Story and photos by Matthew Woolford
The island of St Lucia has a way of wrapping her spirit around you: embracing, guiding, and teaching you all of her well-kept secrets.
According to the Book of Genesis (2:2), “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken”.
If I was a gambling man, I would bet every cent that it was on this island that God Himself took His sabbatical, reflected on His work, and saw that it was good!
Friday, May 12 was my first day at the guesthouse in the town of Cas-En-Bas and the view and landscape immediately took me back to the wonderful days and nights I had spent at my grandparents’ home in Belmont.
Just as wonderful were the people. Exploring the trail to the beach that afternoon, I encountered two retired female teachers who were out for their daily constitutional.
They took me under their wings and gave me a walking tour of the greater Cas-En-Bas area, including the shortcut to Beausejour Road along Tamarind Avenue, where the donkeys grazed during the day, at corner of Cas-En-Bas Road.
A word from the wise was sufficient, and from the next day I was using this route to negotiate my way between Cas-En-Bas and the main Gros Islet District.
The ‘Tout Bagay’ Tour on the catamaran from Rodney Bay Marina was my second major adventure. Sailing along the Caribbean Sea Coast of the island, I was able to witness the majesty of the Pitons and the allure of Soufrière Village where the tour disembarked.
Some went to the chocolate factory, but I elected the spa option that included a mud treatment, sulphur bath, and after some traditional ‘Sunday Lunch’ (on a Saturday afternoon), a baptism under the ‘power shower’ of the Toraille Waterfall.
We then stopped at a nearby beach for snorkelling. The guide advised that if I had not snorkelled before then today probably should not be my first. After experimenting with the truth, I realised that she was right. She did, however, ‘permit’ me to use the slide on the upper-deck, and with full gusto, I went feet first into the Caribbean Sea!
At Mass the next day at this beautiful church in Gros Islet, Msgr Michel Francis, Vicar General for St Lucia, gave a beautiful homily on the art of letting go. He acknowledged that many of us may feel naked without our worries to hold on to, but God gives us the courage to lay our burdens down.
After Communion, the choir serenaded mothers everywhere with a rendition of Lee Ann Womack’s ‘I Hope You Dance’. It was not only tastefully chosen for Mother’s Day, but also well executed.
I was also told by two women of the love they have for Archbishop Gordon and his homilies which they follow on Trinity TV, as well as the gratitude they have for the clergy from Trinidad and Tobago who often visit St Lucia to conduct retreats there.
To borrow from American female rapper, Latto, there is a ‘big energy’ that drives this small nation. The people are ambitious yet grounded, with a discipline to be forceful yet non-confrontational with their views.
If you ever walk into Derek Walcott Square, you can see the elevated busts of two of the best to ever do it.
Born on January 23, 15 years apart, Sir Arthur Lewis (1915) and Derek Alton Walcott (1930) are reminders to St Lucia and the Caribbean that we have the answers to all, if not most of our emergent problems.
According to the Nobel Prize website:
Jazz till two
Kassav was excellent! They highlighted the ‘World Beats Night’ of the St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival 2023 at Pigeon Island National Landmark on Saturday, May 13. Despite the loss of core member Jacob Desvarieux, the intensity, and spirit of the band was still there, and had me dancing in French until 2 o’clock in the morning.
Later that afternoon, I was elevated to a higher level of consciousness by St Lucian guitarist, Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson, before Sting, with his storytelling and Shaggy with his showmanship brought down the curtain on a world-class event.
Sting’s rendition of ‘If I Ever Lose My Faith In You’, had me missing my deceased grandmother, Myrtle Williams, who was probably the only person who could have made that weekend better. And that, I guess, is the power of music!