Friday, December 5, 2008


rhonda keeps singing leaving on a jet plane.

one week from now i will be floating amidst the clouds. somewhere in between grenada and north carolina. somewhere in between homes. grenada has been my home for over fifteen months. my life. my reality. and now i'm leaving. and i don't know when i'll be back again.

don't know when i'll get to wash in the river. don't know when i'll get to twirl in the caribbean sea. don't know when i'll get to eat fresh mangoes and fried jacks and oil down. don't know when i'll get to sit in the moonlight on paulita's steps. don't know when i'll get a next hair plait. don't know when i'll feel the mt plaisir breeze. don't know when i'll get to listen to mayfirst's wisdom. don't know when i'll have fourteen kids coloring and playing marbles and doing homework and cutting snowflakes at my house. snowflakes. recently i showed a couple of kids how to fold paper and make snowflakes. and the trend has caught on. and now my kitchen wall is decorated with them.

snowflakes. and my mind wanders to snowflakes. melting on my tongue. decorating my eyelashes. falling softly and quietly. showers of blessings. blanketing the earth. welcoming snow angels. and sledding. and snow ball skirmishes. each one a unique creation. merging together to make something beautiful. snowflakes. a challenge to conceive in the caribbean. yet they will be my reality soon. as i leave behind the paper ones for the real thing.

and my mind wanders to what i will leave behind besides the paper snowflakes. these people. these beautiful people. that are a part of me now. and i can't believe this is all ending. but maybe it isn't really. just changing. because i can't forget. all of this is too meaningful. too beautiful. and the memories i've gathered, the lessons i've learned will go with me. wherever my feet go next. my feet. my barefeet. soon to be covered by layers of thick socks and boots. as i embark on new adventures.

which means i'll have to change the name of my blog. or maybe start a new one. either way there will be a link from this one to the next. as these experiences are interconnected. as extreme as this shift will be. i believe there are connections. one place leading us to the next. a continual journey.

we can't done learning. mayfirst reminds me continually. life is a school house, he says. so we live with openness and humility. giving thanks for the wisdom that life is speaking. and listening carefully so that our hearts might hear.

and i hope that my soul might learn all it needs to understand in these last few days. and that it might embrace all the new discoveries to be made. guide my feet. whether bare or covered. as you remind me that all ground, whether sandy or frozen, is holy.

and thank you for where i've been. and where i am. and where i'm going. its all too wonderful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

island hopping.

"i have seen many things in my travels, and i understand more than i can express. "
ecclesiasticus 34:12

so thankful for the opportunity to travel. to see new places. new people. my wise friend back in boone, mrs. mitchell, used to say that "travel is broadening, in more was than one" with her jubilant laugh. she has lived a well traveled life. and naturally acquired much wisdom along the way.

and i look at maps and wonder where else i might end up in life. where else my feet might journey.

recently my feet ventured to dominica. the nature island of the caribbean. to experience a different island. traveled during their creole festival. so the trip offered an abundance of nature and culture.

methodists are known for their connections. and through caribbean-methodist connections, i found a host family. romo, my host mom, was amazingly hospitable. welcomed me with tremendous love. like one of her own children. even though i had never met her before. i stayed for the week with romo and her husband steve and their daughter gisselle. other folks passing by for the festival from antigua and grenada also enjoyed the hyacinth hospitality.

i've learned that the way to travel is to have local folks to stay with. it means so much to be a part of a family. and gives so much insight into everyday life. my goal is to make friends all over the world with couches or at least floor space to stay on. there's so much more world to see...

to get to dominica, i landed in st. vincent. changed planes in antigua. landed in guadalupe. and finally arrived in waitukubuli. that's the name the kaliningo/carib indians gave to this breathtaking land. their name meant "tall is her body." describing the overwhelming mountains. and supposedly the depths of the sea around the island are just as vast as her heights. waitukubuli. land of boundless height and depth and beauty. and flying over her was amazing. she's different from the other islands i flew over. so much unspoiled, mountainous forest. much more sparsely populated. and just flying in i was anticipating falling in love.

the ride from the airport was long but inexpressibly scenic. enjoyed the commentary from delwyn the taxi guy. about dominican culture. and carnival. and creole festival. and food. and all sorts of things. romo greeted me warmly when i arrived. she was in the midst of cooking sunday lunch. and she let me hang out with her while she cooked. those are some of my most favourite moments. talking with women while cooking. women like mom. and glenda. and maureen. and amanda. and now romo. she prepared a ridiculous amount of food. but it was leftovers for the balance of the busy week. baked chicken. baked fish. stuffed fish. stewed pork. mixed vegetables. macaroni pie. mashed breadfruit. avacado balls. guava juice. cherry juice. and as she cooked, she wouldn't really let me help, we chatted and began getting to know each other. she's quite the host. thrives on entertaining people. so it seemed i had arrived at the right place. the methodist minister and his family enjoyed us to share in the meal. and we ate there in the living room as the pre-independence day festivities played on the tv. and it felt good to be a part of a family sunday lunch. to be taken care of.

eventually went to a harvest service at church and then a fashion show with romo and gisselle. not exactly my thing. but i went along with it.

monday morning, found my tea and breakfast on the table. as i would every morning. romo rising earlier than everyone else to take care of her family. we took gisselle to school in town. and then romo helped me get a ride down south to grand bay. the cultural centre of dominica. i was to meet tamara, romo's niece who is a secondary math teacher. tagged along with tamara to her classes. she even had me teach her youngest group, form one, word problems. it was neat to see tamara's camaraderie with the other staff. a sense of fellowship and friendship. and nice to get to chat with her throughout the day.

monday afternoon was traveling back to town with tamara to collect her five year old son zheim. the three of us ventured to creole in the park. sampling creole food and listening to live music. i tried sanconche, a broth made with codfish and coconut milk and provision. discovered that creole food means a lot of codfish. we eventually met up with some of tamara's teacher friends. and then found romo for the ride home.

tuesday woke up without a plan. everyone was working. and romo in her protective motherly way wasn't crazy about me navigating public transport. so she encouraged me to find some sort of tour or hire a taxi to take me around or something. the most reasonable adventure i found was to take a tour to the indian river and the beach. it sounded fun. before the tour, i walked around roseau with a brochure about historical sights. then met up with my fellow traveling companions for the day. a family from france living in martinique. who spoke some english. but elvis, our tour guide, spoke bilingually the entire day. i laughed on the inside at my random company. but appreciated the chance to explore. elvis expressed his extensive knowledge of plants and animals and all things dominican along the way. stopping to pick lemon grass. and ferns that made tattoos. and watch the iguanas. we eventually made it to portsmouth where we caught a boat up the indian river. a quiet, peaceful chance to be amidst creation. we saw a view from fort shirley. and bathed at the purple turtle beach. and caught the sunset there. a random day. but i was thankful for it.

