Wildlife wonder – Queen Conch
I remember being amazed when I first saw piles of these beautiful, large conch shells on beaches, that you particularly find on the island of Carriacou. Once people have dived for them and cut out the shellfish, these shells are discarded as rubbish and can often be found on beaches here.
The animal that lives in this shell are molluscs and are like large sea snails that have long eye stalks that can move independently. They have a tube-like mouth and they feed off algae and microscopic waste from seagrass and other plants. The shells are slow-growing and can grow to about 30 cm over a lifetime of about 30 years.
As food, they are called lambi and it is often seen on menus in Grenada. After tenderising it to soften it, the lambi is seasoned with onions, garlic, peppers and other seasonings and then stewed or fried. I have tried it once and it is a very chewy and a slightly sweet fish but personally, I prefer to have the shells rather than the lambi!
A tradition here is to use the shells for decoration in gardens and particularly to create borders such as those in the next photo. The shells are also used as a wind instrument, by cutting a hole at the apex of the shell and are blown at traditional festivals such as carnival and at the African festival of Saraka. They also make great door stoppers and there are a few both inside and outside, here at the Hummingbird Retreat.
Grenadian Gift – Laura’s herb and spice garden
About a month ago, my friend, Kim and I visited this beautiful garden. It is very close to the Palm garden that I mentioned a few blogs ago and is in an area called Laura, rather than being owned by a person called Laura. We arrived just in time to join one of the tours and we walked around the organised and well-maintained garden with a group from a cruise ship. There was a very informative and cheerful guide who talked us through each plant. She explained what they were all used for in terms of cooking and the many medicinal and health benefits of the various herbs and spices of Grenada.
The garden had fruit trees such as nutmeg, banana, and cacao as well as vanilla, coffee and pineapple plants. There were numerous spices including the allspice tree which I never knew was the name of just one spice rather than a mixture of spices. This allspice tree, also known as Jamaica pepper or pimento, produces berries that are dried to what look like peppercorns, which are used to create Jerk seasoning.
The tour guide also explained how to get vanilla from the vanilla beans through a lengthy process of soaking them. The flowers have to be pollinated artificially because the vanilla orchid only opens for one day in the year and in its native Mexico it is pollinated by certain bees which are not found elsewhere. This is why genuine vanilla is very rare and 99% of vanilla is made artificially.
Walking around the garden started to inspire me about my own garden and in particular creating a herb and spice garden in the small courtyard, as well as possibly planting some aloe vera, lemon grass and other plants in the main garden.
Reflections from the Retreat
I have discovered a lovely Sunday afternoon activity of lying in my hammock and reading, which I know is such a blessing, particularly at this time of year. I sometimes find myself also ‘reading’ the clouds and enjoying watching them steadily move across the sky. I like to play that childhood game of wondering what they look like and seeing various animals and objects float by in the sky. I thought about whether I could include clouds as a wildlife wonder and talk about the various cloud formations but they are not wild or alive, despite being a wonder. As well as clouds, the sky has offered many gifts here such as stunning sunrises, beautiful full moons that are reflected on silvery seawater, and on a clear night, you can see an amazing expanse of thousands of stars.
The clouds here seem bolder and more magnificent than in the UK, but perhaps it is in contrast to the blues of the sky and sea and because I have a more expansive viewpoint from my balcony. Perhaps also it’s because I never took the time or had the inclination to stop and enjoy the clouds in Britain, and that’s why I never valued them. So I would encourage you to notice the amazing beauty of nature around you like a frosty winter morning when the sky is clear and blue or the majesty of an oak tree, even when all its leaves have fallen.
One of the most poetically written books that I have read is ‘Callings’ by Gregg Levoy. There are so many quotes in this book that instead of me giving you one here, I would encourage you to read it all. There are so many books like this now, about living your authentic life, finding your true self, following your passion and being who you are meant to be. My own book ‘Free to be Me’ which is a course manual adds to these voices and it has been a journey for myself to discover what that means in my own life. Now I hope I am creating a space for people who are wondering about their calling and direction in life to come and listen to that calling and I hope I can be a role model to encourage others to listen to their heart and follow their calling.
Another book that I read offered this quote from Joseph Campbell ‘If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.’ This was one of those quotes that I needed to rest with for a while and ponder as I watched the clouds. As a long-term planner and ‘to-do’ list maker, I wondered about this and yet it resonated truth to me. It was never my plan in my twenties to meet Hosten or later to move to Grenada and yet I see how that has been so right for me as my life path. Then later as we discerned our calling to come here, we searched for a house for years and then this house came to us. There have been so many twists and turns to my journey that I never planned. I sense more and more a treasure hunt of clues that I step along one at a time, guided by the One who places each stepping stone down in front of me.
As I watched the clouds there was a reminder that there have been significant books and special conversations, meaningful synchronicities and timely insights that have all been gifts that have shaped my path. Like the clouds coming and passing by, I can’t plan or predict them but I need to be open to see them and when these gifts resonate with the calling God has given me, that I allow them to shape my path, one step at a time.