Luxuries and freedoms are on my mind. I write this, sitting as I am, in the air-conditioned computer area of the local community library here on Culebra, alone, with both of my children off fishing with their father and their friend and his father, at 11am on a weekday.

Many luxuries and freedoms here, for me – coffee in hand – beautiful, peaceful, all-enveloping silence surrounding me, cool air maintaining sweatlessness, barefoot, comfortable; and for each of my children and my husband too.

For it would appear that, for a modern day father and principal income provider, the freedom to take one’s children fishing in the middle of the day with your friend and his son, with no pre-arranged daycare discussions or negotiations with bosses or clients, is rare. In many cases, impossible.

This would, therefore, be a luxury.

So also would the car that we just bought. We caved. The heat and the distance from town meant that we were borrowing a vehicle more frequently that would ever be workable in the medium-term. We are now car-owners officially again. It is awesome actually. Guiltily, noisily, pollutingly awesome. We are, if nothing else, a family of extreme 2-3

A very dear and respected teacher and theater mentor of mine, himself an incredible and authentic artist and vital life liver, once said to me that he gauges how intelligent a person is by the number of their contradictions: the more contradictions, the higher the intelligence. That puts us in the genius category I would say. Impossible to pigeonhole. Woot.

I remember also the assessment made of me in my final teaching observation during my post-grad teacher-training year. ‘Completely unconventional, yet utterly effective’.

I have always held onto that, especially during times when my ability, sanity, relevance, capability, methods and motivations are called into question from either the outside or from within.

And I have been battling with some of these issues lately – perhaps some of the reason for my absence from the word these past few weeks. Just processing, nothing amiss. Struggles with a strong-willed five year old. Mistakes made. Lessons learned. Have you discovered It is a great resource when you feel like you are sinking and your responses are off. Thanks to some of the insights of practitioners contributing to this online community, I feel we have turned a significant corner. Thankfully.

photo 1-2And then, as I find it always seems to go with children, once you DO hit on the right thing, the improvements are rapid, seemingly instantaneous. Improvements that is, not perfection – we could wait a thousand lifetimes for that illusive nonsensical life-wasting preoccupation.

Pirate Camp’s current little luxuries and improvements since my last entry include:

A donated washing machine – so fabulous and so welcome for all reasons obvious when considering raising two children (one of whom changes costume at least twice per day), outside in the dirt and heat, gardening and playing with animals.

A Toyota 4Runner – giving us the ability to drive around our island home without borrowing someone else’s expensive set of wheels. We are also now able to get on and off the ferry, which is a ridiculous, slick steel, 45-degree angled ramp: death to the underbelly of any car with low clearance; an adventure in tire-spinning and engine-screaming, amidst fumes of burning rubber, for any 2-wheel drive; a pretty challenging ordeal – you must mount the ferry in reverse, performing zig-zag maneuvers – for even an above-average driver; no problem for Our Red Beast (‘Cherry’/’la Cereza’) and SuperJustin with his nerves of steel. This addition also opens up exploring the main island of Puerto Rico to us in a major way. Kids, tent, dogs, provisions. Bonza.

A flying remote-control helicopter.

A five-pack of baby dolls plus outfits.

A raised platform made of pallets. Covered with blankets and cloth, strewn with cushions and sheepskins in the main living area.

An egg hatchery, complete with automatic egg-turners and 24 assorted chicken eggs across a number of breeds meat, egg and fancy/ 4

A sushi dinner on the main island.

An organic caterpillar killer to (hopefully) enable a squash crop to speak of. This is the fourth time I have grown squash on the island and, once again, we are plagued with the yucky green worms. Yes, I know, what is it that Albert Einstein apparently uttered or penned: something about the definition of insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? And I think I am intelligent?! Well, this time I have changed a variable, and this time maybe we will have a different outcome – a squash dinner, instead of squash plant compost.

We have okra plants thriving and looking gorgeous, lots of them, as I planted a load more given the success of the first lot.

Watermelons, 1

Arugula coming up.

