Monday, January 27, 2014

Blessed by Ras Nolan

(Tobago Peeps article from Monday 20 January 2014. I can publish the articles a week after they appear in the Guardian (Behind the paywall). To read the full article at the Guardian on the day of publication you must subscribe to the online Guardian or buy the physical nespaper).

Ras Nolan
Photo by Elspeth Duncan

"I collect gems and minerals from the four corners of the universe."

Already I know that my conversation with Ras Nolan is going to be about more than the arts and crafts he makes to sell in his little shop opposite the Buccoo Community Centre. Handcrafted jewelry and handbags, incense, oils and semi-precious stones adorn walls, shelves and glass showcases.

"I am into crystal therapy and the seven chakras, from root to crown. If you want your third eye to open, I know what to use," he tells me as he scrapes the insides of a small calabash into dark water in a bucket.

He is preparing calabashes to begin working on 500 pieces in time for Carnival 2014. "Calabash spoons, bowls, bottles, flower vases, napkin holders, mask faces ... I will take calabash to a different level."

There is always something to learn, even from the simplest encounter with someone. I note his focus. He knows what he wants to do and how and by when he will get it done. I think momentarily of my own life and the areas I want to take to the next level.

Lesson #1: Focus and do it.

Is he from Buccoo? No. Bethel. So why did he choose this Buccoo location for his shop?

"I didn't choose it. It was chosen by the Lord, the Most High. I used to sell at Mt. Irvine beach in July and August. Lots of rain ... and I was struggling for the longest while ... until one day I saw the landlord, Mr. Shakey, and he offered for me to take a look at something he was building. The first day I saw it, I took it instantly."

Lesson #2: Know what you want/need and go for it when you find it ... or when it finds you.

"This is a shop of healing ... "Ras Nolan says, quickly adding: "No ... An enterprise of healing. A bigger word than shop, because I not selling biscuits and sweets. You have to be careful of the words you use."

Lesson #4: Words have power. Choose and use them carefully to manifest your greatest reality.

"You can have physical, mental and spiritual healing once you enter," Ras Nolan tells me. From his warm but penetrating eyes, I can tell that he sees beyond life's surface. "I am a man dealing from The Divinity, working with pure vibration. Any time the vibration is negative, I can tell. I deal with the True."

A passing woman calls out. He smiles, waves and calls back: "Peace and Love!" The way he projects the otherwise cliched phrase sounds different. Later, he tells me that everything he does and says, is done and said as a blessing.

Lesson #5: Have a positive vibration within and extend it to all.

"I study oils and incense. Everything I sell, I can tell you the power behind it. Prosperity oil, success, spiritual cleansing ..."

I tell him that for years I have worn Patchouli oil daily, but now I'm moving house, my Patchouli bottles are packed in boxes, my current bottle just finished and I haven't worn it in days.

He nods, understanding. "Not everyone will come in here telling me they wear Patchouli."

He rises, goes to his oils, selects the rasta version of Patchouli and pours some into a vial. He then reaches for a green pack of Patchouli incense, puts both items into a small white bag and hands them to me as "a blessing."

Monday, January 20, 2014


(Last Monday's Tobago Peeps article. I post them to the blog a week after publication in the Trinidad Guardian):

As I'm leaving the gas station, I notice DOH STUDY IT scrawled across the back windscreen of the dark grey Hilux in front of me.

I look to my right to see what vehicles are coming and my eyes meet the message on the front windscreen of the car heading my way: TOO BLES (one S missing) TO BE STRESS.

I swing my vehicle out and head in the direction of the highway, stopping at the traffic lights. The wording on the car coming from the right advises FEAR NOT.

Moments later, on the highway heading west, I pass a car turning right at Signal Hill. On the back windscreen, written in rasta-coloured letters sandwiched between stickers of two praying hands, is: IN GOD WE TRUST.

Clearly a message is being delivered today via these consecutive nuggets of vehicular wisdom.

Messages on the windscreens of vehicles in Trinidad and Tobago are a common and thought provoking sight. Drivers' reasons for choosing particular words and phrases (and commuters' interpretations of them) vary widely. Whether clear or obscure, the only way to find out what these 'signs' mean to each driver is to ask (as I do on occasion).






Days later, as I drive past the NP gas station in Scarborough, I see a silver station wagon parked to the front of the compound. The windscreen announces in capital letters: IN GOD WE TRUST. This phrase is a popular one.

I pull in to the gas station, park a few metres behind the car and observe large letters emblazoned across the back windscreen:


Interesting contrast to the frontal message. All the more reason to speak with the driver.

The vehicle doesn't belong to any of the men standing around the gas pumps. They direct me inside to a young woman sitting behind the counter. She nods. Yes, the car belongs to her.

"People must be wonder what kind of stupidness on the back of my car," she says. "But they is nicknames. I am Tik Gal. My mother is Soca. My sister is Fat Sauce."

And how does that connect with the front windscreen?

