The variety of awe inspiring woodcarvings, paintings and other hand crafted delights, being the true works of art that they are, can be found in little “sub-collections” throughout my home. There are dozens of them and they range from extremely humble trinkets to magnificent sculpted masterpieces. To most people, this artwork seems to be either nothing more than part of the clutter if not completely unacknowledged… To me there’s much more to it than that.
Admittedly, I have some pieces of which I cannot even recall which trip or where, or the name of the artist; let alone the specifics of the moments and the experiences surrounding their purchase. I imagine that’s not unusual as I have made some purchases completely “on a whim” and others more as gestures of empathy than out of a desire to own said piece of art. However most individual pieces in my collection serve as portals of nostalgia and conjure up vivid memories of specific experiences, invaluable moments and distant friends made along the way.
16 years ago, my first wife and I chose Jamaica (Trelawny Beach Resort) as our honeymoon destination. Little did I know that the “love affair” with Jamaica that I was embarking upon was going to outlast the marriage more than ten-fold, and likely continue to grow and develop until TRULY “death do us part “. I recall that my initial intentions were to live like “King and Queen” in paradise and this first visit to Jamaica was going to be nothing but non-stop sun, fun and partying. Although we did have a great time, the trip was more of an enlightening and enriching experience than a “party”. Two things happened on this first visit that, if I had been more aware, might have served as good indicators of what my future would hold. One: On the first night of the honeymoon my ex-wife and I were swimming in the ocean when my inappropriately sized wedding band slipped off my finger and disappeared in the sea. Being that we were married the previou s day, I only managed to wear it for about 30 hours before losing it. The marriage didn’t last much longer than that.
Two: The morning after our arrival day, we walked down the beach and “discovered” the Bamboo Village. (For those who don’t know, this is a small community of artists on the beach who sell their art, braid hair etc.) There were several dozen shops and a small bar.
I worked my way through the small “maze” of shops, and for some reason ended up making it all the way to the last shop at the far end. I stopped and browsed and chatted with most of the vendors there and while my ex-wife had been “diverted” into a “braid your hair” sales pitch, I ended up at this last shop where I met a man who called himself “Puttymon” (I later learned his real name to be Caleb) He was sitting on the floor of his shop – the SAND – carving a piece of wood when he called out to me, “Hey mon” … Fully expecting to hear what I had been hearing since arriving at the Village, “Come take a look”, “Can I braid your hair” , “I have something to show you” …To my surprise, when I caught his gaze, he followed up with… “You drop somtin mon”. Somewhat embarrassed, I turned and saw my sunglasses so I picked them up and thanked him. He said: “Come” with a gesture toward the sand beside him. Again I expected a sales pitch as I walke d over but instead he simply asked for a light of his smoke and offered to share. We talked for a bit and then his wife Jennifer arrived and soon after, my ex-wife showed up as well. Well long story, short, we ended up spending the rest of the day there, and literally almost every waking hour of our week in Jamaica with Caleb and Jennifer, with everyone childishly eager to learn about “life on the other side”.
I asked Caleb if he would consider carving a piece (an Angelfish) specifically for me and he happily obliged. He worked all week on it and although I kept pressing him to tell me how much he wanted me to pay for it, he just kept telling me “mi no wa notin mon, is a gif” Feeling wrong about that, I ended up giving the money to his wife. The week went by much too fast (as it always does) and faced with parting we were all sad and very much hoping to be able to “reunite” as soon as possible. Before leaving that first time, I saw Caleb on the last day, just as I saw him on the first day- sitting in his shop on the sand, carving a piece of wood.
A year later, I returned to Trelawny, and literally upon arriving, I headed down to the Bamboo Village (naively “hoping” it would still be there) So much had happened in my life over the year, moving, a new job etc… When I got to the Village it took about 10 seconds before someone recognized me and came over. “Ya mon, welcome back!” “I remember you!” “You a friend of Puttymon…” Somewhat struck, I asked if Putty was still there. “Ya mon, come.” We walked to the end of the Village and there was Caleb- sitting on the sand, carving a piece of wood.
We spent almost the entire week together again. Caleb brought me to his mother’s home in Clarkestown for dinner, we went up the Blue Mountains with Caleb and Jennifer, we went to Green Grotto Caves and Safari Village together as well, but mostly we shared and learned from each other.
Then another two years later, I returned to Jamaica. Again there had been many changes in my life; Divorce, another move, another job, etc… This time I was not staying at Trelawny Beach however, so I only managed a couple of day trips down to the Village. The afternoon after I arrived, I grabbed a cab and went to see if Caleb was still there… There he was- sitting on the sand, carving a piece of wood.
Now it is sixteen years since that first visit to the place that I have come to love called Jamaica. Many visits later, I have come to understand and appreciate so much, all the immeasurable experiences, lessons, and blessings I have been given, all that I have learned along the way about life and about myself.
November 2003 found me once again, 16 years later, returning to Trelawny Beach Resort. It had been more than a decade since I had last visited the Bamboo Village, and I fully expected it to be completely changed or even worse- gone altogether. I checked in at the front desk, put my bags in the room and walked down to where the Bamboo Village used to be. Surprisingly, although much had changed (the bar is gone amongst other things) the Village is still there.
I asked a woman, Babes, if she had knew of a man named Puttymon. “Come” she said and led me through the stalls. I followed her pointed finger and saw Caleb’s weathered old shop. As I approached I saw him there- sitting on the sand, carving a piece of wood.
God bless you Caleb, God bless you Jamaica.
Much Respect and blessings to all, Steve Landry