Tomatoes and beets and more arugula and kale and gandule beans planted in seed trays.

An expanded, much more workable, kitchen set-up, thanks to a recent re-jig and reconfiguration of our main living space (at the same time as the seating platform addition).

A large, secure, under-souplad dog house for such times as we are out and the dogs need to be contained with relative space and comfort. They hate it – it’s not a king-size bed, and there are no pillows. They’ll get over it.

photo 5Hanging solar lanterns lighting up play camp like a magical fairy wonderland. These are blue mason canning jars, with solar panels on the lids and an LED inside, illuminating the children’s collections of items found and foraged.

A few key dump finds to form part of chicken solution 2.0.

Still abundant tulsi and other fresh herbs for medicinal and delicious teas.

And then, of course, there are all the other intangibles and elementals that are worth so much more, like each other, nature, beauty, sun, sea, fresh air, freedom, friendship.

And there it is again: freedom.

I had a conversation the other day which made me recall a discussion with my then philosophy student brother on the subject of freedom and – moreover – the distinction, made by someone, between the concepts ‘freedom from’, and ‘freedom to’.

It is one of those discussions that has stuck.

I have just googled it now, and I find the two terms also defined as ‘negative freedom’ (freedom from) and ‘positive freedom’ (freedom to).

It’s a great guideline with which to assess our freedoms personal, cultural and legal. What are we and aren’t we free from, and what are we or aren’t we free to do?

Taking the example of our new Cherry the 4Runner and Beast, we are now:

Free to drive around Culebra independently;

Free from the anxiety of using someone else’s vehicle;

Free to roam and discover parts of PR, to explore by our own steam.

NOT free from the guilt of knowing that we are polluting our environment with our transport choices;

Not free to travel without using money.

It’s an interesting exercise and an interesting lens through which to examine our society and the choices we make in our lives.

Taking now, and the luxury of the moment:

I am free to sit and write in comfort and peace.

I am free from the responsibility (for this brief moment) of keeping my children safe and fed and watered and amused and from hurting each other with hands or words.

I am free to relax my mind and explore processes and thoughts that have been milling about my psyche for the past week or two.

My husband is free from the burden of traditional employment and able to decide how he uses his own time.

We are not free from the worry that comes at times of scarcity when clients fall away or new clients are not forthcoming.

We are free to organize our finances in such a way that we are less and less affected by the leaner times.

My children are free to build positive and meaningful, integral relationships with the natural world around them.

My children are free to vent their frustrations and explore and unleash their emotions in a safe and loving place.

My children are free from the rigidity of a timetabled existence, free to establish rhythms and rituals that are meaningful to them, not free from the boredom that makes self-reliance a necessary 3-2

We are free to eat the fish from the sea around us.

We are not free from the feeling of disappointment when we fail to make a catch.

We are free from the necessity to eat government-sanctioned GMO foods and polluted and de-natured food-type products.

We are free to work through parenting issues as they come up, to establish a living family (Pirate!) culture that works for us.

We are free to homeschool our children.

We are not free from the judgments of others regarding the choices we make.

We are free to disregard them totally.

Something I saw recently on the internet that made me smile and inspired a lot of my recent process and thought; something that made me examine both my idea of self and the experience of the reality of myself – who I am, what I can be, what holds me back, what sets me free:

A Lion Does Not Lose Sleep Over The Opinions Of Sheep.

I love that. Utterly. Completely.


You know what they say, ‘when life gives you lemons…’

I get bored by the cheesy snippets of Fridge Magnet Wisdom that circulate the internet tirelessly. No Fridge Magnets here – no fridge.

Equally the myriad stupidly annoying Funny Bumper Stickers: My Other Car Is A…; My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma; Obamanos; MILF references – all of them; My Dog This or That.

The dumbest bumper sticker – Namaste. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you. So feel the love, please, while I cut you up aggressively while on the phone sipping a latte cos I’m late to my Bikram class, fucker!

Great sentiment, poor placement.

