and since I try to use every opportunity to allow them to grow confident in the use of their own skills, I allowed them to go to the checkout counter across the huge store by themselves “but stick together” I warned.

Many minutes of waiting in line later, and after I had finally paid for my purchases, I still didn’t see them. I made my way down to the other counter to see my son waiting alone by the checkout counter with a slight look of worry on his face. “Where is your sister” I asked.

“She lost her purse and went into the store to go look for it” he replied.

At this point I wasn’t panicked. I rarely panic. I’m adamant in teaching them that by staying calm and focusing on action  rather than panic, one can usually avoid bad consequences. Still bad things always eventually happen, but even when they do, continuing to focus on positive action rather than the negativity of panic helps one  recover from them. This in mind I took my son in tow to look for her, after a quick admonishment about letting his younger sister walk alone. I’m somewhat tall, and have no problems seeing above the isle displays, so after one quick trip through the store and despite my height I still hadn’t seen her, I began to get a little less comfortable. About a minute layer, after the third trip around the store, I informed store security just to get another set of eyes on the case and to take reasonable precautions against the worst case scenario of her leaving the store with someone she didn’t know. The announcement over the store’s PA system about a lost five year old girl was unconvincing. Nothing about the description sounded like my daughter. For the description I gave I didn’t quite remember the exact colours on her multicoloured striped blouse. I continued to look. By the tenth time around the store I recognized that I should have notified security immediately and had them posted near the exits to prevent the worst case scenario. In fact I should have never let my two young children walk anywhere alone, and was an idiot for having burdened my seven year old son with responsibility for his headstrong sister who rarely listened to him at the best of times.

The bags of clothes I had bought her weighed heavily in my hands. The clothes seemed to be accusing me of my skewed priorities. They’d be of little use to her if she was gone.

The spectre of a life of self-blame for both myself and my son loomed before me, and almost blurred the sight of my daughter’s tear stained face as she was led to me by one of the store clerks. I gave her and my son both a hug. They were safe and unharmed.

The Cost of Gearing Up

Vistek is a big photography retailer in Canada. After looking over my anticipated purchases in the Vistek online catalog, I found myself getting nervous. I had no doubt that the book of photographs I would shoot in Antigua would be a great success. It’s going to be a photo documentary about the lives of writers, painters, sculptors, potters, and other artists who’ve made their home there. There are some fascinating stories to uncover among them and I look forward to sharing those stories. But I wanted to create artful photographs of stunning visual impact and rich detail that I could exhibit and sell prints of. I wanted a medium format professional digital camera, but had a budget in which a disposable plastic Fuji Quicksnap was closer to reality. I’m most creative when I’m relaxed and I didn’t want my creativity to be constrained by the anxiety of pushing myself to my financial limit. Any entrepreneur knows from experience how easy it is to do that … you start to calculating how much you could afford if you assume the book sells 2000 copies, then what you could afford if it sells 50,000 copies … before you know it you’ve justified cashing in the retirement savings for a camera as a sure fire investment option. Replace the “camera” with whatever “cost of doing business” is relevant to your entrepreneurial bent and you get my meaning.

After a lot of thought (which perhaps time will determine was not ENOUGH thought) I decided to supplement my F5 with a old used medium format film camera for the trip. Something about this approach suits me deeply. Rather than adopt the scatter gun approach of most digital shooters who take thousands of pictures that they have to wade through on slow computers, I would go back to the old school and plan my shots more carefully so I could get away with taking much fewer ones. Armed with the knowledge that good quality film, in particular the medium format film, can rival that of the sharpest 35mm DSLRs, I’m satisfied I have the tools to capture the poster art that I’m looking for.

Going Back to Antigua

I’m going on a month and a half long trip to what is for me the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, the island of Antigua. In some ways I feel like I should say I’m going “back home”. My parents are Antiguan, and my parent’s parents are Antiguan, and so forth down the line past anyone’s memory. I myself lived there for a time when I was young. Now my children, Eric and Anisa who by birth weight are at least 50% Antiguan (the other 50% being Bajan), will have their chance to see the island as well. For them it will be the first time.

But convincing them was an entertainment in itself, steadily wearing down their resistance with lists of things we might bring to the beach like shovels, pails, and fishing rods, and giving free reign to my own unbridled enthusiasm until finally they could not hide their excitement to go. With my own unbridled enthusiasm the list of things we are going to bring to the beach, shovels, pails, and fishing rods, is growing. But we have only so much space in our luggage, and so the list shrinks, and changes. I’ve heard one should always live in the moment, but I would always live in the future if planning for the future was guaranteed to be so much fun.

West Indies Regiment

My dad just returned from the 50th Anniversary of the WEST INDIA REGIMENT (1959-1962).Upon the birth of the West Indies Federation in 1958,It became necessary to establish a military regiment.
The islands which made up the Federation were Antigua,Barbados,Dominica ,Grenada , St.Kitts,StLucia,StVincent,Trinidad &Tobago and Jamacia,
Each island alloted an amount of recruits according to its size. Antigua was alloted eight (8) .Out of the hundreds of young men who applied, the best were selected to represent Antigua.
Antigua was the first  stop made in the recruiting process. Therefore the first soldiers of the 1st Battalion West India Regiment were selected from Antigua..
Soldiers of the 52 British West Indies Regiment Stand at Attention

Soldiers of the 52 British West Indies Regiment Stand at Attention

My dad just returned from the 50th Anniversary of the WEST INDIA REGIMENT (1959-1962). The regiment was established shortly after the birth of the West Indies Federation in 1958. Though my Dad was born in Antigua he ended up serving with the regiment stationed in Jamaica which along with Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St.Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Trinidad & Tobago made up the Federation. I could see that looking back he felt proud to have served. Each island was alloted an amount of recruits and Antigua because of it’s smaller size was allotted only eight. My dad had the privilege to have been selected to represent Antigua out of the hundreds of young men who applied. Since Antigua was the first  stop made in the recruiting process those soldiers selected from Antigua formed the 1st Battalion of the West India Regiment.

The reunion of the regiment brought attendees from all over the West Indies. Over two hundred former soldiers attended. From all accounts they had an amazing time. Every day had something interesting planned, from boat tours, to dinners, to dances. I don’t know exactly how much dancing any of those old bones would have been doing, but being West Indians the stories were doubtlessly even more colourful than the actual event.

Before the reunion I had scanned all my dad’s old photos from the time he served and gave the photos to him to take along. It turned out to be a very lucky thing as his old buddies from the regiment got a big kick out of the shots. I loved the drama of some of those old photographs … all those men who were now old, stood at attention in the early hours of the morning, or late at dusk as hardened and fearless young soldiers ready to do whatever they were commanded to do whenever they were called to do it. Their utter focus in the pictures convinces the viewer that they stood there without the burden of experience to tell them that they were not invincible.

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