"It's my mother who made me put 'In God We Trust' on the front."

No need to explain. The love of a mother, putting her trust in God in front, for her daughter's safety.

Later ... DR. SCOOB D BILLIONAIRE cruises by at an intersection.



As we are all in motion, I can't stop to talk with these drivers. My next opportunity comes via a newly painted blue flat bed truck parked near the Esplanade in Scarborough.


I pull into the empty parking space near to the truck. The middle-aged male driver is happy to explain the proclamation which, before committing it to his windscreen, he used to print and offer to the public every Christmas, asking them to put it at the top of their list.

"When Panday got into office and became Prime Minister, UWI offered a twelve point plan to solve crime. But from that year, crime rose!" he tells me. "That text is God offering a four point crime plan: TRUTH. WISDOM. INSTRUCTION. UNDERSTANDING."

He takes a brown, dog-eared Bible from the glove compartment and asks if he may read me two passages. As he simply wishes to share a perspective, I listen.

"It's not only about knowing the Truth," he tells me after. "It's about having the Wisdom to apply it. Remember that."

- Elspeth

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Guardian Article on Firehorse Fridays and Firehorse exhibition

(Front page of today's/Sunday Guardian arts magazine)

Please click,on the above link to read Gillian Moore's article on my upcoming Firehorse exhibition and the public interactive Firehorse Fridays I have been offering since 10th January a lead up.

- Elspeth

Monday, January 13, 2014

TOBAGO PEEPS: End of Old, Beginning of New

(This was my first Tobago Peeps article for 2014):

The last day of 2013: I am having lunch with two visiting friends at Shore Things Cafe in Lambeau. On my recommendation, we’re all eating and drinking my favourite items from the menu—grilled fish sandwich and sorrel. We chat, update each other, discuss old/new year-related topics, have some laughs, then pay the bill.

I bid my friends goodbye and pop into the neighbouring Love & Magic Centre, the recently-opened shop/office for the Healing with Horses Foundation. I chat for a while with Mary-Ann, a visiting Canadian horse vet, who is doing the morning shift. I am scheduled to take over at 1 pm.

First I need to go to the mall to use free wifi and catch up on e-mails. A man and woman are standing near my vehicle attempting to stop a taxi or any willing car. “Which way are you heading?” the woman asks. “

I’m going to the mall.”

They are late for a funeral and can’t get transport. “Could you give us a drop to the highway?”

The drop to the highway ends up being a direct drop to “a Baptist church in Bethel.” Neither of my passengers knows exactly where this church is, so we pull off the road in Carnbee to ask directions from a woman standing in a driveway, holding a black and white cat. The woman points and tells us to take the next right to Bethel, where she says there are five Baptist churches.

Next, we stop in front of two youths standing at the roadside. “We looking for the funeral in the Baptist church,” my female passenger says. The youths casually point up the road.

As we depart, my female passenger laughs and says to her male companion: “Take care we end up in the wrong funeral. It come like we paranging in the wrong house!”

One more stop for directions, then the sight of people dressed in black walking past lines of parked cars. My passengers hop out, thank me and I drive off.

The unexpected diversion from my intended direction feels symbolic. On this last day of 2013, most people will say goodbye to various aspects of life or ways of being, anticipating the new.

The first day of 2014: I am driving out of Buccoo. Two women, clearly tourists, are walking, holding their thumbs out for any passing car. Figuring transport may be hard to come by on a public holiday, I stop for them. They clamber in, smiling.

“Happy New Year!” Their first words to me.

They are going to Scarborough, to the port, to Trinidad, to return home to French Guiana. Along the way we chat, mainly in English, sometimes in French. One woman is a social worker, the other a teacher. Their first time in Tobago: lovely place, friendly people, fun at Sunday School, wonderful beaches.

We draw near to the Port. The woman in the passenger seat asks me my name.



“El-speth.” I repeat slowly, accustomed to mispronunciations of my name.

“I’m Mary Ann.”

“I am Laila,” the other traveller pipes up from the back.

I stop and they disembark. As Mary Ann closes the door, she says: “Thank you so much. I wish you the very best...of everything!”

Her tone is so sincere and pointed that I feel the words ignite something new in me.

To you, reading this, I also wish newness and the best for 2014.

Original link in Guardian Newspaper:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2nd Firehorse Friday on 17.01.14

Come to the 2nd Firehorse Friday and be a part of the creative process leading up to my exhibition, FIREHORSE. Jot down date, time and place on your calendar/in your diary ... and come let your Creative Spirit out of the stables:

2nd Firehorse Friday
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
@ Healing with Horses Love & Magic Centre,
On the grounds of Shore Things Cafe,
Lambeau, Tobago.

This video gives a clue about the 2nd Firehorse Friday's creative activity.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The first Firehorse Friday

At one point during Firehorse Friday (10-01-14), when the first few visitors had added their random paint marks to what was initially there (initial canvas in background in pic above), the canvas looked like this (see below):

We saw a bird (dove or pigeon) nesting high in the city while the madness of life rushes around below it. Then a few other people came along and transformed it further by making a few simple paint strokes (no brushes were used).