wednesday, elvis invited me to go on a hiking excursion. he does botanical research and had to set up some weather stations anyways. so i tagged along on his adventure. met him in laudat, his village, and we journeyed to freshwater lake, titou gorge, and middlehem falls. amidst utter beauty. and the conversation was highly interesting. as elvis continued to share his insights about nature and politics and history and life. it was probably one of my favourite days. just felt happy. we met meryl, the lady from new zealand/england hiking near the falls. so i had another traveling companion back to roseau. and the liquid sunshine fell in abundance. but we didn't mind. it cooled things off. and we even caught a little creole in the park when we got back to town. and i awkwardly enjoyed some callilou and crab soup.

thursday, caught a ride to town with romo without much of a plan again. ended up catching a bus up to the carib territory. i find it fascinating that people of carib ancestory still live in dominica. there aren't any people of carib descent still living in grenada. and it was a pretty touristy thing to do. but it was something that interested me. so i saw a cultural performance. and toured the model carib homes. and saw amazing views of the atlantic ocean. and most of my favourite moments were riding the public transport. amidst everyday folks. diverse folks. and everyday conversations. taking in the scenery. i seemed to see more obvious poverty out in that part of the country than the town side.

also ventured to champagne beach to check out the hot spring bubbling sea. and passed by the last evening of creole in the park. found my way to the wob dwiyet pageant. in which romo was one of the main organizers. a contest of young women from each parish that involved traditional wear and talent performances with other interspersed cultural performances. it was interesting to see. and neat that there is such effort toward continuing traditions.

thursday evening helped me to understand friday's events. went to school again with tamara for creole day. everyone dressed in their plaid madras. including me in my creole skirt i found in a hole in the wall fabric shop in town. and there was a mini-wob dwiyet pageant at the school with singing and dancing and acting by the students. so much creativity and culture. much of the program was spoken in patois/creole. a language of broken french that evolved during slavery and is still used in dominica today. so i had little clue about what was being spoken, but the student beside me translated. patios has nearly died out in grenada. only a few elderly still know it. it was used more of a secret language among adults and failed to be passed on to many children. so the fact that it has survived and is still used today, especially among the young is fascinating to me. and of course, they had the traditional creole foods at school. smoked herring and breadfruit. callilou and crab. bakes and codfish.

friday afternoon was hurried souvineer shopping at the old market in roseau with tamara. and then getting ready for the creole festival that night. went with romo and gisselle and her cousin and romo's friend brenda to the festivities. lots of bands, local and regional, that played reggae and calypso and soca and creole music until the wee hours of the morning. enjoyed the chance to dance without inhibition. everyone just doing their own thing. however, i was quite exhausted by the end. i'm a music festival kind of girl. but a daytime music festival kind of girl.

saturday was lovely. slept very little. but met up with tamara to go see the trafalgar waterfalls and sulfur springs near where zheim's grandmother lives. enjoyed the moments with her. in conversation. in silence. and of course enjoyed the natural beauty all around.

relaxed back at tamara's in goodwill. and got ready for another night of creole music. like the night before, ended up sleeping with most of the crowd in the truck before it was over. i guess i'm not as hard core as the typical world creole festival goer. but i tried.

returning home was packing and catching the taxi back to melville hall. spending more time than preferred in the antiguan airport. but i was able to catch up on journaling and post card writing and things. and of course people watch. as airports are perfect for.

and there's always much more to say. so much more than words or pictures can convey. but dominica is a part of me now. and i will never forget her beauty. the sign at the airport said "thanks for visiting our nature isle. please come again."or something like that. and i wondered if i would see her again. but i was entirely thankful for our encounter at least this once. and i know if i ever find a way again, romo would gladly offer me a place to stay.

and something that struck me as i returned to grenada. especially to my community of grand roy. that i was happy to see people again. familiar people. people who know me. people who welcomed me back. people who had missed me. and my dominican adventure was lovely. but was just a taste. here in grenada, i've become a part of things. and for these adventures on the isle of spice, i am also immensely thankful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

as i went down by the river to pray...

my soul seems to be drawn to the river quite often these days. because of its beauty. because of its simplicity. because there is solitude. because there is community. and nature. and everyday life. it's where people wash. and bathe. and clean fish. and splash. and play. and live.

saturday was a washing day. so i gathered my clothes and bucket and headed down to the river. don't anticipate river washing wherever i end up next. so trying to cherish these occasions. stephon was there washing a two piece of clothes. soon deandra and her two little brothers arrived. deandra helped her mother wash. and the boys joyfully played for what must have been hours. i admired thier innocense. and imagination. soon paulita joined us. my washing companion. she settled down in her usual place in the shade. and we smiled at the boys playing. and i offered thanks for the simple moments alongside her. kedra came. and we chatted a bit. but there were also times of silence. times to listen to the music of the river. times to watch the raindrops dance as clouds passed by.

and i thought of the rivers in my life. the new river at elk shoals. the river along the trail at price park. the yadkin river by the greenway. as well as countless streams and tributaries along the way. and i gave thanks for the rivers i've been able to sit beside. and i wondered what rivers my soul will encounter in journeys to come. and in all my wandering thoughts, i sought mindfulness of the river flowing right before me.

somewhere i read that you can't stand in the same river twice. water continuously moving. changing. time moving. changing. right before our eyes. without us even realizing it.

so i washed and rinsed. and i softly sung, "as i went down by the river to pray..." and i finished just as showers of blessings began to fall in abundance. and i spread my clothes on the line when the sunshine returned.

then sunday morning, as i got back from church, a group of folks were gathered in the river down near mr. black's shop. clearing bush. picking up garbage. covered in mud. "good morning abby. we're here cleaning the river. go change your clothes and come back and help." they were half kidding. but i didn't have any pressing plans, so i took them up on the offer. and barefoot, i journeyed up the river with miss gloria, miss clessie, and mr. james and kenrick and kobe and a host of others.

and i picked up trash where i could. and cleaned the river of the bush being cut down. piece by piece. helping in the ways i knew how. and i was overjoyed to be actively caring for creation alongside people in my community. and i was excited to be a part of something positive. and i was glad to see people taking initiative and putting words into action. it was all quite refreshing.

we made it up to where i usually go in the river. there behind daisy's house. the plan is to continue from there next week sunday. so i cleaned up my muddy self in the river. and made my way up the hill near miss gloria's. they cooked a big pot of oil down to share among those who worked. and the food took its sweet time. so we waited. amidst hair plaiting. and chatting. and liming. and finally they shared out the food. breadfruit and callilou and carrots and meat and dumplings and coconut milk and saffron all mixed together. and kenrick said that the dumplings were a little dry. but i didn't mind. i was simply thankful for the shared experience. for community. for something to be a part of. especially something that involved the river.

there's something unique and ordinary about the grand roy river. and i pray that i might embrace it. that i might be a part of its beauty. and listen to its wisdom. as it sings sweet songs of melodies pure and true.

during all our river adventures, miss gloria said multiple times with a chuckle: "abby, you could write a book when you go back." maybe i will, miss gloria. maybe i will. after all, there are so many stories to tell.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ordinary beauty.

i tend to be a continually reflective person. but i've felt even more reflective lately.

last friday, 29th august, marked a year since my arrival in grenada. so i've found myself pondering what life was like a year ago. and what life is like now. and i've been escaping to waterfalls. and sitting by the sea. as i've read old journal entries. and entered new ones.

i discovered these words written on the plane ride. somewhere between jamaica and barbados...

