Wildlife Wonder – Air plants
I recently drove down the West coastal road of the island and noticed a number of these air plants attached to telegraph wires. These amazing small plants use their roots to hold onto the wires and they get all their water and nutrients from the air. Their leaves form a rosette shape that collects water and somehow they survive in the direct blaze of the sunlight. However, research suggests that air plants on telegraph wires do less well than those attached to trees and rocks, although they may get nutrients from the dust that is thrown into the air by passing traffic.
They have brightly coloured flowers of various colours to attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, bats and moths. Once the air plant has bloomed, it will produce new air plant ‘pups'. The mother plant then sends the nutrients to the pups so that she gradually dies and is replaced by the younger air plants.
They are popular indoor plants and make beautiful decorations, particularly when grown in sea urchins or shells….something to keep in mind when I start putting the final decorative touches to rooms in the retreat house.
Grenadian Gift – Laura’s Restaurant
It was my birthday recently and it was slightly odd to have a November birthday enjoying eating out by a beach, instead of my usual Autumnal celebrations. However, it was lovely to have lunch on one beach and dinner on another and it was my first visit to Laura’s Restaurant. This is situated in Corinth, in St David’s parish and so it is in a good location to stop on the way back home, from the capital.
The restaurant is a beautiful, relaxing place with a wonderful view of the sea. It is next to Grenada Marine Boatyard and so it is a popular place for yachters. I was impressed with their fast service and tasty food with a varied menu for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as a well-stocked bar.
Reflections from the Retreat
It has been refreshing this year to not be bombarded with Halloween items in the shops or have children coming around doing Trick or Treat! The only sign of Halloween was a night- time Halloween Hash (see Week 11 blog) near the American university and a Trick or Treat event at the main supermarket in Grand Anse, which is a common shopping venue for Americans and other ex-pats. In Grenada, the celebration focuses on All Souls and All Saints, which is how Halloween first developed.
All Souls is celebrated on 2nd November (my birthday!) and is the day when people remember those who have died. 1st November is All Saints Day which is also called All Hallows and is a day to commemorate all the saints of the church. The term ‘Halloween’ is derived from All Hallows Eve, but its traditions derive from the Celtic festival of Samhain. This marked the beginning of winter, which was associated with death and the Celts believed that on Samhain the veil between the living and the dead was particularly thin and they would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare off ghosts. All Souls has developed in different cultures such as the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ and is particularly recognised in Catholic countries, where people pray for the souls of the dead.
In Grenada, which used to be predominantly Catholic, All Souls and All Saints are significant days of remembrance. As I drove home after celebrating my birthday, I passed the local cemetery that was busy with people cleaning graves, lighting candles and placing plants and flowers on relative’s graves. On the following Sunday, I attended a Catholic service where people had the opportunity to dedicate the mass to those loved ones who have died, and of course, I remembered Hosten at that time. Although his grave is here, it is on the neighbouring island of Carriacou and I hope to celebrate All Souls Day there one year.
As with all Grenadian events, there is music, food and rum for All Souls and it is customary to drop a little rum on the graves or leave out food so the deceased can join the party and are still included. They also leave candles on the steps of houses so those who have departed can find their way home.
In the local village of River Sallee, the celebration of those who have died, went into a third day with a major funeral on 3rd November. This was for someone called Elizabeth Thomas, or Lizzie, who had reached the impressive age of 106. Lizzie, in the photo below, got a mention in my Week 9 blog because she had helped to organise the ‘Saraka’ celebration, based on her childhood memories of this traditional African event.
Lizzie had eight children and she was a Great, Great, Great Grandmother, so as you can imagine it took a while to get all the family together from UK, USA and Grenada for the funeral. Despite heavy rains, there was a large gathering for her funeral. Even the Prime Minister made a brief visit to pay his respects to a woman who has helped to keep some of the traditional African customs alive in this area.
As I pass another birthday, it is inspiring to know of people who have survived to almost twice my age and it encourages me that I may still have enough time to do all I want to in life. Perhaps it is the healthy lifestyle here that keeps so many older Grenadians youthful and healthy. I have already benefited from a better diet and outdoor life and so I hope to enjoy many more birthdays here.
A traditional food for this time of year is asham which is when corn is dried, ground to a powder and mixed with sugar for a sweet treat. It can be eaten in powder form or mixed with water and originally is an African dish. It is traditionally eaten during All Souls and All Saints and this timing coincides with the annual Cornfest which was celebrated in Carriacou on 29th October. Corn Fest showcases the number of ways that corn can be cooked such as cornmeal porridge, cornbread and conkie. (The African desert, conkie, is a mixture of cornmeal, coconut, sweet potato, raisins and pumpkin that is steamed in banana leaves). The festival involves plenty of corn to eat in various ways as well as traditional drums and dancing.
Perhaps an annual celebration of one of Grenada’s most popular vegetables helps to remind people how to eat healthily which is why Lizzie is not the only Grenadian living into their 100’s. Celebrating All Souls also seems a healthier alternative to celebrating Halloween and somehow brings those who have died a little closer and, as the Celts believed, that the veil between heaven and earth grows a little thinner at this time.