And now I am at home transforming it even more as of today (Saturday).

The purpose of yesterday was to allow everyone who came to Firehorse Friday to "let your Creative Spirit out of the stable" ... and whatever comes out, comes from the freedom of that person and will be developed from there by me.

Everyone yesterday approached differently ... some softly, some boldly, some dropping swirls of paint, some making straight lines, some using leaves, some laughing, some serious, some pensive ... There is no right or wrong.

Below are some shots featuring a few of the people who added to the canvas that day. To see the final piece, come to the exhibition. Stay tuned or send me your email address so I can put you on the mailing list.

The first visitor makes her mark.

Second "public painter" transforms it further

Next up ... Without realizing it, he painted the dove/pigeon

Another participant makes her mark

There were other participants between, but I didn't take shots of them.

The last person to make her mark before FIREHORSE FRIDAY closed at 2 pm

Stay tuned for next week's interactive FIREHORSE mission ... The results of each mission will be included in my exhibition in various ways.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I was born in a Fire Horse year (Chinese astrology). This year I am working on a 2014 exhibition entitled FIRE HORSE.

As with everything I create, I introduce aspects of interaction for the public, so that people can be a part of the creative process in some way. Starting this Friday, 10 January 2014, Firehorse Fridays will begin, enabling public interaction.

Click here to see this Short Youtube video which is your invitation to come and "make your mark" ...

Date: Fri 10 Jan 2014
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Location: Healing with Horses Love and Magic Centre

(On the grounds of Shore Things Cafe, Lambeau, Tobago)

Come and make your mark. Be a part of the creative process of the gradually-unfolding exhibition, FIREHORSE by Elspeth Duncan.

All are welcome and will receive more information and guidance for interaction upon arrival.

As it is a Friday, make it a date. Invite friends, experience Firehorse Friday, visit the HWH Centre and treat yourself to a delicious lunch at Shore Things Cafe.

Firehorse (the first and title painting of the exhibition)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tobago Peeps: The Best Thing

(I could not find the link to last Monday's article, so will copy and paste here. Photo missing as I am typing on my ipad and the image is elsewhere ...)

First on my to-do list: Go to the photography place in Bon Accord to print new flyers for my one-on-one and couples yoga sessions. Minutes later, mission accomplished, I’m happy with the printed result, and head off to get a few more things done.

I go to the small TTPost office in Bon Accord, to post a Christmas gift to someone in Trinidad via TTPak. As I enter, the two women behind the counter greet me with a good morning chorus. Their simple welcome touches me.

A short while after, while I am making a payment at an office in Scarborough, the man attending to me stops what he is doing to reach out and fix the loosening tip of my pen as I write the cheque. Small gesture, memorable impact.

Next, on my way to a meeting in Mt. Irvine, I stop off at the gas station along the highway. While the young male pump attendant fills up my vehicle’s tank, I look at him, wearing his red NP-branded promotional t-shirt and my mind runs with questions. Does he enjoy filling vehicles with gas? Does he meet and interact with interesting people or are most/all drivers simply nameless faces with empty tanks rolling through the station? If it were not for the necessity of money, is this really where he would want to be right now? The final question that pops into my head is the one I ask him aloud: “What is the best thing that happened to you today?”

He pauses, eyes open in momentary surprise, thinks for a moment with a long “hmmmm”, then says: “I woke up this morning.”

“Good one,” I say.

There is a moment of silence as the numbers on the pump roll up toward one hundred dollars. “And what’s the best thing that happened to you today?” he asks me.

I think for a while and remember the light feeling I had that morning upon reading an email from a friend with whom I’d been at University in England. “I heard from a friend that a mutual friend we thought could be dead is actually alive.”

“Wow, now that is great news!” the pump attendant says, looking almost as relieved as if it had been a friend of his.

After a few final words, we part and I proceed to the QuickShoppe to buy a snack to eat on the road. While paying for my purchase, I ask the young female cashier: “What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”

She looks at me for a while without saying anything, then quickly responds: “Ah wake up. I am alive.”

A few hours later, after the Mt. Irvine meeting, I go to the reception area of some villas to deliver one of my newly-printed yoga flyers. Employees in crisp blue uniforms are milling around chatting, perhaps on lunch break. One of them approaches me and asks if she can help. I give her a flyer and ask if she could put it in the activities folder they have for their guests.

“If you give me fourteen I will put one in each villa,” she offers.
Thanking her, I give her the nine extra that I have, then ask: “What’s the best thing that happened to you today?”

She pauses and, after a brief silence, smiles, cocks her head and says in a light, singing tone: “I woke up today!”

“You’re the third person to give me that answer in the past few hours,” I tell her. “Must be a Tobago thing.”

We laugh and part.

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