Which is much how I felt about Pirate Camp last week when everything went all lemony for a minute and I had just Had Enough.

I’m going to stick with the lemon thing, even though it’s stupid because, well, the stupid in me recognizes the stupid in you. Sometimes stupid rules ok!

This week, after returning from a brief, but particularly enjoyable 5 day trip to the United States, staying in hotels, dining out in DC, tramping round museums and then visiting with family in climate-controlled comfort, we came back to the following:

A car that stunk thanks to a glass pyrex container full of scrambled egg (yup!) that we had half eaten on the ferry the morning we left and then forgotten about in the trunk. There were maggots – Maggots!

photo 1-3Coco’s second birthday and party, which was wonderful and delightful, as only your own child’s birthday can be. It was a jewel of a day preceding the news that Tropical Storm Bertha was on her way to us.

A day deciding what and how to decamp, watching forecasts and assessing risk.

A day bringing down the day camp area. We left up the Soulpad, which incidentally fared AWESOMELY in the wind and rain that came; but our plan entailed taking down the kitchen and living areas, distmantling the play tent, and stowing away the toys and delicates up at the house. We took down our tarp roofs, putting pallets all over the kitchen floor, placing on them what we weren’t bringing up to the house, and then covering the whole area with copious tarpage before lashing it all down with ropes.

Then, after a somewhat shockingly aggressive wet and blowy start that lasted about 20 minutes, it rained and blew gusts for the rest of the day, much like a crappy wintery day in England. Nothing dramatic at all. Which is obviously a good thing.

We were in the house, so remained dry. The house didn’t. So we had some water management on our hands but it was altogether pretty fun and movietastic, with pizza and tea, left-over chocolate birthday cake and the feeling that we were camping out, oddly.

Then came the following day.

And the avoidance.

Then the next, and the meltdown.

Up went the tarps anew. And somehow flappier and holier than before, and more tarpy feeling, strangely…

Out came the random stuff that had been stored under tarp, some of it damp and stinky. Most of it fine and dandy.

But then, for some reason came the overwhelming and deparate feeling that this was all a massive bunch of f*@#ing lemons, and, no, I did NOT want to make F*&@#ING LEMONDADE, darnit. I wanted climate controlled sleeping quarters, a whirlpool tub, clean carpet under my feet, a dishwasher, a maid, electric lights to see by in the evening and a TV room I can shove my kids in when they get on my nerves.


But, no, in an amazing fit of blind insanity, we had chosen to raise our kids under a plastic bag, with a cold-water hose, some shitty solar lanterns and a propane double-burner stove that now, of course, just ran out of gas.


It was ugly actually. We made our stupid lemonade. We put things back together. But, if I am honest – and I can be nothing if not – all I could feel was a deep sense of hostility towards myself and my situation.

Then I had a chat with myself in the office. I watched my monkey mind be the ridiculously self-destructive tw@t that it is. I talked things through a little with my husband, I called my mother, took the kids to the library and drank a coffee while reading aloud children’s fiction and playing with wooden blocks.

Then I went to the beach.

photo 2-4Then we all went to the beach. We snorkeled with Parrot Fish, Tang, Snapper, Butterfly Fish, violet sea fans and Green Turtles.

We explored rock pools and followed crabs, jumped off rocks and tickled coy sea anemones.

I watched my son dive down and slip through the turquoise waters like a gilded dolphin.

I was blown open watching my children, naked, wild, and free while the sun’s rays soaked into my skin and my crabbiness side-stepped the hell away (almost) entirely.

It was gone by the end of the night, after spending the late afternoon with friends, struck down by a mind-splitting, defragmenting, son of a migraine; and then a nap while said friends watched my kids; and then an evening stretching out with the same friends, eating and sharing and laughing and connecting.

Talking about the way you live with people who actually Get It, and who live by their own version of similar principles, simply cannot be beaten in the social stakes. It is the best thing. It is co-creative, inspiring, deeply supportive and truly synergistic.

So, by the end of the day – Boom!

Crisis averted.

