Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life in Paradise; Where to live? Who to be?

Oasis Feature: A Series of Views #3
Tourist Trying on Identities

You could say I live in the jungle, which is what my son and some of his friends have said about our isolated setting. I have lived in many places in the US, and traveled to many other countries. I realize that this life of movement and travel is not unique to me but a social trend of which I am a part. People are grasping that they can live in new ways. I see that we are becoming open to change and allowing our localized identities to shift. Are you like me when you travel? Wherever I go, I imagine myself living there. (I do that in blogland too.) When I go for walks, I look at homes and people, and imagine myself living that life. I'm part of the sliding group of humans who ask, "Who am I in this place?"

Even within the same country there are so many lifestyles to try on. I've explored country life, small town life, and city life. I'm in the country again and, I feel somewhat situated here. My greatest conflict though is between living in the city or the country. I love the accessibility of culture in the city. I love to sit in coffee houses and write, or to find my own special places in a city such as a restaurant or art gallery, or a favorite walk, or join in special local events. I love the country too, where I can grow things, and watch nature change. Of course, seasonal transitions are available everywhere. It's just that in the country, nature is the strongest character in life's play and consequently, makes the biggest impact. I enjoy being alone all day and having time to think or just clear my rushing mind from intense feeling. While living in the country, I can create my own retreat-like atmosphere. I have the option to boycott the television, the radio, the phone and just float off into silence, whereas there are often intrusions in the city- or depending on your perspective- they may be opportunities to connect. I don't want to become so cut off that I lose the vitality that comes from people.

What place expresses the real way I want to live? I think that the country is my true home, especially when I'm reveling in nature's abundance as it spills out at my feet. You may wonder what is causing this pensive reflection? And I would blame it on the trees.

In Puerto Rico, it's funny how the blazing flamboyan trees, signal the end of summer and the return to school.

This summer as I looked over the mountain side trying to catch a glimpse of red, I understood that when I found the popular draping scarlet curtain blown open by the intense Caribbean heat, it's message would be: It's over. Time to go back to your other life-the lively but more driven life. Like the burning sting of the red fire ant when you boldly walk barefoot across the grass, I realize it's time- the flame tree is ablaze. I reason with myself; it's not the arbol de flamboyan's fault!

Its' blossom is like an abundant bouquet of orchids and the closer you get, the more detailed the beauty. From a distance, you see a Spanish flamingo dancer's skirt twirling open and it's caught in a memory ...

I remember the first time I realized the beauty of this tropical tree. It was in the 80's, and my mother was traveling with me to visit my new husband's family in Puerto Rico. The Flame tree enthusiasm was lost to me- buried as it was in the general over saturation of a new cultural experience. Plus, it was hot! We were driving through the crowded tapon (traffic jam) on route number 2, when the car's tire blew out. Pulling over under the nearest shady spot, we pour out of the car to assess the damage. It would take a while for my husband to change the flat tire so Mom and I began to look around. I find large brown seed pods on the ground. When I start to collect them, I notice they make a sound like a rattle or maracas but softer, and they came from the tree above. The ground is covered in a red carpet, and looking up, I notice that we are stranded under the famous flamboyan tree. I call out to Mom, "Look at this tree!" It connected me to the Caribbean as no other natural experience. Perhaps that's why it's obsessively featured in local paintings?

You can go to Plaza Las Americas any day of the week and find a painting of a flamboyan tree for sale. Puerto Rico, it says to the culturally smitten. And now, here we are driving home to our house in the mountains. Just around the corner, there it stands. I realize that I must stop and attempt to capture this stunning tree. We are Puerto Rican for a time in Puerto Rico, the heat of the dancer's skirt rises from the street in Barrio Achiote. Red flame. Summer's end.


  1. I would move there just to enjoy those magical trees! WOW! I envy you that priviledge! xoxo

  2. Wow! Gorgeous trees. Cynthia, I bet you could live anywhere. You seem at ease no matter where you land.

  3. Perhaps this is a lament. The red is signaling the end of the lazy summer days and a return to the daily grind. It's been so cold in Michigan this summer that I feel the season will past without a single heat wave. On our drive home from up north today, I noticed some trees already beginning to change color. I found myself saying, "but wait, we haven't had a summer yet!"

  4. I totally understand where you are coming from. I am a city boy on the other hand. I love the outdoors and the countryside but I need, crave city life, culture, cinemas, theatres. Your neck of the woods is beautiful, by the way. Many thanks for such a wonderful post.

    Greetings from London.