"i think how ridiculous this all is. i just left everything i've ever known to go to some random place. with a vague job description. having communicated with only one person. primarily through email. and i'm staying for sixteen months. no one's going to look like me. talk like me. what the hell am i getting myself into? some might say i'm going on faith. i've got more courage than most. i think i'm naieve and foolish myself. but for some reason, or set of reasons, this is how life is working out. on my own, i'm bound to screw this up. it is you, God, that can make this beautiful. take all that i am - broken, awkward, anxious, unsure. and make me into an instrument of your peace. an instrument of your love. overcome my imperfection. not my self-ambitious will. but your pure and good will be done. on earth as it is in heaven. make me one with your spirit. as you guide my feet. might i joyfully follow you. right now i feel pretty alone. and i long for some sort of community to be a part of. to live alongside people. serve alongside people. pray and worship alongside people. where there is suffering. where there is poverty. where there is injustice. and not that i can overcome these things by any means on my own. restoration comes from you. it is my prayer that i might be a part of what you're doing. that through you, i might do 'small things with great love.'"

and following these words, on fresh pages of a new journal, i began to record this grenadian life. and i'm amazed at the newness in my voice. the idealism. the wide open eyes. and i give thanks for those first experiences. learning to wash in the river. learning to cook grenadian food. sitting by the road with glenda. walking around barefoot. playing in the sea with kids. hiking to waterfalls. visiting st. george's. figuring things out. missing home. discovering home.

and i really didn't know what i was getting myself into. but i prayed for a community to be a part of. and i found it.

and i feel like the newness has certainly worn off. and life has become ordinary. but there is beauty in the ordinary. as i still wash in the river. these days beside paulita. as i bathe in the sea. and admire the sunset. as i take in the cool evening breeze with bloatie. and wait for the bread van with daisy. as i make a morning stroll through a neighborhood where everyone knows my name.

and my perspective is certainly different than those first days. beyond ways i can express in words. because of all i've seen. and heard. and lived. and these days, it is my prayer that i might continue to live with openness. to everyday life here. to be mindful of the gift that all this is. to seek guidance from the holiness dwelling in me. to honor the holiness in others. and all around me. to give thanks for where i've come from. to appreciate where i am. to trust in where i'm going.

so thank you to all. who have offered your love and support and prayers on this ridiculous journey i've found myself on. may God guide our feet on these paths. as we seek to do small things. with great love. wherever we are. amidst whatever ordinary beauty we find ourselves.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the carnival experience.

sometimes in life you just have to give yourself permission to be ridiculous. that's what was swimming around in my head during much of last weeks carnival. as i danced throughout the streets of gouyave. as i danced. and danced. and danced some more.

there's much excitement leading up to carnival. but the official holiday was celebrated last monday and tuesday. the 11th and 12th of august. i attended a few weekend events before the festivities.

at panorama our little steel pan band performed after months of practice. we came in last again in the competition. but only lost to the top band by 23ish points. i didn't mind so much. i was in it more for the experience and the experience was quite fun. playing a challenging song up on stage in front of so many people. amidst balloons and fellow pan players i've come to really appreciate.

sunday evening i got the opportunity to go to dimanche gras. in which some of the elaborate queen and king costumes were paraded. and then the calypso finals were held. i've developed so much admiration for the art form of calypso. its a musical genre that is centered around social and political commentary. an avenue for artists to speak out about local and global issues. a beautiful means of expression. each artist shared two songs. about such subjects as political division and corruption. poverty. youth violence. child abuse. environmentalism. hiv-aids. embracing heritage. revitalizing calypso. etc. etc. although the concert was rather lengthy, it was quite insightful and refreshing to hear music used as an instrument of social change. the voices of the people being freely expressed. being heard.

dimanche gras spilled over into monday morning j'ouvert. pronounced joo-vay. its a french term meaning day open. street festivities beginning in the wee hours of the morning. i decided to try j'ouvert in gouyave as most people i knew that were going would be there. met up with glenda's daughters and caught a bus with them. people had already been fetting for quite some time by our arrival. folks were dancing up and down the road behind dj's playing the season's popular carnival songs. many people were already covered with black oil or different colors of paint. which is tradition known as jab jab. monday morning i mostly observed from the side. taking in the crazy participants. i danced a little. and in the amount of time i danced down the street i did manage to get a little oil smeared on me. no worries. i had worn old clothes and put baby oil on my skin. i had been forewarned. one of my favorite parts was recognizing people from grand roy and gouyave amidst the crowds. carnival seems to be one of those things that brings out a different side of people. a ridiculous side. but a side that's in them, waiting for the right occasion to emerge.

bathed in the sea to wash off the oil with some dishwashing liquid that ednora gave me when i reached back to grand roy. which has become tradition for the jab jabbers. and then headed home for a much needed nap. that afternoon, we played a little steel pan there by the junction in grand roy. and then i got ready for monday night mas.

monday night mas was back in gouyave. similar street dancing. but none of the paint or oil from the morning. more organized as people gathered in specific bands. i had purchased a red jersey to "play mas" with a band of folks. the streets were glowing with light up swords and resounding with whistles and carnival music. it was freeing to dance up and down the street. to laugh. and allow myself to just be silly.

by tuesday morning i was feeling quite tired. but i saw lornette. the wild murray daughter from across the street as she was leaving for a next morning of j'ouvert. she encouraged me to join her. so i decided to try to soak in another j'ouvert morning. and did i soak it in. literally as i was covered with oil and paint early on in the festivities. it was an exercise in letting go. and accepting my own ridiculousness. and having fun with it.

lornette and i and her friends bathed our oil off in the sea and the river after all the excitement. my apologies to mama earth. it was probably not a friendly gesture. but carnival seems to be one of those things where grace is sought afterwards anyways.

tuesday evening there were parades with different colorful costumes through gouyave. had i ventured to st. george's more, i would have seen more costumes probably. but i'm thankful to experienced things from the gouyave side. after the parades, there was more pan playing. as people pushed us up and down the road on our chassie and we developed a small band of followers. it always brings me joy to see the pan music bringing someone else joy. to know you contributed just a little bit to the inspiration of their dance or smile or head bobbing.

