Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, October 24, 2014

Birth day blessing

My niece's son was born Divali morning, at 5.30 am after a relatively short labour. This is a blessing for the boy!

You were 7 lbs 12 ozs (3.5 kg) and 20 inches (51 cm). Welcome Elliot Shalom! Peace be unto you! We love you already! You are born on the cusp of Libra and Scorpio: some will say you are all Scorpio. But you come under the influence of the planet Mercury which is highly imaginative, communicative and inquisitive.

In the Mayan calendar, you have the sun sign of the Monkey, who is the weaver of time: amiable, intelligent, generous, curious, able to weave artistic expression and find constructive solutions. Also from the Mayan system, your galactic tone is 12 (of 13 tones); this is the tone of understanding. The energy of 12 allows you to connect unrelated things into new concepts.

Mother and child (ten days)
In your father's faith, you will be connected to other age-old traditions. The essences of China, India, Europe run in your veins, generously connected through the multicultural ethos of the Caribbean upbringing of your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Always remember, "you are a child of the universe, no less than the moon and stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." (From the Desiderata, A Poem for a Way of Life, by Max Ehrmann - see fuller text from the prose poem below.)

Every child that's born into the world is to be celebrated, a piece of stardust, the product of ages past. No wonder you are born old; growing younger as you fill into your skin. You will be your mother's joy and your father's better self. But you have your own destiny, your own path, your own heart. You are not ours, though you are of us, entrusted to grateful parents and family to care for and to teach.

You are the echo of every other birth, a reminder of all possibility. But you will be your own man. And on this day, your birthday, we remember other birthdays.

A little boy who was born on a Friday. Hot sun in the beginning of May, heart of the dry season. His was a quick passage. Between the hasty departure from home and his popping into the world, just a couple hours had passed. At the nursing home, there was blood. The placenta was tearing away from the womb.  Be quick and bring this baby out where he could breathe. In the delivery room, the midwife urging wait. The doctor coming now. Turn on your side. Cross your legs.

Finally, the big push. One. Two.  Head and shoulders coming through. Then calm. Maybe he cried. The warm length of him on the mother's chest. The midwife coming round to show the knot in the umbilical cord that she had cut out. Do you want to keep it? It would be a good totem to mark a life of luck.

A girl was born on a Sunday, Father's Day. After a big meal, drowsy, fighting sleep. At the nursing home, it started to rain. From the delivery table, the sight of water coursing down the high windows,  bright flashes and thunder rumbling. A tiger born amid thunder, lightning and rain. Tiny shell ears curled over.

Yes, Elliot, you join a large family, of cousins, aunts and uncles. More than that, you join the family of the world. "You are a child of the universe, no less than the moon and the stars." You will grow in grace and love. Your name is peace, and we give you the Desiderata, which used to be a mantra of your maternal grandparents. ... Strive to be happy!


 From the Desiderata of Max Ehrmann:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wild thing

Yoda was a witness to many changes in our family's life. She arrived when we were still living on the farm, March 1998. A magga little pup picked up from a drain in Barataria. With her back legs in water, she scraped at the walls of the drain, but her front paws couldn't take her out. Her saviour wanted to return her to the school, and reproach the teacher who had pitched her into the drain. Don't children know better than to take a mangy scrap into a place where the grown ups will always go, "Ewww, filthy animal!" But miss... but miss...

Yoda - soulful brown eyes, but a slightly demented look; and ears that stood up on alert when she was listening
She never grew into her paws which were so big on a tiny dog that we thought she might be pitbull.  Full grown, she was all Trini: so mixed you couldn't discern any but the suggestions of pedigree. Rottweiler eyebrows. German shepherd tail. A pointy face that could be some kind of terrier. And mobile ears that were out of this world. They stood up on an alert, and moved like her namesake's. So she became Yoda, with an air of being older and wiser than anyone might think.

Her first and enduring lesson was never to trust anyone shorter than three and a half feet. Her second lesson was not to trust anyone over three and a half feet. So she might let you in, but she would not let you out without a nip - ankle, heel, thigh, belly, anywhere she might reach at the last moment. She was feisty, the fiercest most loyal of our dogs. Only those who were in her immediate family could treat her. I treated her mange, her possible parvo, a fish hook that she caught in her cheek, a dislocated hip. She only ever went to the vet to be spayed.

Yoda had three litters. The father was a black Labrador-Rottweiler mix. Yoda's puppies were beautiful. In the first she had eight; in the second ten; and in the third, 13. She was a good mother. And with a little help, all her puppies survived to go to grateful owners who loved their Labrador colours: pure black, tan, or creamy yellow.

When we moved to Diego Martin, Yoda was four going on forty. Two litters were born in the ginger lilies there: her preferred nesting places. We would find the puppies by following our ears, fat squirming bundles to be gathered in a basket and locked in with Yoda for the two or three days it would take for her to settle in the nursery.

When we returned to Santa Cruz, her last litter was days old, and the most fragile. How does a smaller than average dog with ten teats feed 13. By rotation mainly. So you can imagine how hungry and how eager these were to be weaned. These all went on to other homes and their own adventures. One of these pups fell off a dresser, went into a coma for two days, shook itself as if waking up from a long sleep and as far as I know, still lives.

The son's friends were always cautious around Yoda. They liked to hear me call her for her evening meal, this high-pitched call which became one elongated syllable that would carry for miles (or so we thought when we lost her): "yodeeyodeeeeyodeeeeyodeeyodeeee yodeeyodeeyodeeeyodeeyodeeee!"

One day, a few years ago, we lost Yoda for four almost five days. We couldn't believe that she would let anyone steal her. We hunted and searched. In the middle of a rainstorm, she came out of the forest to the back gate. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She never went out the gate again. We think she must have been wandering around in the forest for days before she found her way back home. That's when we figured she might be having trouble seeing or smelling or sensing.

For all her life, she remained independent but loyal. She was never a dog to beg, for food, for petting, for space. She was patient, content to be noticed sometimes. She lost the nerve to take a nip out of a child; and spent hours asleep like an old lady. She knew no self pity. And I will always think of Yoda in the words of DH Lawrence:
"I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself."

Wise and wary, wild thing