Cayman Wildflowers

The rains have begun and we have had our first flood.  It’s funny – the only time the sun is not out in the Caribbean is when it is raining but that doesn’t make it less hot.  The humidity is sweltering and even more so when the clouds linger.  But when the sun does come out, it is with a vengeance.  Wildflowers pop their heads up in the most unlikely of places.  Some burst into flames in the sun, others cling to the hope of the shade.  These are some of the wildflowers in my neighbourhood.  They don’t scream out at the casual passerby.  But if you really stop to look, they reward you with casual lowland beauty.

The oft forgotten Grass Flower. Taken up really close you can see how pretty they are – little florets circling a purple thimble

Doesn’t she look like sunshine?

Lady’s Slipper, Cayman style.

The flowers are everywhere! Hidden among the grasses and climbing, like this one, through the trees

A swamp flower, only found in the salty lowlands

This flower, about the size of my hand, carpets the roadside along a vine.

In contrast, these little pinks are about a quarter the size of the fingernail on my little finger

The Spanish Needle – a useful plant harvested from the wild to feed rabbits and horses. We often forget it has a flower.

Much like the giant white, this purple flower runs through the grasses and pops up a splash of colour here and there.

We are not the only ones enjoying the flowers. This is some form of wild pea and you can see the similarity to the St. Elizabeth Gungo Pea flower.

This heaving vine doesn’t always begin wild. But it is hell to control once its roots hit soil.

There is one grass flower, hard and stiff, poking up among the grasses and hiding in view of the trees. Can you spot its brown spikes?

Project Grow

Project Grow bracelets for Plant Day, on adults and kids alike.

As our islands get washed clean and flooded for a time with pure rainwater, there are little children looking out rain-splattered windows and dreaming about Project Grow.  They wished and prayed for rain and here it is, in all its glory.

This is a project I believe in, one I encourage my team members to take part in, and one that has been proudly introduced to Cayman.  It is a farm-to-plate lesson in agriculture and nutrition that our children, more accustomed to video games and air-conditioned indoor activities, have tucked into with gusto.

Schools apply to participate in the project.  If they qualify, a Grow Box is set up in their school in preparation for Plant Day.  Plant Day is when the kids and sponsors meet at the box early in the morning and plant seeds and seedlings – carrots, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, blue berries (if you can eat it we will probably plant it).  There is a curriculum to follow, a farmer’s market, and recipes for kids to cook the foods they have lovingly grown.

I have vowed to not mix business with pleasure on this blog but there are some days I absolutely adore my job.  Most days I just love it, but Plant Days are all Adore Days.  I’m looking forward very much to what comes next.

 

Just A Lil Rain

We’re a tough old flock, us islanders.  Raised on salt water and sea grapes, breadkind and fish, we are hard to beat.  Perhaps this is why we are the ones Hurricanes are sent to – the world hears about the East Coast getting by a little Cat 1 (a mere kitten) for months but a 100 square-mile island being swallowed by a monstrous Cat 4 (much closer to a tiger) gets a few minutes of news time.  And that’s ok.  Because we are ok.  And, God willing, we always will be.

Category 1 hurricanes find us battening down and then going to the beach.  The calm before the storm is usually the best beach day of the year and the beach is best enjoyed with mangoes in the sea, sweet sticky fruit met with salt.  Our damage is usually minimal due to our construction and preparation.  Informed by hundreds of years of experience we know our flood zones and our best defenses and are fortunate enough to be able to afford to employ our knowledge to our protection.  June 1 is a big trip to the supermarket to start stocking up for the season.  But when the storm has passed and we have had minimal damage, it is not uncommon to see adults and children alike bathing in the rain and riding wave runners and kayaks in the flooded streets.

Shipwrecks, pirates, battles and storms tattoo the tapestry of our history.  We have learned to laugh the laugh of the children of sailors.

Funny thing is this little weather event caught me as the only member of my immediate family on island.  This weekend my dad was in Cuba, my mom in Florida, and my brother in Jamaica.  And of all weekends, it had to be this one.  Funny enough, however, this little event affected us all.  My mom’s flight back was delayed and both my brother and my dad were fighting through the same rain on islands to the north and to the south of where I am.

I became vaguely conscious of the rain in the early hours of the morning.  It made sleep sweet and the Public Holiday (Discovery Day in Cayman) even more relaxing so I rolled over and snuggled deeper with a sleepy sigh of the blessed.  And then I woke up.

Kids Kayaking in the rain outside an old shopping center, torn apart by our last big hurricane. Today’s fun on the grounds of yesterday’s disaster.

My back yard was a lake.  There was no walking of dogs this morning.  The water would have near covered their little backs had we tried to step into the parking lot.  My neighbours didn’t move their cars all day but,  me being on the edge of the flood, I pulled out determined to get my day’s errands done.

Not too long into the day did I realize that this thing wasn’t going to stop.  Errands were rushed and plans abandoned and at some point after noon, and after hours and hours of falling sheets of rain, I joined up with my mad family, the ones who never heed a warning to stay inside unless it is called a C.U.R.F.E.W., and drove around the island in a four-wheel drive.

Have a look at how the day went.  Some of these are mine and some are borrowed.

Tubers pulled behind the white truck enjoy the wake left by passing cars.

A cow pen off the side of the main road at Breadfruit Walk with at least four feet of water stained red by the dirt

I had intended to go down this road but turned back after seeing the high water. Passing by later I saw a fellow traveller who missed the memo.

For more flood photos, visit the Cayman27 site.

Walking Naked

Isn’t it amazing how two animals of the same breed and from the same parents can be so different?

