Wildlife wonders- Violet wild petunia
A few weeks ago, I heard that the bluebells were out where I used to live and it was the first time I really missed being in England and being able to walk my dog in the local bluebell woods. So I was encouraged when I came across a patch of these wild flowers that had sprouted up in my garden. They have appeared at a similar time of year to the English bluebells and were a great encouragement to me because, from a distance, they look like bluebells. They are low lying and are scattered in clumps down the road and near the beach as well as patches in the garden.
This plant is common in Central America and the Caribbean and it usually flowers just after the rainy season begins. The rains have just started here and the rainy season lasts from about the end of May to the end of November. Despite its name, there is still plenty of sunshine between the heavy rain showers, but it is definitely more humid now.
Like so many of the plants here, it is used for various medicinal purposes and it is supposed to help with colds and fevers. However, just seeing it has been medicinal for me and although some may see it as a weed, I’m grateful for these substitute bluebells, in my garden.
Grenadian gifts - Froggy’s reef tours
Recently I visited Grenada’s sister island, Carriacou, with some friends from the UK. We discovered ‘Froggy’ online and we booked him for a day’s tour of island hopping. It was a fantastic way of seeing Carriacou from a different viewpoint and we also sailed along the third island which makes up Grenada, which is Petite Martinique. We stopped at Paradise beach, Sandy Island and Anse La Roche, where we snorkelled (see last week’s blog). Along with the snorkelling experience, the other highlight of the trip was the amazing Mopion Island (in the photo below). This is a small sandbank that is about 20 metres long by 8 metres. There is only room for a parasol and it’s a popular picnic site for passing yachts. It’s a magical spot, surrounded by beautifully clear, shallow aqua water, teeming with fish. It was great fun to each have a brief ‘desert island’ experience and it was a wonderful place to swim.
Froggy was a great tour guide and he provided a delicious lunch with, what we agreed, was the best coleslaw we had ever tasted, and plenty of rum punch! He gave us a private tour and so he was able to drop us off at our local beach, so that we didn't need to get the bus back.
For people wanting to explore other islands from Grenada, he picks people up from the airport or from the dock in Carriacou and gets them back to pick up their plane or boat back to Grenada, all in a day. It is definitely something I would recommend to future visitors of the retreat house.
Reflections from the Retreat
One of the reasons I love living here, is my close connection with nature. The balcony doors are open all day and the downstairs courtyard creates an outside space in the centre of the house. So there is a sense that the boundary between the inside and the outside is less fixed. This blurred boundary also means that the natural world doesn’t always stay outside. Most of the time this is something I enjoy as the little lizards come and visit and birds and butterflies fly in and out of the courtyard.
However, during the last few weeks, it has been nesting season and there has been a marked change in the activity of the local birds. I’ve witnessed some vicious fights between male birds as well as some flamboyant courting rituals. This change in activity, has also led to more birds not only flying into the courtyard, but also getting confused as to the way out. A couple of times I have had to catch a small bird in my hand as it flaps against a closed window, that it is trying to fly through, and to help it back outside.
Some small bananaquit birds have made their nest at the exit of my kitchen extractor flue. Thankfully for them, the extractor fan no longer works and so it makes an ideal nesting site. Although there are various rustling sounds as the nest is built, there is no mess or signs of the nest in the kitchen, so we seem to be living alongside each other OK and I look forward to the sound of fledglings.
However there are more challenging animals to live alongside, like the bats that have taken up residence in the garage and the little mice that scuttle around outside at night. With the start of the rainy season, there is also an increase in mosquitos and sand-flies. Sand flies are appropriately called ‘no-see-ums’ in Grenada and they are always a challenge to share a home with.
When we were discussing the bats, one of my builders reminded me that these animals were here long before I was. This takes me back to a vivid childhood memory I have, of crossing the road with my Granny. She would stride out, across the small country roads near where she lived, with my brother on one side and me the other. If a car came along she would stop and emphatically lift her hand up until the car ground to a halt and she would say, half to us and half to the driver, ‘people walked here, long before the cars came along.’ I sense the same emphatic right of the wildlife to be here. They lived in the bushes and trees that existed here, long before the house was built.
I hope to stay mindful of living lightly on this land, being aware of the wildlife, with which I share my home. So yes, part of my reason for moving here was to connect with nature, but I can’t dictate how we connect. Nature teaches us that we are not in charge of that relationship and together we need to learn to share certain spaces and learn to live alongside each other.