"you well enjoyed your carnival, abby." i hear that a lot these days. and i did enjoy it. it wasn't my most meaningful set of moments in grenada. but there's a time and season for everything. even for dancing through the streets dressed in oil and clothed in ridiculousness.

Monday, June 30, 2008

blessed are the peacemakers. for they shall be called children of God.

somehow in life, i end up being surrounded by children. whether i chose it or not. whether i avoid it or not. and there are moments of joy. and moments of frustration. and moments of beauty. and moments of chaos. but lately the moments have been good.

last thursday, i ventured on a "bus party" with a bunch of kids from grand roy government school. the school i've been helping out with after school and common entrance class. the school where most kids from my neighborhood attend. and there were certainly "party" moments. as we cruised around the island with caribbean music blaring and kids singing all the words. the kids expressed such excitement at all the sights along the way. with a certain innocence. with childlike joy. and we visited leaper's hill and saw sulfur springs. learned about cocoa processing and chatted with rainbow the parrot. enjoyed lunch at bathway beach and shivered in the wind at grand etang lake. and i don't know about the other "adults," but i actually had fun. hanging out with kids i knew. getting to know some i hadn't spent much time with. it was a tiring day though. for everybody. as evidenced by little antonio falling asleep on my shoulder on the way home.

friday, i journeyed to hartford village on the eastern side. for a closing ceremony with the peace and art programme i've been helping with. back in january, i randomly met my canadian-hippy-artist- social activist-friend maureen at a sailing festival where i was playing pan and she was selling art. she had done youth empowerment sessions with kids in her village, but was hoping to do something more organized and interconnected. after emailing and chatting over tea on her veranda, we created a series of sessions on peace and art to do with the kids. we partnered with older youth from the village that took great initiative in facilitating the sessions. once a week for six weeks, the kids assembled to make art and make peace. they wrote peace poems. made peace boxes. created puppets. did creative drama. made a peace mural. sang songs. created dances. and the programme wasn't perfect. there were a lot of times when we questioned what concepts were being learned. what good was really being accomplished. but we saw kids play together from different parts of the village that usually don't interact. we saw children shine in small groups that tend to be withdrawn. we saw youth take pride in their creations.

and it was a beautiful thing to see parents and other youth come out as the kids showed off their work at the closing ceremony. the songs and dances and drama and poems and art displays. it was all a joy to be a part of. maureen's holidaying back in canada for a few months starting tomorrow. so, i'm not sure how involved i'll be in the village for a while. but good things have started. it seems as if a dance troupe could evolve. as the older youth have discovered an empowerment to lead.

since i've been here, i've been realizing that with kids, and big people too, i'm at my best in small groups or one on one. when i can fully focus on honoring people. on honoring the holiness that dwells within them. so i cherish those moments. with kids: cleaning fish with aj. listening to nicka. cooking with azaria. chatting on our way to the pan house with kaydell. so thankful for opportunities to love. always praying for those opportunities. with open eyes. with a receptive heart. that my spirit might be guided by that which is Divine. on these journeys. and on those to follow.

Friday, May 30, 2008

miss hilda.

"i so want to be a part, to have a place, in God's kingdom one day. and i want you to have a place too. and we will laugh. and we will chat. and we will rejoice."

miss hilda said this to me on one of our morning visits back in march. thought it was profound enough to write in my journal then. she said a lot of profound things during our visits. about God. about life. and i learned more from her than i realize. and i will continue to process our moments together. as they have become a part of me. as she has become a part of me.

a couple tuesdays ago i was writing in my journal on the veranda. waiting for amanda to wake up. and sheldon passed by. let me know that miss hilda had passed on. and tears spilled out. and i thanked him for telling me. and i went and woke amanda up with the news. amanda had been blessed with two visits to see miss hilda during her stay. Something had inspired us to venture up there the day before, the day she died. and i was so thankful to have seen her that day. it was a day when margaret and oslyn were there. cleaning. and taking care of things. i felt relieved after our visit. that miss hilda was being cared for. and looking back, i'm thankful that at least there were people loving her on her last day.

that wednesday, we went to a praise service up at miss hilda's. we arrived late. the prayers had been offered. and now it was just lots of old hymns being sung. and it was strange to be in her house. clean. and filled with people gathered to honor her. as there were many days that passed in her life when she wasn't honored.

and this past wednesday, i went to her funeral. the first funeral i've been to in grenada where i actually knew the person. and it was short. and the sermon was general. but the songs made me cry as i considered them from miss hilda's perspective. one of the little hat-wearing church ladies invited me to sing "how great thou art" with her at the graveside. as a final tribute to miss hilda. and amidst sobs and a broken voice, i offered my song. there was a happy hour, as with all grenadian funerals. but there was something that bothered me about it. so much food and drink and extravagance to supposedly honor hilda. but wouldn't it have made more sense to have honored her while she was alive.

when she passed on, miss hilda couldn't walk. and her sight was failing. she had diabetes and a host of other health problems. she was merely sixty-one. but could have easily passed for eighty-one. she depended on the generosity of her neighbors to survive. her family members offered sporadic care. but were often neglectful. especially in offering compassion.

i would pass by miss hilda on my morning walks up to mount plaisir. my visits grew to be longer and more frequent during recent months. as i would stay and help out with whatever she asked. because i didn't know if she'd get tea or a bath or her insulin otherwise. and in return, she offered me wisdom. and love. she said she couldn't pray for herself alone, but must pray for us. she told me God would bless me on my journeys to continue the work he was calling me to do. she spoke of praising God continually. in all circumstances. she believed with all her heart that she would see and walk again. she shared her papaya and cabbage and beans with me. she taught me about generosity. and faith. and trust. and joy.

and i don't know how heaven works. but miss hilda makes me want to believe in heaven. makes me want to believe that she is laughing. and chatting. and rejoicing now. that she is dancing. and singing. and celebrating now. that she has discovered healing. and freedom. and peace.

and i thank God that our paths crossed. thank God for the moments we shared. for the ways our souls connected. and part of my purpose feels gone with miss hilda. but maybe not. maybe my purpose now is to find new ways to live out the things she taught me. to pass on who she was. to continue her story. prayers for openness to new ways to love. to serve. to honor. guide my feet on these journeys. on the paths you are calling me to walk.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

sand beneath our feet. big blue sky above our heads.

abby is that your sister? no. just my friend. she's here on holiday. oh. ok. well, i thought she was your sister.

if i only had a mango for every time i had that conversation in the last couple weeks. then, well, i'd have a whole lot of mangoes.

