Monday, February 27, 2017

A Special Day in Trellis Bay: An Artist Community and A Magic Morning

We don't get to East End, home of the eccentric and eclectic Trellis Bay, often. For one thing, it's quite a drive - which I realize is laughable on an island that measures twelve miles by three - but as the car drives, it's a solid 30-40 minutes one way. With three little kids, and a mid-day nap that I will only forego for extremely special occasions - it's hard to justify an hour or more commute for an hour or two of fun. But when our friend, Cem (pronounced "Jem", like the jewel) invited us to see a special artist friend of his, I thought, "Why not!"

Trellis Bay is...unique. It's location - on the easternmost tip of Tortola - is a bit off the beaten path giving it a relaxed, sleepy vibe that is more commonplace in the remote islands down south. The bay itself is a horseshoe cove surrounded by thick mangroves and tucked-in by steep hills making it feel somehow hidden. It is home to a host of live-aboard boats (and a few derelict ones), a handful of great restaurants, and a vibrant artist's community. At first glance, it doesn't seem to have much to offer. There is not much beach to speak of, and the area isn't particularly 'beautiful' as tropical island coves go, but it is certainly 'picturesque' and what it lacks in sweeping visage it makes up for in character and charm. This place has more color than most and I've never been anywhere quite like it.

We kicked off our shoes and started walking down the beach to the sound of sand underfoot, rustling wind through palms,  and the call of the mourning doves until we came upon several local fishermen on the shore hauling in their catch in tandem. The girls stood and watched, mesmerized as the men - completely unfazed by our presence - grabbed handfuls of small bait fish out of their nets and headed to their boats to catch the bigger guys. We headed down the beach a little further, to Aragon's Studio, where we were to meet Cem and his artist friend.


Under the shade of a lush sea grape tree, there was "Green Eye" Joseph putting the final touches on a carving. Surrounded by messy pots of paint, with his head cocked to one side, he tentatively painted the various grooves and crevices of his creation, his hand smooth and steady. At his feet played his son, Ocean, a beautiful boy of seven who's general adorableness and effortless charm made me want to have a son and name him Ocean. Haven and Mira (Isla was at school this morning) were immediately taken by him and after a few bashful moments from the girls (who clung to my legs), soon they were all three jumping on the giant, purple, ad-hoc fishing net hammock set up in front of Aragon's.

Suddenly, I heard the happy voice of our Turkish friend, Cem. "Welcome, Brittany!" (he pronounces every syllable, Bree-tan-knee) "You came early! You meet Joseph? I have picnic and wine, but is chilling...wait a moment..." and off he was in a flurry. He returned with a bag of pretzels which the girls and Ocean happily indulged in and then he started giving us the run-down of Joseph's work. How he, and most of the (dead) wood he carved, came from Dominica, how it's sustainably harvested from the rainforest. We oohed and ahhed at his creativity, at which point Ocean showed up at my hip with a handful of his creations. "I made these ones!" he told me. "I sell my art too!" he beamed. God, this kid was cute. I would be buying something from him for sure.

Joseph, while incredibly friendly and kind, was a man of few words and for the most part stuck to his work, quietly laughing and smiling at random comments from Ocean or at some antics the twins got into. At one point he brought over some pictures of commissioned work he did for Richard Branson a few years ago. If you visit Necker or Mosquito Island, you might just see Green Eyes work. Our party migrated to a picnic table where Cem (an environmentalist and keen farmer who has an eco-resort in Turkey) produced a lovely picnic of a prosciutto-esque meat (the name escapes me), organic tomatoes and arugula grown in his very own garden. He also unwrapped a gorgeous hunk of grainy white cheddar and a few fresh baguettes. I was instantly transported to my solo backpacking days where this was the go-to meal of choice; often eaten on the steps of a church, piazza, or park under the mid-day sun in some new town... I had forgotten just how well these simple ingredients came together.

As we gathered, a few more people joined us: Aleksandra, a Polish print artist just out of art school doing a residence in the studio for a couple of months, an old salty sailer with milky eyes who has been a captain most of his life and written books, and Dave, a jack of all trades sort of fellow who lives near Trellis and does some work for Aragorn, maintaining the full moon party fire balls and general upkeep. It was an interesting assembly and some good conversation was had while the kids played happily in the background and we munched on Cem's generous picnic, sipping wine and chit chatting.

As the food dwindled, Aleksandra brought out a giant piece of sailcloth and a few pots of paint. "Is it okay for the girls to make art?" she asked me. Of course it was! Off came the twins' shirts and on went the paint. The girls and Ocean had a blast painting and creating on their giant canvas (and themselves!) and as I observed the scene I had a visceral moment of gratitude that our kids are able to have experiences like these. Moments like these are precisely why we live here. Everything I wanted and imagined.

Too soon, our time had come to pack up and leave to get home for naps. We finalized our purchases from both Ocean and Joseph, and made promises to return.

Which we will do, sooner than later.

The magic and organic evolution of this particular morning (one where we thought we were just going to check out some carvings!) would be hard to re-create, for sure, but you never know what might be in store for you when you visit Trellis Bay. At the very least, you can be transported back to a sleepier, simpler time and quietly enjoy the beauty and bounty this exciting little place has to offer. Or maybe just maybe, you will be treated with open arms to a lovely picnic with a talented artist, his eclectic and interesting neighbors, and walk away with memories to last a lifetime.

Joseph's art

The meeting of new friends, always a bit awkward at first.
Cem, saying hello to the girls
Ocean constructing stands out of remnants of a fire ball
The commissioned pieces Joseph did for Richard Branson.
Our picnic
Joseph, methodically working away - Ocean's creations are on the front of the table.
By the end of our visit, the girls ADORED him!
More of Joseph's work.
Ocean serenaded us after we painted


Stell & Snuggs said...

Hey Windtraveler Crew! Great read and will share this. ❤️ We are actually sailing back to East End to perform the upcoming Trellis Bay Full Moon Party at Aragorns March 12! It's gonna go off with our Stell & Snuggs show and our friends from Antigua, Sound Citizens! Please come?!

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An indoor hammock will provide endless hours of fun throughout the year of rocking, reading and sleeping in their hammock. You don’t need to rely on good weather for it! Or, if the Sleepy Hammockis for the adults in your household, picture yourself cuddling up with a glass of wine and a good book on a cold winter’s night. You just need to make sure that you have the right surfaces to use as anchor points (more on this later, too).

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