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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 45

Wildlife wonder- Manicou

This animal will be celebrating the New Year along with a few other animals in Grenada because the hunting season officially ends on 31st December. The other animals that are protected with a limited hunting season between October and December are the mona monkeys, iguanas, armadillos, and the scaly-naped pigeon, locally known as ramier. Sadly this law isn’t enforced and hunting still happens throughout the year.

This animal is known in Grenada as manicou but elsewhere it is called a possum or opossum, and this is the common or black-eared variety. I have only seen a shadow shoot into a bush as we have driven home in the dark and someone has said that it was a manicou because they are rarely seen in daylight.

It is about the size of an average cat and lives alone in wooded areas, often creating nests in the hollow of a tree or digging a burrow. They mate and have up to about 8 or 9 young, between 1 and 3 times a year, and as a marsupial, they carry their young in a pouch.

They eat whatever they can find such as fruit, small animals, insects and they sometimes go scavenging in bins. They have fifty small white teeth that include very sharp incisors at the front. If they are threatened they lie down as if dead and ‘play possum.’

Grenadian Gift – GSPCA

Like the RSPCA in the UK, the Grenadian equivalent is a charity that rescues and cares for sick and abandoned animals. They have a rescue shelter in the capital that mainly has dogs and cats but has also cared for monkeys, goats and various other animals. They have volunteers from the local veterinary school at the international university to offer veterinary care and they rely on donations for all their equipment and pet food.

This video is of my kitten, Cosmos with his brother in the carrier, when they were first found abandoned in a roadside drain. Their mother had possibly been run over and they still had their eyes shut because they were only a few weeks old. They needed round-the-clock feeding and as you can see from the photo below, Cosmos is now a healthy and lively 3-month-old kitten.

The GSPCA provides neutering and spaying programmes to reduce the number of strays and they also run education courses in schools and local communities about pet care. They are always keen for volunteers to walk dogs, feed the animals and help out in various ways and the team of volunteers do a great job to rescue and care for abandoned pets and stray animals.

Reflections from the Retreat

Happy New Year! This year was my first new year of not hearing any fireworks although there were some in the capital. Traditionally, back in the UK, we always used to spend New Year with some good friends of ours and one of the things that became a tradition was to do a jigsaw together.

Over the last few years, my love for jigsaws has increased because I find them a great way to relax while still offering a challenge as well as a mindful practice that can be so absorbing. It was strange that, although I was in a different location and a very different climate and way of life, I still found myself getting into a jigsaw at this time of year, as if I am programmed to associate jigsaws with New Year.

As with most things in life, jigsaws can be our teacher and there is a certain ritual of how people complete a jigsaw. Most people start by spreading out the pieces and I appreciate having a fold-away jigsaw holder on which to do this. This can feel like a tedious process of finding the straight edges, the corners, and sometimes people separate colours or certain identifying pieces. For me, this last year has felt like this gradual process of unpacking the pieces of my ‘jigsaw’ of life here. I did a lot of unpacking boxes and collecting together items that went together, to store in certain rooms.

The next stage is finding the edges and the corners. This is about setting boundaries and again there is so much symbolism here of knowing where my limits are, what I plan to do or not to do, to get a sense of where I will get involved and where I won’t. It’s about discerning which friendships and networks seem important to deepen and other contacts that perhaps I need to distance myself from.

Once the edges are in place, I can then begin the main process of building the picture. At this stage, there is the alternating change of perspective – shifting from looking at the big vision of the picture on the box that shows where I am headed to then looking at the detail of the piece in my hand. Its living in the moment of now to really see what is current and also stepping back to see the vision and where this piece might fit into the big picture.  

Another aspect of jigsaws, and certainly the 1000-piece ones that I like to do, is about leaving things unfinished and living with incompleteness. It’s about accepting the ‘mess’ of a jigsaw that needs to be moved around or put away at times. Unfinished jigsaws are a reminder of things in process in our own lives, such as my home being an unfinished building site as the ‘jigsaw’ of the completed house slowly comes together.

Then there is the battle of the piece in the wrong place which ends up adding confusion and wasting time as I try to fit things around it. I finally realise it was never meant to be there in the first place- another lesson for the new year as we let go of things that shouldn’t be in our lives to make room for what we need. It’s about discerning what to say yes to and what to say no to, so that when we say no, there is then a space for what should be there to be welcomed in.

Jigsaws can teach us to break down a big project into little goals and not trying to do it all at once. We can get a sense of achievement from doing just the red of a roof or the green of some bushes, and seeing that this is enough achievement for the day.

They are a great way to be with others and work on things together- sometimes with conversation and sometimes in silent partnership, each absorbed in developing their own patch of the picture, a communal building of the vision. There are also ‘helpers’ like the one below that can be more of a hindrance than a help!

Then I find that as I approach the end, I get a sudden rush of adrenalin and the trying of pieces in different places speeds up as I see that today is the day that the picture will be complete. This is the time when I’m less keen for people to come and help and there has been playful competition in the past between me and others trying to complete the puzzle! This is the final stage of seeing a project come to completion and a vision fulfilled.  

There is then the season of sitting back and enjoying the accomplishment, perhaps even stroking the completed picture in satisfaction. A pause, perhaps even a day or two, before the challenge of a new puzzle draws me to break up the old and start the new.

So as the New Year begins, I wonder what project you’re going to work on this year? Perhaps it’s a job that needs to be done in the house or a project in your community or perhaps it’s in the area of spiritual or personal development. What stage of the puzzle are you at with it? For me I will continue this year, building on the last – more work on the house, deepening new friendships here and being open to the flow of God, and seeing what comes my way.


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