The mind is a wacky thing.

And that’s kind of how I feel about lemons. Ok, you get lemons, you make lemonade. Lemons are good. They are rich in vitamin C. They can re-alkalize the body, they aid the digestion, clear the palate. They’re good for you. But lemonade sucks without sweetness.

You have to add a little honey.

Otherwise you’re just sucking on a lemon in a glass. It tastes too bitter and it makes you make weird faces.

Homespun wisdom abounds – I think we need a fridge!

So that is how I personally survived my own minor meltdown under a plastic bag – by deciding to have a good attitude again. And by having put up said plastic bag on a tiny tropical island.

All the frustrations that come with all the joys of living outdoors and so close to – nay WITH – Mother Nature, are rendered so massively irrelevant by a rebalancing dip in the Caribbean with your loved ones and a good meal with good people.

  • By the way:
  • My Other Tent Is a Stylish and Ergonomically Pleasing Luxury Canvas Erection;
  • My Other Car Is a Canoe;
  • My Soulpad Ran Over Your IPad.

If you Can See This You’re Too Close.



Go Outside. Namaste ;)


We moved.

I am not going to go into they whys and wherefores of our decision to leave Pirate Camp, and Culebra at this point, partly because I have not finished processing our departure from the beautiful teeny island that was our home for a year.

Writing often helps me find clarity but, on this occasion, after sitting at my keyboard for a good 45 minutes, I have written nothing that I would wish to share publicly. So I shan’t. And, for now, you shall have to wonder.

It’s nothing so heavy, mainly rain, rain and heat.

And a little boy who wanted to live in a house again.

And the need for more playtime together.

And exhaustion.

And the feeling that we were kind of outsiders, and that we needed more than that.

Drenched from a 3-day torrential downpour, we packed hurriedly, spent one final (for now) night in the Soulpad in damp beds (no leaks in the tent, just damp, condensed moisture in the air), and left the next morning on the first ferry.

As Justin pulled our car up the ramp: dogs, cats, bin-liners full of damp cloth, clothes and toys; our suitcases, and some food all rammed into the back seats and trunk, I walked onto the ferry with the hand of a small child in each of my own, and tears suddenly stung my eyes.

We sat – the four of us the only passengers on deck, as it was damp and still a tad yucky – holding hands for the entire journey, excited, nostalgic, looking forward together. The sweetness of a completely new, uncharted, unforeseen and unknowable chapter unfolding as we headed on…

It was entirely based on gut instinct, intuition and gravitational pull that we chose to drive to Rincon, in western Puerto Rico.

And here we are.

Landing was bumpy. Straight out of the woods and a rainstorm, into a concrete, itty-bitty, nondescript, suburban style blah of a house, in a small housing development behind a supermarket.

With electricity!

And running water!

And a stove!

And the supermarket sells organic food!

And gluten-free products!

And we are down the road from a fabulous Farmers’ Market, where we have already met some wonderful people, made some goaty contacts, bought bags of deliciousness, talked gardens, essential oils, manure and homeschooling.

We have rented this house for a month and have several places to look at this week and next.

We will be headed back to Culebra over the next week or so to finish closing down the remainder of camp, make some proper farewells, and to decide what to do with the ducks, who are currently still on the property, fed and watered.

If we find the right place, I would like to bring them. But Elizabeth is our foster duck, so we will have to ask her mum what she wants us to do.

photo(1)It feels like the forces of nature and of our own natures are working with us.

It feels good.

Both shockingly different, and not different at all – still just us, being us. It’s good.

And still beautiful. We are surrounded by varied beaches, forest, tropical lushness, waterfalls, horseback riding, surfing. Inventuresploring opportunities abound.

And the play goes on.

This evening, at significant o’clock past bedtime, I overheard Ziggy say to Justin: ‘Come on Daddy, you have to come and do this, the main reason we needed a house is so I can practice my mad ninja skills and not get my hands dirty’.

Pirate Ninjas are in the hood – watch out Rincon.

We come in peace.