Jean Lowrie-Chin presents a copy of her book Souldance - Poems and Writings to Mrs. Karen Barton, Senior Director, Jamaica Library Service earlier this year. A total of 100 books were handed over - Jean said that she owed a debt of gratitude to the libraries in Savanna-la-mar and Kingston for being oases of knowledge during her childhood.
I am floating in the sea with my eyes closed. I am six years old again, on a school outing. I picture the tiny huts, no hotels, as we pick our way through the bushes to arrive at the pristine beach. Ah, Negril. Nor winding road, nor exhaust snorting truck will keep me from her beaches. Negril is another country without the interminable airport security checks.
I lose myself in nostalgia on my way through Savanna-la-mar. As we drive past Hendon Circle, I am always startled to see the petrol station where our church used to be. Glancing down Great George's Street, I remember the beloved library, the fountain where we posed for many childhood photos, and the little grocery shop where our newly widowed mother had eked out a living. We head to Negril via Lewis Street, looking wistfully at the few tall palms, remnants of the beautiful tree-lined driveway that led to our schoolhouse.
Then it's past Llandilo, Big Bridge and Little London. Big Bridge is where the memories really come flooding back. Still bravely standing, is my grandmother's red-roofed house where we "spent time" during the summer holidays. The land stretched back to the swampy fields near the Cabarita River where my grandparents had farmed rice for nearly 40 years. Their fish pots yielded the best seafood; nothing has ever compared to my grandmother's curried crayfish.
The road grows wider and smoother as we approach the Negril Golf Club, then to the busy town square and onto my favourite road - the Norman Manley Boulevard. Here rustic guest houses sit cheek by jowl with sophisticated hotels and Ossie's Jerk Centre is just a stone's throw from the Gate of Heaven Catholic Church.
We find our favourite spot on the beach, shaded by an almond tree, and gaze at what must be the most magnificent sunset in the world. We talk to a tourist who is ecstatic to be finally in Negril. "This place is so beautiful!" he exults. We have to agree. As I float in the warm sea, the years collapse and I am content to be "a tick of time on God's eternal clock".
As seasoned south coast travelers, we know the best stops on the trip back to Kingston. We buy fresh fish at Belmont, bammies at Whitehouse and pepper shrimps at Middle Quarters. Depending on our appetite, it's either Paradise Patties in Santa Cruz, or curry goat on Spur Tree Hill. No return from the country would be complete without stopping in Porus for fruit to last the week: oranges, bananas, jackfruit, and we pray for starapples and naseberries to be in season.
Holland bamboos bow us through to the open arms of Mandeville's panorama, and Caymanas' sugar cane waves us into Kingston. No wonder Jamaicans seem so self-assured. Like royalty, we are ushered, guarded, fed and protected by those magnificent sentinels of nature; our mountains are our palace walls. No matter where we go, we take our regal landscape with us. It is reflected in Garvey's eloquent leadership, Belafonte's charming defiance, and Marley's liberating lyrics.
Now that I must hand over my footwear in airports and wait for my luggage to be picked through, Negril beckons even more boldly. I am happy to shed my shoes for soft warm sand, rather than the indifferent stares of security officers. We need no visa for the trip to the world of our young lives, no passport for a rite of passage from which we emerge refreshed and re-energised.
Article Published in Pure Class, Sunday Herald Sunday, August 9th, 2009
Timing is everything, and wasn’t I happy to know that I would be in Jamaica by the July 24. What was happening on July 24? The birth of a new book and of course, I had to be there to share the joy.
I am able to keep abreast of all events globally from the advancement of technology and the new phase of Facebook. There it was posted under the events page, “An invitation to join the author Jean Lowrie-Chin for a signing of Souldance. The date was set in stone in my diary.
I arrived the day before wiped out from a long flight and then a series of meetings during the day on Friday - the 90-degree heat wasn’t helping me to move any quicker. But at 6 p.m. I jumped in a cab and headed for 62 Shortwood Road, Kingston 8.
The driver looked at me a little confused. “62 Shortwood … What’s it near?” he asked. “It’s the Stella Maris,” … he interrupts me and his face lit up. “Oh, Stella Maris , why you never say dat before? I used to take the nuns back and forth,” he said with pride and our conversation continues until I arrive there.
The evening was filled with introductions, music, readings and a grand finale with a couple of songs from the balladeer, the great Boris Gardiner. The refreshments were a combination of easy cook fritters and simple ready made rice dishes, juices and other goodies provided by Jean Lowrie-Chin’s clients.
Seduction of Souldance
Timing is everything but when I came home with my precious copy I wanted to read it then and there, but I couldn’t. Over the weekend, I had to prepare myself for a fraud court case. But like a disobedient child I kept peeking into my book and reading some of the poems and the articles.
And although I consider myself a very disciplined person I just had to stop what I was doing, and relax, find a comfortable chair by the window where I could feel the breeze on my face and exhale and absorb the seduction of Souldance.
The book is filled with many poems and a patchwork of articles, which express the fullness of Jean Lowrie-Chin’s life. Both the articles and poems give you a guided tour, step by step like a dance of her life from being one of four growing up with a doting stepfather, to parenthood, to the pride of watching our Jamaican athletics magic in Beijing.
Reading Souldance was sheer bliss. It stirred my soul, and my emotions danced and slipped to the cadence of her poems, which I equally loved - especially Pick-Up Time, which reminded me of when my son was so young and although many of the articles touched my soul the pride of living in Jamaica is expressed with such pride through No Visa Required and The Best of Times in Beijing.
Click here to order Souldance at Amazon - also available at leading pharmacies and bookstores in Jamaica. Please call PROComm at 926-6740 if you would like to have an autographed copy.
Souldance for Ambassador Bridgewater
Ambassador Audrey Marks, former Jamaican Ambassador to the US, presents a copy of 'Souldance' to former US Ambassador to Jamaica Hon Pamela Bridgewater. Occasion was a briefing at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington DC, as Ambassador Bridgewater prepared to take up office in Jamaica.