Flower Show in Chiang Mai, Thailand…..I just love the floats!
All photos by Renee Irene
Skimming on the water in a canoe through the mangroves is such an emotionally rich experience. For me, it also became a creative experience. I was mesmerized by the way the light filtered onto the dark water and the kind of creepy yet very alluring look to the forest itself. Up to the day I got to glide through the mangroves, I had no idea that a story would come up through me and have to be put on paper. A movie outline. I have written a few radio dramas but this was a visual story, influenced by a film I had watched one night in a village of the looming Independence of the Solomon Islands in 1978 and time with the people in the area. While in the canoe itself, the story just bubbled up into my head and demanded to be put on paper. These are a few of the photos I was taking those two or three days! I have refined the story and now doing research. I cannot get it out of my head. The creative process is kind of mysterious. I had been telling a few folks I had met that there was no way I could write a story set in the Solomons because I was just not there long enough to really get a feel for the place and then, bam, the story just hit me.
Kids can be so natural in front of a camera if you wait a little while and let them play or just be themselves. It helps to be fond of children. They are one of my favorite subjects. While at home and traveling, I often prefer to photograph kids.
Sometimes they can even surprise you.
On a long trip around the islands of the Solomons, I came to a village along with local aid workers and was sitting on a porch with one or two adults and the village children rushed to sit with us, filling up the space.
I had on Keen shoes, very strange looking indeed, and support socks as traveling so much does do damage to veins. Maybe the children had never seen those kind of socks before and they could not get enough of them. As I sat there, they started to whisper to each other, “socksies.” In a few minutes it became a mantra - everyone saying socksies. After about 10 full minutes of this, with me trying to ignore that they were all fixated on my socks, two very brave little girls crawled under the bench to sneak a feel. I was very popular in that village along with my socks and Keen shoes!
Throughout the islands my shoes would get all the kids’ attention. Over and over!
To me real joy is being on or in water. As I stood on the ship for days on end, going from village to village, island to island, I was living in total joy to be in these surroundings, whether sailing in good or bad weather, eating good or bad food, sleeping in good or bad places. For me, it is all JOY.
In an Adventist village in Solomon Islands, the kids were the movers and shakers. From the moment we arrived, the young ones began to help my cohorts carry things up to their village and assist in the building for two latrines for the next two days. Most had a “basket” (Solomon language for purse or bag) and they seemed to be seriously organized in their age groups. When I asked about games, they took me by hand and proceeded to show me games they knew: games using rocks, hand clapping games, rope games, and outdoor sport games. This lasted a few hours. I not only felt welcomed but part of their day. I kept thinking about kids I know whose lives are lived mostly indoors and who think of selfish needs during their typical day, whose lives are dominated by a chair and some kind of digital toy. These village children, unlike any village I was to witness in Solomons, were making their day full outside, taking advantage of friendship and cooperation and enjoying being kids! I approve!
While visiting islands in the Solomons, we stopped in on a village situated deep along a mangrove river. The village Chief told me that it was made up for four clans, three residing on one side of the river bank and one on the other. It was a Catholic village with a Adventist clinic. The village grounds were covered in clover and landscaped with flowers and trees throughout, even behind the buildings, making it very pretty and neat. There was no garbage or junk laying around anywhere. Its central bathing area was paved with rocks and planted with trees and flowers to create a very harmonious and sweet place to bath. Some of the footpaths were lined with orchids and everywhere I looked I saw pretty paths. I asked one of the two older villagers who spoke English (which they learned during the time the Solomons was colonized by England) why it was so pretty and clean and he said, “If we had know you were coming we would have cleaned it up for you.” I was floored. I have never been to a cleaner living space in my life. I asked whose idea it was to create the village and he said the original man who settled people there was the one who created it but he had died and was buried at the entrance to the village, out of respect. The villagers had gathered in a huge outbuilding to listen to me ask questions and ask me some of their own. When I told them that I had been raised Catholic, they were very happy and an old grandmother told me she had triplet grandsons and sent for them so I could take their photos. While we were chatting, other villagers were assisting my cohorts who had come to do some work on latrines. When I asked the head man who kept the place looking so tidy, he said everyone pitched in and that was why it was completely organized and lovely. I was curious if they ever went to the sea, some good distance from their spot, but he said no, they had no reason to do so. They had their gardens there on land, animals to raise and the river to fish from. He said they saw no need. The mangroves were huge and you could tell there were plenty birds and fish about and, I am sure, crocodiles! I pray one day I can return to this little paradise.
Life aboard ship in the Solomon Islands requires patience, stamina, ability to sleep anywhere, desire to continually see island after island, happiness with endless meals of rice and tinned tuna, strong legs to climb up to the upper level outside the boat, bravery when the boat is overloaded, friendliness, no fear of the toilet when there is rough weather, love of the sun, patience, love of the sea, love of the rough sea, love of rain, able to sit on anything anywhere, sea legs, and a good sense of humor. These photos just tell a small story on sea life in the first 24 hours of a 12 day trip!
In my journeys around the Solomon Islands, I saw children playing and enjoying their natural playgrounds. It made me extremely happy. For most developed nations, the use of technology and its gadgets has kept children from even venturing outdoors and whole towns and cities can seem like graveyards without the noise of neighborhood kids making their usual fun outside. What a shame. At this village, the children like to swim on things they find, row their canoes and generally enjoy life. I asked them if there were any crocodiles around, famously dangerous in the Solomons, and they pointed to a nearby mangrove. “Are you afraid,” I asked, getting nervous for their safety myself. They all replied with a hearty “NO.” As the sun started setting I begged them to row home and get their little bodies and toes out of the water. You never know!