Peter O'Connor writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
I suppose the first thing in discussing being “Trini to the bone” is to define exactly what the phrase really means. Limers and feters have largely appropriated the phrase, claiming that if you are not one of their genre, you really cannot be a Trini to the bone. It is a sort of perverse idyllic, really—the idea of a life drinking and laughing with your like-minded friends, winin’ on a bumsee backing-back on you, old-talking in bars, at beaches, river limes and compatible households, with sparkling repartee’ and sharp wit, heckling each other voraciously in wild exaggerations. And if you cannot take the flow of old-talk when it is directed at you, then you cannot be a Trini to the bone.
Well, I will accept that this is one incarnation of being Trini to the bone. And indeed, most of the time it is really great fun. And indeed, while I am not a complete limer, I have enjoyed great and hilarious limes with friends and even with strangers, if you happen somehow to fall into a great but unexpected lime. Indeed, who has not?
But liming is not a full-time thing. Neither is J’Ouvert, nor mas, nor visiting pan yards, or Panorama, or a river lime. So, if you call yourself Trini to the bone because of any one, or a mix, of these traits, what do you do when not so occupied? And what do you think, if anything, about the current state of our country? Seriously?
I find myself relieved that my sons have both chosen to live away. I miss them and their children and their companionship and the adventures we have shared. One of my daughters from an earlier marriage lives away but the other, my eldest “child”, lives here and we recently discussed matter—if and when to leave our homeland? Our place of birth?
She and her husband had met me at Piarco, I arriving from New York after a brief visit there. I flew in on another airline, not “our own.” Ours is too expensive for me, which I do not understand but am forced to accept. I had expressed to them the joy, the rush of anticipation I always feel when I sight the north coast from the window of the aircraft! This flight came in through, or over, the First Bocas, then turned east to line up with Piarco.
From the air, Port of Spain looked clean and the streets which ran from the waterfront to the Savannah looked safe and peaceful. The Savannah, that huge green park gleaming in afternoon sunshine. The Northern Range here reaches down to embrace the city and, as we continue eastward, the mountains unfold to reveal the valleys through which our beautiful streams flow.
Directly below, as we descend, I look down at our Caroni Bird Sanctuary. A flock of Scarlet Ibis, tiny red specks against the deep green mangrove, is flying in uneaten by politicians and their ilk—so far. Back in the 1970’s I was part of a protest group dedicated to stopping an oil company dredging the Blue River (estuary) to run a large barge daily through the bird sanctuary. Tour guide Winston Nanan, now deceased, was part of that protest group. And the sanctuary was named after this local hero. But now our precious Scarlet Ibis is being attacked by hunters, not by oil companies.
We are the only flight on the ground, so immigration and customs is like a walk through, and then out through the terminal doors and I am home. I am comfortable. People, strangers even, nod or say hello when your eyes meet. I feel so much safer than being among the anonymity of “away,” where if you nod or smile at strangers, they glare suspiciously at you. I gaze up at our Northern Range, the steep forested hills, in endless shades of green with shadows from the afternoon sun darkening some slopes and sunbeams brightening, even exposing little valleys which, without the sunbeams, would remain hidden recesses in the forest. Little streams tumble down these hidden valleys, clear cold waters, giving life to the forests. I know many of these streams, on both sides of the main ridge which runs from Toco to Chaguaramas. I have swum in their pools, bathed in their waterfalls, and camped on their banks. They have baptised me, nurtured me and cleansed me.
I have trekked the trails, camped on the hidden beaches of Paria, Tacaribe and Madamas, spent idyllic days there with my brothers and our children, sharing time and meals with the mysterious Earth People who lived in the forests.
There are many ways we can claim to be Trini to the bone.
For me, it is through the earth, the forests and the streams. Nah leaving!