during the last half of may, i had the irreplaceable gift of having miss amanda carolyn pratt share life with me in grenada. a blessing beyond words.

the days ran together in a wonderful way. a continual flow of beautiful moments. we bathed in the sea. washed in the river. fished from a row boat. admired the sunset. hiked to waterfalls. played with kids. cooked grenadian dishes. ate lots of fruit. went for walks. visited the neighbors. worshiped with tambourines. got avett brothers songs stuck in our heads. rode the crazy buses. embraced the community. experienced everyday grenadian life.

amanda discovered/rediscovered a love for pumpkin. and snow ice. and fry bakes. and children. and swings on the beach. and floating in the sea. the visit was healing for both of our souls. we both admire so much about each other. we both bring out a certain beauty in each other. a beauty we can often forget. and we realized that we're different. with different lives. and choices. and passions. and gifts. and that's ok.

and i'm so thankful for our conversations. for the way amanda sees things. for the perspective and insight she offers. and i wished she could have stayed longer. but she has other adventures ahead of her. other places, other people to share her gifts, her passions, her love with. and i'm so thankful that she would come all this way. to see. to experience. to understand. and i'm so thankful she has become a part of grenada. and grenada has become a part of her.

we didn't take an abundance of pictures. but tended to appreciate the moments for what they were. however, you can check out a few images here if you wish.

and now its back to everyday grenadian life for me. with prayers that i might embrace all of this. appreciate all of this. with fresh eyes. with a renewed spirit. trusting in where i am. discovering who i am. that days run together in a wonderful way. a continual flow of beautiful moments. a continual flow of love.

thanks for the visit, my sister. it meant more than you know. more than words can say.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

one day at a time.

saturday morning i found myself by the river once again. washing a few clothes. not plenty. just enough to get by. before the sun got too hot. enjoying the peace of the river. but my mind also wandering to things to come. considering my next placement. and the discernment process that's starting. reflecting on challenges. and passions. and calling. and such things.

then comes glenda. my neighbor who has moved to the next village. but still returns on occasion for things like washing. and church. and i have missed her being right across the street. so the moments to just rinse clothes alongside her were precious.

in harmony with the music of the river, glenda started singing an old hymn. that kind of sincere singing. coming from deep inside.

one day at a time.
sweet Jesus.
that's all i'm asking from you.
just give me the strength.
to do everyday. what i've got to do.
yesterday's gone.
sweet Jesus.
and tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord, help me each day.
show me the way.
one day at a time.

and although i didn't know the verses, i had heard this chours before. and i was able to sing with glenda. there in the river. and the words were a comfort. amidst this anticipation of future journeys. one day at a time. that's all we're given. that's how we're called to live. embracing the moments we have. for tomorrow has enough worries of its own. and glenda's wisdom amazed me. as she shared right what i needed to hear. without even realizing it.

the rest of the day was baking banana bread. and visiting glenda by her new home. and practicing steel pan. and i was thankful for that day.

the following morning was church. encouragement not to let our hearts be troubled. but to simply trust. and focus on the things that are eternal. spent the rest of the morning and afternoon at ednora's, with a few methodist women in their sixties and seventies, as we cooked a potluck sunday breakfast and lunch together. and chatted. and laughed. and looked at pictures. and rested. and fellowshiped. and i was thankful for this time. for women that love me. and take care of me. and give me glimpses into their lives. and i went home in time to take my laundry down from the clothes line. and dance and pray in the sea at sunset.

i'm realizing that i'm about halfway through my stay here. about eight months have passed. about eight more to go, praise God. and i don't know if i've embraced each moment as i should have. and i don't know if i've loved enough. contributed enough. been patient enough. but i pray that whatever time is remaining will be spent in ways that are good. that honor God. that honor people. that i can trust in where i am. in where i will be. and simply live. and live simply. one day at a time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

a shady spot by the river.

abby. you going by de sea?
oh. no. i'm going to go sit by the river. find a nice shady spot and read.
what? abby's a madwoman. likes to sit by the river. likes to watch the sunset.
yeah. i guess i am mad.
abby, go on. go sit by your river.

a quiet saturday afternoon inspired me to venture up the river a ways. to read. and journal. and reflect. despite the fact that my neighbors think i'm crazy. i mean, i guess i am. but that's another story.

and as usual by the river, there were moments of solitude. the harmonious music of the water and the birds the only sounds. and there were moments of community. folks coming by the river to wash. to bathe. visiting the river for practical reasons. unlike me.

the time was healing for me. able to get out words and thoughts about my own restlessness. my own wandering. my own wondering. on the next to last page of the leafy journal amanda gave me.

i was also able to take in words. to listen to words much more profound than mine. words of rachel corrie in her journal entries. and all of her writing is tragically beautiful. but my pen found itself making note of a couple of quotes:

"i've always crushed the flowers while staring at migratory birds. now i am learning to notice the smell of the trees." p. 69

"thinking it over, i realized that the most powerful actions i can take towards societal improvement will have to start very close to home, arising not from the need to leave a mark on history, but from empathy and sincere understanding of the places in my life where neglect exists." p. 78

one day i will migrate. one day i will fly away. and i wonder where the wind will blow me. but until then, i am planted here. until then, this is home. may i embrace the trees. the flowers. the things rooted here. instead of being so distracted by the birds. may i accept that i cannot solve everything. but may i find the inspiration. the gifts. the opportunities. to contribute however i can. to love. to give. to honor. open my eyes. my soul. to those places where neglect exists. right where i am. amidst the river. amidst the sunset. amidst the people.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

beyond the easter bunny.

more than one person has said they hoped i would convey a bit about easter in grenada. so here's a bit about my recent experiences. from my "grenadian" perspective...

holy thursday. found a spot in the pew beside miss daphne. one of those sweet hat wearing church ladies who shares her prayer book with me. readings of passover. and footwashing. twelve men were invited to the front to have their feet washed by the priest. a reenactment of jesus profound example of servanthood at the passover meal with his disciples. and i've never connected maundy thursday service with footwashing before. only communion. so i appreciated the combination. i was wondering the whole time if the twelve were going to wash the congregation's feet. since jesus did command his disciples to continue to serve each other. but no one else's feet were washed. which is ok. maybe it would have taken too long. or made people uncomfortable. (church should never make people uncomfortable, should it?) the ceremony was nice. but i longed to participate too. same with communion. still not sure if i'm really allowed to receive the eucharist. since i'm not catholic. since i can't seem to grasp the literal transformation of the elements into jesus. so i didn't participate in communion either. and the service was nice. and i could join in the songs and the readings and the prayers. but somehow felt limited in full worship. and how often in life is our worship limited. through circumstances, distractions, reluctance.

