Wildlife Wonder – Tropical Mockingbird
I was talking to someone recently and then she said that she thought that she could hear a mockingbird outside the window, though she wasn’t totally sure. Just knowing that the confident, sharp call we could hear was potentially a mockingbird was good enough for me.
These birds are beautiful grey birds that grow to about 24cms in length, with a long dark tail. They are quite sociable birds that live amongst residential areas and open land rather than in woodland and they are quite common in Grenada.
Despite its name, it rarely mimics other birds although their close relative, the Northern mockingbird is famous for learning numerous bird songs. There are also stories of Northern Mockingbirds mimicking meowing cats, barking dogs, ringing phones and car alarms.
I can't think of this bird without associating it with the famous novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. This story of racial injustice is set in 1930’s Alabama. The author, Harper Lee, uses the symbol of the mockingbird to represent the innocence of the black man wrongly accused of rape, and as the author says, 'to kill a mockingbird is to kill that which is innocent and harmless.’
Grenadian Gift – Culinary skills
Food is a big part of any culture but here in Grenada, people love to cook! Most people have a bit of land or a small garden to grow fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs as well as keeping a few sheep, goats, and ‘yard fowl’ ie chickens. Some people still cook the traditional way with large pots outside, balanced on three stones or outside grills with charcoal or coals for the fire.
Last week I met with Betty, a local cook who has won the annual River Sallee traditional cooking competition every time she has entered. We have started talking about the possibility of her doing some cooking at the retreat house and we will have a trial run with some of my UK guests in the next few months. I have finally replaced my cooker with a new one in my apartment so that I can have a working oven and so Betty was more than happy to take my old one so that it gives her 4 extra hobs to use in her kitchen.
I met an internationally known chef as well this week, at one of her restaurants in St Georges. Chef Belinda cooked a delicious meal as part of a yoga and art retreat I attended at Bay House Hotel. This small hotel has an amazing view of Grand Anse (in the photo) and is a setting that matches her fine food. Like most of the hotels here, it offers a day pass to enjoy the pool, restaurant and a bit of luxury. Her colleague gave us a demonstration of how to make a range of raw vegan food dishes such as curried sweet corn, almond milk and banana ice cream (made from frozen bananas and no dairy products).
Chef Belinda has cooked for Oprah Winfrey at Trump Plaza and Bill Clinton at the United Nations Building in New York. Having lived both here and in the USA, she created ‘Flavours of Grenada’ which caters for major events and various hotels on the island, adapting and developing local dishes to suit international visitors as well as local Grenadians.
As someone who does what I can to avoid cooking, it is great to find others who have such great cooking skills and a passion for being in the kitchen!
Reflections from the Retreat
As I near the first anniversary of my time in Grenada, I have been reflecting on how healthy I am living here- physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Having just been talking about food, I am aware that I am now a quarter of the weight I was when I arrived (yes, I know that’s a lot, but I had a lot to lose!!). When I lived in the UK, I would say ‘When I am in Grenada, then I will lose weight’ because I always did when I came here, even if it was just for a few weeks holiday. I eat differently in my new home – with the heat, my appetite is smaller and I crave fresh fruit rather than manufactured sweet things. I still eat my favourite foods such as cereals, nuts and cheese but perhaps in smaller amounts. I have the luxury of cooking what I want, when I want and my diet has changed as a result. I don’t think I exercise any more than I used to in the UK but the weekly hash walk is good exercise and when I first came here, we were getting together to play rounders each week. Also, I can’t go for a walk in Grenada without it including a few hills, even in town which is a good cardiac workout. Despite living near the sea, I don’t often swim unless I have visitors but I know that the fresh sea air and the outside living have definitely made me feel healthier.
Psychologically, this is also a healthy place to be. The expansive views that greet me daily and the closeness of nature surrounding the house are a great tonic to the soul. The ongoing work here to develop the house and the growing ideas of what we can do in this space give my life meaning and a positive focus. I am always growing and learning and keeping busy with various bits of work that energises me, both online in the UK as well as here. The many friendships I am building locally are also helping me to stay psychologically well. There are aspects of Grenadian culture that are good for my psychological health too such as ‘liming’ (relaxing), living with imperfection, and going with the flow, which are all good antidotes to my more driven, over-organised, Western way of living life.
Then there is the spiritual health. Moving here gave me a fresh start in how to create my daily life and so I had the freedom to develop a deeper, daily spiritual practice that keeps me grounded in God and awake to my calling.
I’m aware that I have been on a spiritual journey that began about twenty years ago when I started to feel disillusioned with many aspects of church and having more time to reflect here, I feel in a healthier place, spiritually. This journey has taken me through a long season of questioning and searching with the help of spiritual directors and my spiritual community, Contemplative Fire. Having become a Christian at the height of the Anglican renewal movement in the 1980’s and then joining Youth With a Mission, I was immersed in fundamental and evangelical, Western Christianity. It has been a long journey that is ongoing, of unpicking and unlearning some of my past theological beliefs as I discovered a broader, more inclusive and universal understanding of God. This path has led me back to the beginnings of Christianity, before the church was taken over by a Roman way of doing things which set it on a path of empire-building and hierarchy that has led to the Western church we see today. It’s been a journey that has led me to the Christian mystics and the desert fathers and mothers of the early church, Celtic Christianity and the aspects of Orthodox Christianity that got lost in the split between Eastern and Western forms. It has taken me into places I didn’t think I would ever go such as learning from Zen Buddhism, yoga, Sufism and other contemplative paths. A particular gift has been learning the Lord’s Prayer and other sayings of Jesus in his original language of Aramaic, which has revolutionised my thinking on his teachings.
I have met so many travelers on this road, including many from similar evangelical backgrounds to my own, who are deconstructing their faith, questioning their beliefs and finding a more loving and dynamic Christian path. Some church leavers continue in their faith without church and call themselves ‘post-congregational’ and others like myself have found communities that still follow the teachings and example of Jesus but consciously reimagine what ‘church’ means.
There is psychological research that says that most therapy models are equally effective as each other but that the key factor for change is how good the therapeutic relationship is between the therapist and client. In some ways, I see a spiritual parallel, in that different faiths can offer a similar path, in different forms with different spiritual terminology, but the key factor is the depth of the relationship between the person and the Divine.
I can’t tell others what to think or believe or tell them if they are right or wrong. All I am responsible for is my life and my response to follow Jesus’s words of not judging others and loving all people as I love myself. Imagine, how different the world would be if we all just managed to follow that one teaching, which is found in all the faith traditions. So having this space and time here and being in a different environment has given me the opportunity to deepen and widen my spiritual life.
As I create a space for well-being I am grateful for my own holistic well-being in body, mind and spirit and I look forward to walking with others on their own path of health and wholeness. So whether you want to lose a few pounds, find some healthier ways of thinking or be envisioned about your calling in life or you need a safe space to voice your spiritual questions and doubts, then this place is getting ready to welcome you here.