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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 29

Wildlife wonder – Calabash tree

At the end of my road, where my neighbour’s garden meets the bush, is this calabash tree. The tree is evergreen and roundish in shape, reaching about 12 metres in height. The flowers are funnel-like and light green or white and I have heard that they are pollinated by bats. However, it is the fruit of this tree which are so fascinating. The fruit looks similar to the white fleshy inside of a soursop but it is not usually eaten and instead it is scooped out and discarded and then the shell is dried out. It is the shell of the fruit that is used from this tree and calabash trees are basically a tree which provides waterproof containers.

Traditionally in tropical countries where this tree is found, calabash fruit have been used to create bowls, large spoons, decorative containers, musical instruments and various other items, such as the bowls in the photo below, from a hotel shop. Even before the shell is dried out, a green calabash shell can be used as a pot to cook on an open fire. Carvings are often made on the shell which do not disappear and once the shell is dried it can be painted and varnished and they can last for years.

Grenadian Gift – The Nutmeg restaurant

Like any capital, St Georges has a variety of places to eat but we tend to go to the Nutmeg restaurant for a number of reasons. The main reason is because Hosten’s mum worked here as a cook and as a boy he would sometimes go and meet his mum there after school and he probably learnt some of his cooking skills there.

Its location is one of the best for central St Georges because it looks over The Carenage, so it is a great location to watch people and fishing boats come and go. The restaurant serves traditional Grenadian food and they usually have a choice of chicken, pork, fish or other seafood. When I visited with my children recently, they both had a chicken roti and I had sweet and sour chicken, Grenadian style. There are usually 3 or 4 sides that come with the main course, such as rice and peas and fried plantain, and a wide option of drinks are available.

It is a relaxing place to watch the world go by and is also reasonably priced. Over the years, it has changed management a number of times but, as one of the oldest restaurants in town, it is good to see that it is still going strong.

Reflections from the Retreat

Over the last month or so, my car has been making a strange, unsettling noise like metal scrapping on metal and so I had to find a reliable car mechanic. I was given three different names and chose the one nearest to me who turned out to be very good. He explained that the brake pads needed replacing and, unlike a UK mechanic who just fixes it and gives you the bill, he removed the brake sensors and showed me where they were worn down and how they were creating that sound and explained what needed to be fixed. I also discovered that he serviced the ambulance service for the government and so I felt my car was in safe hands. Unfortunately, the main Mitsubishi garage on the island doesn’t stock the brake pads that match my car so they need to be shipped in. This will mean that it will cost a lot more than I’d expected and I will be without a car for a few weeks.

As I sat in the shade, while my car was being checked, I watched a butterfly flit from one small flower to another, amongst the grass. I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to watch a butterfly before and I was amazed at how the stem of the flowers, similar to long buttercups, was only slightly bent as the buttercup landed. It was so light and delicate and a joy to watch and I was impressed with its busyness and how it purposefully flew from flower to flower, gathering nectar. Yet I was also aware that it might only live for another few weeks if that, and then all that energy and vibrancy would be gone.

I pondered on that butterfly as I prepared for some spirituality training that I was asked to provide for the psychology team of a London oncology service. As the team talked about living with cancer and sometimes facing death with their clients, we talked about the value of the present moment and, like the butterfly, life being about quality rather than quantity. I always enjoy these discussions because so often spirituality and faith are not included in our health care or in therapy. Yet when we stop to think about it, staff realise how important it is to consider what gives people’s lives meaning, hope and purpose – including their own lives as it is an important part of staff wellbeing.

Interestingly the theme of a butterfly came up again in two different things I read this week. Firstly, it was from one of my favourite authors, Richard Rohr, who said that the word ‘psyche,’ is used for both butterfly and soul in Greek, from which we get the word ‘psychology.’ He described how ‘our soul or True Self is as elusive and subtle like butterflies.’ Secondly, the theme of the butterfly representing our soul came up in the Interior Castle, which I am reading as part of my daily meditation. Teresa of Avila, in this sixteenth-century book, describes the soul like a silkworm which works hard to eat and grow in its caterpillar phase and she equates this to our own development of our faith through reading, prayer, sermons and so on. She then describes a point where the silkworm builds a cocoon and, in a sense, dies to itself so that it allows God to live through it and to live in that freedom and flow instead of the disciplined duty of striving towards God so that it is about allowing God to live through us.

Within Ancient Greek mythology, Psyche was a Greek goddess, represented by a woman with butterfly wings and butterflies were thought to be the souls of the dead. It was interesting to discover this link with souls and butterflies after pondering on the butterfly’s short life and the conversation with the oncology team. When I watched the butterfly, it appeared joyful and free and I saw others dancing together in a light, airy flight. I couldn’t imagine a depressed butterfly, worried about how to live its short life and so perhaps it is a good image of a timeless soul. I am fascinated by the concept of our soul, or human spirit, and how we connect with and express this heart of who we are, our true nature and deepest self. It is interesting that something that only lives for about a month at the most, was named by the Greeks as the part of us that never dies. Perhaps our lives here are as brief as a butterfly’s in the light of timelessness and eternity.

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