good friday. an early service with the tiny methodist crowd. simple. didn't change my life. but a reminder of the cross. of the death that is necessary for resurrection to follow. literally hopped out of the car into the procession through the stations of the cross with the catholic church. walked and sang and prayed alongside of folks all the way from grand roy to concord. half the time i couldn't hear the readings. but i appreciated the songs. the time for reflection. the time to simply follow the way of the cross. alongside of jesus. alongside of people. it very much resembled a typical funeral procession in grenada. everyone in their black and white. mournful hymns sung. and it was my prayer that i might come to understand what it truly means to follow the way of the cross. to share in christ's life. suffering. death. but also in the hope of resurrection. that it isn't just a ceremony. but a way of life. once we got to concord, we took a water break. and then had good friday mass. there was a interesting crucifix painted at the front. another white jesus. and i wished he was painted black. or at least somewhere in between. scripture. and song. and sermon. and communion. there was also an additional ceremony. a wooden crucifix was held up by the acolytes. and the congregation was invited to come to the front, bow before the dying jesus. and even kiss it if so led. i didn't feel so led. so i watched. observed. participated through prayer.

back i grand roy, cooked what i had been told is the traditional grenadian good friday meal: salt mackeral and provision. my friend kimo came over to help. the meal would have turned out a lot more awkward had i attempted it myself. we boiled the salt mackeral, which had been soaking since the night before. tore it up, removed the bones as best we could, then cooked it with cabbage, carrots, peppers, onions, and oil. also boiled sweet potatoes. plantains. dasheen. and yam. for the side. actually turned out nice. and looked presentable enough for me to confidently share a sampling with the neighbors.

kids flying kites around the neighborhood. homemade kites from reeds and plastic and thread. trying their best to catch the easter breeze. reminding me of God's spirit. moving us. guiding us. giving us meaning. and direction. and purpose. without whom we are merely reeds and plastic and thread.

visted with chester up the street. chester amazes me. he has a recording business for local musicians. a profound understanding of technology and music. plays bob marley on an out of tune guitar. and quotes scripture like a biblical scholar. has been in a wheelchair since he was a teenager. but transcends the limits life has given him. somehow conversation with him always ends up being spiritual. always makes me think about God and scripture and things in a different way. and i cherish those visits. where words have depth. and meaning.

holy saturday. a typical long walk through the neighborhood. taking my time to visit folks along the way. washed and rinsed my clothes in the river. embracing moments of solitude. where the only sounds are the running of the river. and the old timey hymns that spill out of my mouth. enjoying the people that pass by. dwayne volunteering to help me wash my socks. glenda and kedra bathing as mother and daughter. olin washing xorian's ridiculously long hair. neighborhood boys playing and splashing when they're supposed to be bathing. a perfect people watching spot. and washing and rinsing takes me so long. that even with shade and sunscreen, i managed to get my back terribly sunburned. then had chances to read. and catch the sunset. and learn how to make sweet potato pudding with glenda.

easter sunday. gathered wildflowers on my morning walk to bring to church. thinking about sunrise services and church breakfasts and easter traditions back home. got ready and went down the street for mass. sat by stephon from my after school class. he shared some of his flowers with me when he saw how mine were slightly mashed and wilted. one of my favorite parts of the service was when everyone brought their flowers forward and placed them in five gallon buckets at the front of the church. a beautiful, colorful, diverse arrangement. and it didn't matter how simple or elaborate your flowers were. the point was the beauty they held when placed altogether. and father martin talked about the beauty that each person inherently holds. and the added beauty when we come together in community. and there were songs of praise. and resurrection. we even sang "up from the grave he arose" during the passing of the peace. complete with tambourine and bongos. and we sang "i am the resurrection and the life," a song that brings back memories of early church back home and how our minister sydnor could never get us to clap on beat... just at stephon shared his flowers, he shared his candle with me during the renewal of baptism. beyond that he shared his joy. and love. as he naturally does.

got to talk with the fam on the phone. and help glenda with the last preparations for easter lunch. she let me eat with them so i had a family to eat with on easter. they made numerous dishes. macaroni pie. potato salad. cabbage and carrot salad. baked chicken wings. stewed pumpkin. provision. it was different though. meals are shared. but not around a common table. people come and go. eat when they feel like it. so i was surrounded by people, but it was different than everyone eating together at once. i had just enough time to eat before i had to head up the hill to meet the pan truck. we got everything loaded up and headed to tanteen, past town, for an easter concert alongside other steel bands. it was fun to play again. a treat to listen to other groups. certainly a unique easter evening.

easter monday. another neighborhood walk. lots of folks around. kids out of school people out of work. a group cooking oil down in a huge pot up in mon plasir. love the idea of people coming together to cook as a community. the oil down was actually for harvest later. spent a little time with miss hilda. who seems quite neglected. even by family that lives next door.

got to have a nice easter chat with grandma and grandpa. who seem to be doing better and better, praise God. grandma talks about the spring flowers. and the beauty of rebirth that they remind her of.

back at home, decided some easter cleaning was in store. so i started sweeping and dusting and mopping and straightening as the neighbor's radio blared across the street. the cleaning process always seems to entail more than initially anticipated. one cleaning project leads to another. until i start cleaning, i don't realize how truly dirty the whole place is. and if i don't clean as i go, the cleaning duties build up. and i thought about our souls being cleansed. and how things can build up. and how when we start to look within ourselves, we come to realize there's more and more cleaning to be done. and it made me thankful for a God than does cleanse us thoroughly. cobwebs and dust and dirt and all.

eventually made it to harvest. a celebration the day after easter sponsored annually by the catholic church. lots of local food. and treats. games for the kids. music. fellowship. enjoyed the oil down i had observed being prepared up the road this morning. walked around. visited the haunted house. talked with folks. played pan. a joyful experience to play for people from my own community. and to see the people dancing and smiling and enjoying themselves. stuck around a little while. tried to be a part of things. even when the dj music and dancing later weren't exactly my style.