Take Lola.  She LOVES to be naked.  Julius sees it as a violation of all things macho and canine – the core values he stands (and pees) for.  Yesterday they were trimmed low low low (to the noyaz as a Caymanian would say).  Ready for the Summer heat and to combat the insect infestation that comes with rainy season.

Take this morning’s walk…

Lola is all smiles and ready to go show off her haircut…

But Juju is like “MAMA WHYYYYYYY!!!  ALL THE OTHER DOGS ARE GONNA LAUGH AT MEEEEEE!!!!!”

Lola prances along like it’s a catwalk… “See mama?  See how the haircut makes me look like I’m smiling?  Isn’t that funny?  Cuz dog’s don’t smile right?”

She dances and pounces, chases other dogs and pulls to the end of her leash.  “Mama try this angle!  What about this one?!  Aren’t I just too cute?!” (Julius – ” Expeditionist Brat”)

But not so my mortified Julius.   He is determined to turn his back to me until I give in and take him inside to hide his shame.  I’m lucky I got a shot of his face!

Don’t you love me? Why do you do this to me?

But turning your back has other disadvantages… and leaves nothing to the imagination.

Please don’t tell him! He’ll never speak to me again!

Road Rage Gone Funny

Every time I pass the spot I think of it.

Back to back traffic coming out of South Sound Road on to the East-West Arterial.  There was this MASSIVE Hummer driving behind me.  He was so close I couldn’t see anything but the grill through my back glass with a hint of my red brake lights reflecting off the chrome.  I drove up and he came right up with his grill, smelling my lil Audi’s backside once again.  I rolled down the window and gesticulated – Bobo ease off!  I could barely make out from outside my window a white middle-aged man sat quite comfortably in his own rolling island.  On the damn phone.  So he missed the point.  Moved up a few more feet, gap opened, and Mr. Hum V was slam right up against my rear-end once again.  Right before I got to the corner I pulled off the road in a temper and rolled down the window.

He couldn’t escape me.  He wasn’t going anywhere soon.  And he was on the phone.  But he rolled down the window.

Burnin up with Caymanian rage I bawled out “Bobo you cyaa get so close in sum’n so big!”

And steeped out just as unconcerned in Caymanian nonchalance he drawled out in a deep old Cayman accent “Wha haapp’n you friight’n awah?”

I couldn’t help it.  I cracked right up.  And as the gap opened up again he gestured to me to come in front of him again.

Six Words That Built A Bridge

I am not in the business of holding grudges.  Probably because I’m not very good at it.  When it stops hurting I stop remembering it.  Mind you, some hurt stays fresh for a long time with no nurturing and wallowing.  Some earth-shattering hurts hurt forever.  I have yet to master the skill of how to forgive while I still hurt.  But once the hurt is gone I forget and it is over for me.  In the heat of the moment I explode like a firework.  But ask me two years later and I will have forgotten what the whole show was about.

Because I forget the hurt I sometimes forget the lesson and I will be open to a repeat-hurt later in life.  Which is why I don’t hold grudges, I burn bridges.

Now every psychologist in the world will say this is unhealthy.  I am by no means going to attempt to justify myself.  This is simply a statement of fact.  An explanation of what is.  I burn bridges and trust the decision of the self of my past rather than remind myself – the current self – of the hurt and re-live it all over again.

But things are changing…

I have a cousin, someone dear to me but very different from me in all but two respects.  Our anger is explosive and our bridges go up in flames.  Our differences have given rise to hurts and fights and misunderstandings and flames for years.  We have been bridgeless now going two years.  Family hurts are often the hardest to heal.

Yet she is mine and I am hers.  I have not chosen her – she was chosen for me.  The hot latin DNA that makes us who we are to each other is the exact same code that makes us flash like lightning.  The storm was magnificent.  No bridge survived.

Yesterday I sent her a message.  “Peace?”

She was not long at all to reply.  “…yea…life is too short…”

And with those six words a bridge was built.

© Brent Mclennon

Mango Dreams

© Brent Mclennon, 2011

What woke me three minutes before my alarm was the taste of mango in my mouth and the smell of star apple in the air.  The senses were so overwhelmed that I stretched in bliss, hit the bed-head, and woke up smiling.  Actually smiling.  Three minutes before my alarm.  Small miracle.

I was with a group of friends on a visit to Jamaica and we were being driven cross-country.  I had six weeks off from work and had left the work blackberry at home so the little red dot wouldn’t drive me insane.  We had driven from Kingston through St. Catherine, ever climbing, through Manchester’s mountains, and down the corkscrew of Spur Tree Hill into St. Elizabeth.  In the mountains of St. Bess we stopped at a road-side fruit stand.  None of this actually happened in the dream, but isn’t it strange how dreams come with their own memories and knowledge like a zip file?

In the dream my friends were negotiating with the language of Yorkshire and of Kent over bananas and sliced pineapples with an wide-eyed-with-awe country-man and tasting sugar-dense naseberries for the first time when a car pulled up.  I was called away by name and turned to find an old friend from my high-school days.  He was holding the biggest mango I had ever seen and looking very handsome.  (Probably because of the mango.)  He pulled off the road to speak to me and I remember lamenting to him that it wasn’t star apple season.  He laughed and pointed up to the tree above my head and, as if commanded by his finger, ripening star apples appeared and filled the air with a heady syrup that hit the tongue through the nose.

My magical friend gave the vendor his mango, asked him to slice it in half.  The mango had no seed! He then reached up to pick the nearest star apple.  When my teeth sank into the mango I woke up.

Smiling.  Three minutes before my alarm.