Wildlife wonder – Grenada Flycatcher
A few weeks ago, I heard a very distinct birdsong that I hadn’t heard before and so I went out onto the balcony to have a look. It was a loud shrill, piercing whistle that suggested that this bird was a bit annoyed with something and was demanding some attention. I spotted the bird making this noise, hopping around in a bush and he was having a loud conversation with another bird hidden on the other side of the garden.
Initially I thought it was a young Kingbird calling for its mother because its back feathers looked similar. However it had a bright yellow front and with the help of google and my bird books I identified it as a Grenada flycatcher.
These birds are about 20cms in height and quite noticeable with its bright yellow front and slightly tufted crest. Locally he has the name of Johnny Muff or Johnny Head due to this Mohican hairstyle. As his name suggests, they often catch their food mid-air and mainly eat insects, although they have been known to eat lizards and berries too.
They are only found in Grenada and in St Vincent and the Grenadines and so I was pleased to welcome him into the garden, despite his emphatic call!
Grenadian Gift – Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park
In 2006 the world’s first underwater sculpture park was created, in Grenada. It is a collection of life-size sculptures such as a person typing at a desk, one riding a bike and the ring of children, in the photo above. There were some recent additions of figures creating 'Coral Carnival' which were added last year and so there are now about 100 sculptures under the water.
The person who created this amazing site is a British sculptor, Jason de Caires Taylor who used to live in Grenada. He was concerned about the dying coral reefs and he works with marine biologists to ensure that the sculptures do not cause any pollution and instead encourages algae and coral to grow on them, in order to support marine life.
The figures are made by people being cast in plaster of Paris to create moulds that look very life like and quite eerie in the water. They have lots of nooks and crannies in them to encourage marine life to grow on the figures so the sculptures continue to grow and evolve.
You can travel in a glass bottom boat to visit the site but the best way to view it is scuba diving. Grenada is one of the best scuba diving sites in the world with numerous shipwrecks to see, alongside the amazing wildlife of the reefs and waters as well as this unique sculpture park. There are a number of scuba diving companies such as EcoDive and DiveGrenada that offer lessons and tours and perhaps one day I might have the courage to try it myself!
Reflections from the Retreat
It is hard to believe that I only have 5 more blogs to write in this series of my First Year in Grenada. I have found it a helpful and therapeutic process to reflect each week on what I have been doing and learning and to share some of that with you. Thinking abotu the wildlife wonders and Grenadian gifts has been a useful process for me to get to know Grenada better in this way and a way of reflecting on my time here. As I ponder on the process of blog writing, it has reminded me of the value of creative writing as a therapeutic tool.
Years ago I attended a course on using creative writing for therapy and over the years I have experimented with writing in my own life as well as supporting clients to use writing as therapy. There is now a substantial amount of research evidence to support the value of writing, particularly by someone called James Pennebaker, who started the research in this area. He found it particularly helpful for people who have experienced trauma to write about it, repeatedly and to freely express memories and feelings from the trauma. This offered a way of exposure in order to reduce the impact of the traumatic event and help people to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.
We can read or hear words from someone else and it helps to verbalise something that resonates with us, but that we hadn’t yet found the words for it or were even unaware of it. We can sometimes describe something as ‘moving,’ that is, it shifts us, it makes us move to something new and creates change. We only have to think of great speeches or stories that have moved whole communities or created significant social change. Myths and fairy stories are another powerful therapeutic tool because they can help people identify with certain themes or characters.
There are various ways of using writing in a therapeutic or spiritual way. I find that when something significantly spiritual happens in my life, I often find myself writing a poem to express this. I also keep a daily journal and this free writing helps me to reflect and process my daily experiences, as well as offering a record of what has happened in life and key themes that might be emerging. As part of my silent Mondays, I read through my journal from the previous week and reflect on key themes or experiences that then shape this weekly blog.
In an age of texts and Instagram, letter writing is probably only found in therapy sessions nowadays and even then, I have clients who have preferred to write notes on their phone or record a Voicenote instead of the old idea of writing a letter. Whether it is pushing buttons on a phone, holding a pen or typing words on a computer, this process helps us to express ourselves. We often find that as we start to write we become aware of things that we hadn’t realised before, in a similar way to talking to someone in therapy. By writing a letter to ourselves, to someone who has died or someone we are struggling with, it can help us to clarify our feelings and be clearer about what we feel or need. These letters or Voicenotes are obviously not to be sent because they are written in the context of free expression but they can help to identify some issues that maybe do need voicing in order to strengthen certain relationships.
I have used the concept of flow writing for myself and in groups I have run, in which people are encouraged to write, without pausing or worrying about what they are saying, for a given time. They then read over what they have written to find key words that resonate with them. These words are used as a catalyst to begin another piece of writing. This process can be repeated a few times on a particular issue or about an event and it can be a helpful way to sift out key aspects or the most significant themes that are important to us.
So I will continue to journal, blog, write the occasional poem and I hope to write longer fictional pieces, perhaps even a novel one day! Before I left the UK I went to a few writing courses to encourage this possibility. However, like all creative activities, I have to battle with what I have drawn or what I have written not being good enough. Good enough for what? If it is good enough for me to be learning and experimenting with creativity then it is good enough. There is the pressure that what we draw or write should instantly be a masterpiece and so there is a danger of giving up because we are not happy with the final product, instead of just enjoying the process. Each week I draw or paint something in the hope that practice and experimenting, will gradually help me to learn skills in this area and I also plan to keep writing.
I hope that my experimenting and exploring will encourage others to dip their toes into creativity. I’d love this retreat house to be a place where artists and writers feel they can hide away and create masterpieces. But I also hope that creative dabblers and cautious experimenters can also come to try new imaginative ideas and not worry about the end results but discover new ways of self- expression and to enjoy the creative process!