(oh, and one easter tradition that i didn't experience was time on the beach. this year the waves were strangely rough. so no one really spent time in the sea)

and i love the way my little book of common prayer, we've entered into the first of many weeks of easter. that it isn't just a day. but a season. to live in hope. in joy. as a resurrected people. serving a resurrected Lord. and i pray its more than a season. but a way of life. that yes we die with Christ. but more importantly, we live.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


palm sunday brings about memories of children's choirs singing "hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the king." palm branches waving. easter cantatas. afternoon easter egg hunts in the front yard of the parsonage. makes me think of last palm sunday. a simple worship service in alma matthews house in greenwich village. alongside some profound future mission interns during interview weekend. where we talked about jesus weeping amidst the praises. because people failed to recognize the things that make for peace. and i had no idea where in the world i would be the next palm sunday.

and all these recollections ran through my mind. as i experienced palm sunday grenada style.

went to the little methodist church in gouyave early. sister christopher brought three simple palms she had borrowed from the catholics in her neighborhood. and she laid them on the prayer altar. later on went to catholic mass back in grand roy. everyone had palm branches. which were blessed with holy water. before we processed around the church. inside, palm branches carpeted the floor. and decorated the pews. and hosannas were sung.

in both services it was palm sunday and passion sunday. so we recognized the triumphant entry of jesus on his humble borrowed donkey. as well as the arrest and trial and cruxifiction. and it was interesting to reflect on such contrasting events within the same worship service. praises and accusations. hosannas and condemnations. the beauty of worship. in juxtaposition with the reality of jesus' suffering. how its just as easy to offer praises as it is to deny jesus. alongside a crowd.

and i long to offer perpetual hosannas. not only with my lips but with my life. but i fail everyday at getting it right. and i'm thankful for the grace of each new day to try again.

and ever since those palm sunday services. i've noticed that there's an abundance of palms all over grenada. everywhere you look, you can't help but set your eyes upon a coconut tree. a fig (banana) tree. or another random plant with palm leaves. and as the trees blow in the easter breeze, they remind me of nature offering its own praises. waving its own palm branches. even if we are silent. even if we fail to honor the holiness around us. the trees are shouting out. and when we realize this, how beautiful it is to sing hosannas. in union with all of creation. in honor of our beautiful Creator.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

you say tomato. i say tomato.

"sister abby. we dere in the garden and two of us still in we church clothes."

sister christopher is one of my favorite parts of the little methodist church in gouyave. she knows the hynmal by heart. sings with abundant joy. even after the service has ended. prayers of thanks naturally flow out of her. and she always wears her best sunday hat.

she has a contagious joy. it warms my heart to be around her. so i told her one day i'd love to come visit her. to spend the day by her. and this past sunday, when the service was over, she said, "you coming by me today?"

so i journeyed with mrs. christopher up to her son albert's house where she spends many a sunday afternoon. and i was welcomed into their home, into their family, with genuine hospitality. they have a beautiful garden overlooking the sea. with more kinds of fruits and vegetables that i can name. callilou. pockchoy. peppers. sorell. coconut. yam. bluggoe. plantain. fig. peas. pumpkins. mangoes. cabbage. tomatoes. okra. cherries. and on. and on. they grow what they need. and share with their neighbors. and their neighbors do the same. mutually taking care of one another.

mrs. christopher takes some of her produce to the market to sell. to earn her dollar for the offering plate, she says.

and i watched mrs. christopher. and her son albert. and her grandson tyrell. work in the garden together. me and sister christopher still in our church clothes. and it was a beautiful image of family. three generations together. and of the abundance that the earth provides.

and it made me want to have a garden. and live off the land. and share with my family. share with my neighbors.

mickey (mrs. christopher's daughter in law, who she calls mrs. christopher too) created a delicious sunday lunch. and i thanked her for her generous hospitiality. and she simply replied, its who i am.

sister christopher, the elder, loaded up a bag of fresh vegetables for me to take home. i thanked her as well. she said not to thank her, but to thank God. she says she is given, therefore, she must also give.

she placed three green tomatoes in my bag. said to put them to ripen. wait until they turn a nice juicy red.

so i placed the three tomatoes in my window sill. and one is just about ready. and the other two need more time.

and i feel like those unriped tomatoes these days. desperately depending on a Light to transform me. into who i am created to be. not something i can do on my own. but i must wait. the process seems to be slow. and i get impatient. and restless. feeling limited in my own greenness. longing to be more. to contribute more. frustrated when my days seem fruitless. when i fail to give. to love. to serve. like i know i have potential to.

but that little red tomato in my window sill gives me hope. proof that things ripen in their own time. the challenge is trusting and waiting. with faith. with patience.

in an unrelated yet related experience, i've been making special efforts to watch the sunset over the sea these days. to take a few moments to reflect on the day. to offer thanks. so whenever i'm home around 6:15 and its not all rainy. i make a little stroll down to the bay. and last night as i arrived, the sunset was subtle. a lightly tinted pink sky. the sun hiding behind a blanket of distant clouds. and i wasn't disappointed. i appreciated the little bit of color. and the faithful rhythm of the sea. and i watched a mother play with her daughter. and i prayed.

and as i sat on a stone. and waited. the sunset grew more and more colorful. and i watched the sky transform into something beautifully vibrant. and i nearly cried. at this lesson in waiting. in the beauty that inevitably comes when we can simply be still. and hope.

Loving Creator. thank you for the lessons you teach us. through tomatoes. and sunsets. and the random parables of life. transform us in your good and perfect timing. into juicy reds. and vibrant pinks. into the beautiful Image you created us to be. still our hearts when we are restless. and may we simply trust in your spirit that surely dwells in and all around us.

for God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. psalm 62:5.

Friday, February 8, 2008


arrived home tuesday evening to find the neighborhood looking a lot different. a lot brighter. a lot more red. green. and yellow. folks were out painting. sidewalks. and steps. and rocks. and walls. national colors everywhere. an annual tradition. in celebration of grenada's independence. which happened a mere thirty-four years ago. (just yesterday in the grand scheme of historical things. it continues to fascinate me how much middle aged grenadians have seen this nation change in their lifetime). and the tradition is probably an extravagant use of paint. but there is something neat about the community spirit that emerges from it.

so on the short walk from the bus stop to my house, i stopped to admire the new paint. and the painting that was still going on. change your clothes, abby. and you can come help us paint. who me? you mean i get to be a part of this? so i did. i changed. and headed back down the street. with glenda's comments guiding me. go on. abby. go paint with the boys on the block. abby has to experience everything.

i only painted a little bit of a wall and a step. before i handed my brush over to koby and tolo. who were also anxious to participate. but i was thankful. so thankful to be a part of things. to experience community people coming together.

the next day. independence eve. got to see a series of marches (parades) along the streets of gouyave. school children decked out in red. green. and yellow. grenada jerseys (t-shirts). fancy dresses. nutmeg hats. walking along to the grenada birthday song that you constantly hear on the radio these days. pretty adorable.

then thursday. the 7th. the actual independence day. threw together an outfit of the only red, green, and yellow i could find. put a grenada scarf on my head. looked slightly ridiculous. and hopped on a bus with a bunch of fellow grand royians down to the national stadium. joined a sea of national colors. to watch the ceremony. marches by police forces. military. school children. speeches by the prime minister and other "important people." cultural performances by local musicians. quite a show. it lasted quite a while. but i was thankful for the chance to experience it. to wave my grenada flag and be patriotic alongside grenadians.