  5. Carol,

    thanks for coming over... I think the trees are magical too and I know you would appreciate the country here. xx <3


    maybe you could live anywhere too? Lately, I imagine myself living in France...and spending a long time in Italy. You never know! <3


    I hope you get some of the summer you crave. I remember going 'up north' every year and enjoying the green country, lakes, and the smell of Michigan pine. Yes, there is a bit on 'goodbye' in this post. <3


    Did you notice that the jungle bit was inspired by your Youtube dance/song post a couple of weeks ago?

    I can relate to your love of the city for the same reasons that you like it. Still, the country quiet and space are relaxing. I probably could live anywhere...(I'm referring to Lakeviewer's comment.) Thanks for your visit.<3

  6. wow, a little piece of heaven on earth i'd say...

  7. Now I know that there is glory in trees, but these are simply sublime!!! Yes, I imagine myself living in different places...don't we all?

  8. As always, and especially with this entry, a very colorful look into Puerto Rico. I love how the tree signifies the end of summer in such a fiery and passionate way. I also love how you describe both city and country life. I think I will always be a city girl. When I'm in the country I ADORE it. I never want to leave---but it is because I KNOW I'm on vacation and can take it all in. I thin I need to have the hustle and bustle of a city. I need the people and the shops and rush. Maybe when I'm older I'll feel differently, but right now, the city is right for me. Living in Los Angeles you get kind of the best of both worlds as it is a rural city. But, even here I find it a little dead. Man, do I miss London! Great post.....really well described and vivid.


  9. I was enchanted with the beauty and passion of this post,Cynthia. The flamboyan trees are aptly named. What a wonderful canopy they make over the end of summer! Enjoy these last days before school is back in session.

  10. Wow, they are so beautiful! (The flamboyant trees and you, too.) I guess that is Puerto Rico's version of the leaves changing in fall?

    Very cool. Love the pic of you amongst the leaves, too.

    Our species got the itch to travel way way way back when we first walked out of Africa. We've been moving around ever since.

  11. Summer going out in style,
    I'd say! ;-)

    I spent my childhood in an idyllic country setting, and I am grateful for that, especially since I have lived in big cities ever after. Somehow I've always found peace and quiet in the big cities, maybe I was simply lucky.

  12. One family that lives in the base where we are stationed is from Puerto Rico.. She said that she misses her country so much!

  13. Wow, I love the colors of the trees!

  14. thank you so much for sharing this to us and for giving us a glimpse about PR.

  15. I had to giggle and come right over when I saw this thumbnail pic of you in the foliage on my sidebar! Glorious trees. I agree with Lakeviewer, in the fact that you could live anywhere with grace and ease.

  16. ya.awesome, the trees..and C thanks for staying connected...cheers friend..

  17. Yes, I always imagine myself living wherever I am.
    I really would like to live everywhere
    city/ country
    hot country/ cold country

    Your flamboyant trees certainly ARE
    and very lovely too.

  18. Absolutely gorgeous trees. That reminds me of when I see the blooms of a Magnolia tree that Spring is here. I think part of our identity is also reflective of where we live. When I was younger, I lived in Montreal and adapted to the lifestyle that enveloped it. Blending in with the cacophany of noise, pollution and high rises. Now that I live in a much smaller town, I wouldn't trade it for anything. And the smaller the better. I think it would be a fantastic journey to travel through Peurto Rico by bicycle. Thanks for sharing the beauty that surrounds you.

  19. I enjoyed this post very much, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing Puerto Rico with us. (The trees ARE gorgeous!)

  20. Oh how wonderful it is to be back here on your simply beautiful blog and at last have time to absorb all the posts I only manged to flit through during July. Now at last I've turned the page and August is here..uncluttered with dates and deadlines so I can take a deep breath and sit back to enjoy my trips around the Blog world in a more leisurely fashion. Whew.

    Lovely flamboyant tree - they do make one feel joyous. We had a huge one in our garden in St. Thomas which I loved...thank goodness it survived Hurricane Hugo intact. I'm sure it's still revealing its splendour to this day!

    Thank you, too, for the tour around old San Juan. What wonderful memories it conjurers up...we would come over to go shopping several times a year from St. Thomas, and once spent two idyllic weeks exploring the island from top to bottom.

    Love your Retro Look...what a beautiful lady you are. Both inside and out.

  21. I Am not ready for summer to be over Cynthia...but I guess the trees wait for no man. What a magnificent place to live - such beautiful trees...Enjoy your weekend, xv.

  22. Thank you all for responding. I appreciate your interest in the red-burst and summer's end here in the Central Mountains of Puerto Rico.

    You are all so charmingly attentive!!! I have just moved on to the next post...with a 'get over it' attitude.

    xx <3 and ((hugs)) to you all.

  23. I love your opening photo and lines. I feel a similar pull between city and country as New Yorker living in Maine. The only place I dislike is suburbia. Gorgeous flame trees! New England fall evokes a similar feeling.


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