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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 13

Wildlife wonder – White cedar trees

As I look out from my balcony, I usually focus on the beautiful sea views in front of me. However, at the moment I am also aware of the various trees around me on the hillsides, particularly as many are currently in flower. There are numerous patches of white blossom across the neighbouring hills from these beautiful cedar trees, which are also directly opposite the house and seem to be very common in this area.

The flowers are white or pink and are made of five long parts that form a trumpet shape. The trees flower between March and July and seem to be in full blossom at the moment. However the flowers are also falling and so the road up to the house, as well as many other roads, have patches of white on them were they are covered in fallen flowers.

The white cedar has numerous names such as Roble blanco, pink manjack, pink trumpet tree and whitewood. It is a deciduous tree that can grow to about 18 metres and it is native to the Caribbean. The wood is used for timber because it is strong and lightweight and has various uses such as construction work, flooring and boat building.

Grenadian gifts - Duquesne Bay

This beautiful, secluded bay is about 6 miles away and so it is within easy reach of the retreat house. The bay is situated on the west side of the island and so the water is calmer than at Bathway beach. When we visited, it was very quiet, with only a few children playing in the water at the other end of the beach.

There were a few fishing boats moored nearby and we were told that the fisherman travel about 30 miles out to sea to catch various fish, such as snapper and kingfish. There must have been quite a few fish even in the shallow water because we watched various sea birds flying overhead and then plummeting into the water, to dive for fish. This aerobatic show was an extra bonus to watch, as we swam in the warm, clear sea.

The name ‘Duquesne’ was given to the local Carib chief by the French, when they landed at the bay in the seventeenth century. The name derives from the French for oak tree, so I wonder whether the chief reminded the French of a strong, oak tree. Sadly however, the chief, along with his people, were killed by the French who destroyed the local Carib village.

At the furthest point of the bay, is a collection of rocks which is one of the sites for ‘petroglyphs.’ These ancient carvings in the rocks, shown below, date back to 900-1400AD and were created by the indigenous people of Grenada. Archaeologists use the general name of ‘Amerindian’ to describe these indigenous populations which were initially the Arawaks and then the Caribs. It is unclear which of these groups created the carvings but it is thought that they represent ancient mythology and seem to show the faces of people and monkeys. It is amazing to still be able to see such ancient carvings so clearly in the rocks. It is also good to know that despite the French and English invasions and the decimation of those who created them, that these stones live on as a testimony to the indigenous people of Grenada.

Reflections from the Retreat

My guests have now returned back to the UK, but their help to decorate the library has inspired me to continue to focus on this room. We are looking at options for the shelving and while we finalise that, I have started cataloguing the many books that we have here. My brother was a librarian and so he was able to give me some useful advice as to how to do this. He introduced me to the ‘Dewey Decimal Classification’ system which gives every book a number. By coding each book in this way, and then putting them in number order, it ensures that books of the same subject are shelved together. I have also discovered a great library website which records the details of each book and creates an online list of all the books we have, complete with an image of the book cover and a brief description. This will be a useful system to use in order to keep track of books, when people wish to borrow them.

We have books on a wide variety of topics; some that have had a significant impact on our lives, some picked up in charity shops and many donated by friends. We have children’s educational books, beautifully illustrated, large coffee table books, fictional books of all sorts of genres from science fiction to romance and a wide selection of non-fiction books on the natural world, art, medicine, philosophy, faith, sport and so the list goes on.

As I slowly categorise and record each one, there are many that catch my eye and I look forward to being able to read them in the future. I also wonder who else might enjoy them. It will be interesting to see how the library is used in the future, both by guests and by people who live on the island.

There is something about books that has always appealed to me; a good novel can transport me to another time or place or give me a sense of what it is like living a life that is very different to my own. I can also recall significant books that have been key milestones in my spiritual journey and have inspired me or challenged and shaped my worldview. The American writer, Sidney Sheldon said, ‘Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.’ I hope that our little library here will offer people something of that life changing energy to explore, achieve and to be inspired.

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