back in grand roy. there was a small festivity up in the pasture at the school. a cricket match. oil down (the national dish). fellowship. so i spent the afternoon up there. mingling with folks. eating too much. playing barefoot in the field with a bunch of kids. a neat thing. the sort of thing the community should do more than just once a year.

nothing particularly insightful or profound to share further on the subject. just glad to be a part of things. glad to be a part of grenada. glad for grenada to be a part of me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

an abundance of mangoes.

i can't pray for just me. i must pray for us.

that's what miss hilda told me this morning. miss hilda who believes God is going to restore her sight and allow her to walk again. who says her faith has kept her alive. miss hilda who is somewhat taken care of by her daughter, a struggling single mom. but ignored by much of her family.

her bible was laying on the floor, open to psalms this morning when i stopped by. and i know she can't see well enough to read. she said she leaves it open sometimes. just in case someone comes by and wants to read to her. i asked her if she wanted me to read. yes, thanks. asked her what she wanted to hear. anything. its all God's word she said. and i didn't know what to choose. somehow, sticking with the psalms, i found my way to psalm 139. the one that grandpa loves. the one that i know songs from. the one that speaks of a God who knows us intimately. whose spirit we cannot flee from. who is too wonderful for us to consider. and me and miss hilda agreed that it was a good one. comforting. and true.

passed by miss hilda on my morning walk through the neighborhood. stayed a little longer than usual. rejected the temptation to be in a hurry. its better to soak in moments. to honor people. rather than rush off to something that may or not be as meaningful.

was nice to take my time going through grand roy today. i feel as though i've been pretty absent from the neighborhood this week. but that's because i've been spending my days walking through other communities.

as grencoda staff, we've been visiting each of the communities we work alongside. walking around. making observations. talking with folks. listening to folks. our intention is to get an idea of what people know of grencoda. of how grencoda is doing. how we could improve. and what people see as needs in their community. we're doing all of this before we sit down and plan for the year. striving to let the voices in the communities guide what we do. being intentional about working with rather than working for. sometimes we deviate from our purpose, though. to spend a few extra moments with an elderly couple whose children hardly visit. to offer encouragement to young kids in secondary school. to de-mace nutmeg. to shell peas. to sit with people. to be with people. and though we do have ground to cover (some of these villages are quite large). its nice to soak in moments. to honor people. to be present.

and people keep giving us mangoes. and cashews. and figs. and manderines. and i've eaten enough fruit to last me through easter.

beyond the walk-throughs, we've also met with community representatives in the evenings to at least begin to dialogue the issues we heard raised. "idle youth on the block." unemployment. skills training. mentoring programs. housing issues. agricultural support. community centers. roads. neglect from the government. lack of unity. partisan politics dividing the country. dividing the communities. and somehow i got recruited to take notes. so i had to play close attention. and though i still don't understand the background and context of everything, i feel as though i learned so much. about what is going on in these communities. about the need to rise above division and come together. about the need to work for justice. for sustainability. for dignity. and although i haven't really contributed all that much i've been taking in more than i realize. and i'm thankful that there is plenty to learn. and i'm thankful to be a part of this. and i'm thankful to work with people who deeply believe in empowerment. who sincerly try to listen. and its all overwhelming. all that needs to be done. compared with what realistically will get done. especially on grenada time. but i continue to pray for a unity with God's spirit. that He is guiding all of this. that He is guiding all of us. we're in this together. not me alone. not you alone. but us.

i can't pray for just me. i must pray for us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


after last minute cleaning and baking and christmas preparation i hopped a bus to town to meet lester the taxi driver. we had plans to pick up some very special christmas guests at the airport. st. george's was the busiest i've ever seen. everyone out shopping. just like most places, commercialism has invaded christmas here in grenada too. we arrived at the airport early. with plenty of time to sit in anticipation. last time i was here was when i arrived four months ago. it was night then too. the difference now was the christmas lights strung all around. welcoming everyone to a grenadian christmas. shortly after eight o'clock, folks started emerging off the plane. eventually, three folks that look a lot like me came through the doors. mom. dad. and andrew. met them with hugs and kisses. hardly believing these two worlds were merging. so happy my family had finally arrived. the only thing missing was andrew's suitcase. circling around some conveyor belt in puerto rico. turns out that was maybe a good thing as lester's little trunk was overflowing from just mom and dad's stuff. we hopped in the taxi. dad in the front. mom, andrew, and i squeezed in the back. everyone wide eyed. taking in the christmas lights. the huggins business signs (yes there are other huggins in grenada. pretty crazy). admiring lester's grenadian accent as he pointed out places along the way. we arrived safely in grand roy. greeted by a few of the neighbors. settled in upstairs. ate peanut butter sandwiches with homemade guava jelly and drank the peppermint tea mom had sent in a care package weeks ago. as i laid down to sleep beside mom, i offered thanks for the chance to share this grenadian life with them. a prayer that became habitual during their stay here.

homemade bread, ham, and sorrel for breakfast. followed by christmas mass. beautiful, spirit filled music. people went out of their way to welcome my family. grenadian christmas lunch. baked fish. callilou. pumpkin. boiled corn. fruit cake. an afternoon of bathing in the sea. visiting with the neighbors. playing in the street with the kids. exchanging a few christmas gifts. andrew's suitcase came about ten o'clock at night. now he could finally change out of that key club t-shirt. a christmas day unlike any before. one that mom said we would always remember.

boxing day involved street cricket. and walks through the neighborhood. and a rough swim in the sea. another day to simply be a part of grand roy. other days we rode around the island with mary-theresa, took in the concord waterfalls with elisha, viewed the western coast from a motorboat with kimo and jacko, swam in the clear waters at grand anse beach, enjoyed fish kabobs and fishcakes at fish friday, walked around st. george's, heard steel pan music, ate grendian's national dish of oil down, realized a week isn't long enough to take in all of grenada.

some of my favorite moments were simple things. like chatting in the mornings with dad before mom and andrew were awake. seeing him give fatherly attention to the kids that would hang around. listening to the avett brothers and 90's rock cds with my brother. watching him naturally play football or cricket or with the neighborhood kids. teaching mom to make passion fruit juice and grenadian dishes. falling asleep talking to her, waking up beside her. sharing these moments, this place, this life, with all three of them.

the last day they were in grand roy, we went on a spontaneous hike through the bush, up to the top of a hill that overlooks grand roy. me and kimo and andrew and more kids than i can count. it was a wonderful last minute adventure. a change in perspective. to look down and see all that is grand roy. now when i talk of grand roy. of grenada. of the people here. my family will understand. their perspective has changed. they came to see. came to live as grenadians. at least for a week. and everyone here bets they'll be back again.

as for me, i'm striving to appreciate this place, these moments, this family here. wondering what this new year will hold. praying for openness. for guidance. for patience. for union with that divine spirit so mysteriously incarnate within us. and among us.