Wildlife Wonder- Nine-Banded Armadillo
Sadly, I haven’t seen one of these amazing creatures during my time here so far. It features alongside the even rarer Grenadian Dove on the country’s coat of arms (see below) but sadly they are both under considerable threat. I have met a few people who hunt armadillos by setting traps and using dogs to chase them out of the undergrowth. This has contributed to its decline, despite attempts to enforce a limited hunting season.
It is interesting to see how much the French language has survived here, even though Grenada came under English rule as far back as the 1780s. The French word for armadillo is Tatou which is still used in Grenada and so this is how it is locally known.
The tatou is about a metre in length, including its tail and the nine-banded variety is one of the largest species of armadillos. They are mainly solitary animals who create numerous burrows to hide in during the day, where they can sleep for up to 16 hours. At night, they come out to feed on insects, mainly ants, beetles and termites and they use their snout to push through the undergrowth to find their food.
If it is hunted, it will attempt to create a shallow trench, in which to hide, and with its tough scaly body, a dog or other predator would find it hard to get it out of this position. Unlike other armadillos, this species is not able to roll itself into a ball. However, it can escape if it is near water because it is able to hold its breath for up to 6 minutes, enabling it to swim or run along river beds to escape.
Grenadian Gift – Healthy Patriotism
One of the things I have noticed about Grenadians is their healthy patriotism. I know this might be a generalisation, but I have seen people here show a great love for their country and pride in how far they have come as a nation, whilst still welcoming and including others. It is particularly evident at the moment because Grenada is entering into its 50th year of independence and so there are a great deal of events and celebrations planned for the coming year. The picture above shows the country’s coat of arms with its national motto. These words are taken from the national anthem which I am gradually learning and it goes as follows –
Hail! Grenada, land of ours,
We pledge ourselves to thee,
Heads, hearts and hands in unity
To reach our destiny.
Ever conscious of God,
Being proud of our heritage,
May we with faith and courage
Aspire, build, advance
As one people, one family.
God bless our nation.
They are certainly words that I can agree with and they reflect well the values of this small nation.
The coat of arms shows the armadillo and the Grenadian dove standing beside Grand Etang Lake, in front of sweet corn and a banana plant, to reflect the wildlife and agriculture of the island. The ship at the centre of the shield is Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria in which he discovered Grenada, which shows Grenada’s willingness to recognise and build on its past.
There was a formal launch of the independence celebrations with music, speeches and fireworks and they also launched the 50th-anniversary theme song, ‘Up from here.’ It is worth watching the song, to see some of Grenada’s beautiful views and vibrancy
Reflections from the Retreat
As I watch this song celebrating Grenada, I am proud of my adopted country, and of its values, and its vision for the future and I’m proud to be a citizen of Grenada. One of the Bible stories that has been significant for me during my journey to move here is that of Ruth in the Old Testament. After her husband died, Ruth’s mother-in-law encouraged her to go back to her homeland and find another husband but Ruth said ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.’ I certainly feel that this is part of my calling here and that I continue to love Hosten by loving his people and the country he loved.
When Hosten and I first came to view this house, we were also going through the process of acquiring my Grenadian citizenship. On the morning that we were going to the government offices to collect my certificate of citizenship, my Bible reading for that day was the story of Ruth. When we arrived at the offices I was told that I wasn’t allowed in because I didn’t have my shoulders covered and so I was given a T-shirt to wear over my summer dress. Amazingly on the T-shirt were the words ‘your business is my business’ adapting the words from Ruth. It was such an encouragement to wear those words as I went to get my certificate of citizenship and a real confirmation to us of that process.
Another example of what felt like divine encouragement, came a few days ago when I was cataloging more books. Thankfully I am nearing the end of this huge task of cataloguing about 3000 books for our library and I thought I’d do one more box before preparing for a contemplative group that I was leading online. The group is reflecting on ‘The Cloud of Unknowing: With the Book of Privy Counsel’ and it was my turn to lead the evening. I had been sent a photo of the relevant pages because I didn’t have the book myself. Then guess what book I pulled out of the box- this very book which I wanted and didn’t know I had, and just in time to prepare for the meeting, from the book instead of photos!
There have been so many little incidents and stories like that along the way – some might call them ‘God-incidences’ others might call it synchronicity. I see them as ‘glimpses of God’ or divine nudges. To me it doesn’t really matter what we call them, the important thing is noticing them and listening to them. It’s like following a cosmic treasure hunt that is full of signs and clues, as long as we are open to seeing them. I find that when something is significant and needs my attention it keeps coming up in different places and from different sources such as the story of Ruth or a particular book.
One way that I have found to help me become more aware of those divine moments is having a daily time of stillness. It has been a real battle for me to persist in a meditation practice because I resist what feels like ‘doing nothing.’ However, over the years I have seen that this way of being has helped me to connect with God in a far deeper way than ever before and to see things differently. The Bible talks about ‘renewing our minds’ and this daily intention to give up my thoughts, my agenda, my planning and to sit in silence and openness is like dropping anchor and tuning into a higher frequency. It then becomes the launch pad to do life in a more intentional way and my twenty minutes of silence become a way of setting my course for the day. It feels so different to the ‘shopping list’ way of praying that I used to do, when I would tell God what I wanted. Instead, it is about letting go of that and just being, knowing that this is all in hand and already known (though I still chat to God at other times about what I need or concerns I have for others).
Then when I move from that place of stillness and carry on with my day, I hope that I am directed and guided by that which I have aligned myself to. One of my favourite phrases that has become a prayer for my life is from the English mystic, Evelyn Underhill who said ‘the spiritual life is simply the life lived from the centre where we are anchored in God.’ By connecting with that still centre and, as the Quakers call it, the divine spark, I am less likely to react out of my own agenda or allow my emotions to take over when things are challenging but instead I can ‘be still’ in the storm and rest in the knowledge that ultimately all shall be well. So, as the Grenadian national anthem says I can be ‘ever conscious of God’ in order to ‘with faith and courage aspire, build and advance.’