Ambassador Davidson L. Hepburn
As a youngster growing up in Sunday school, I learned a song which we sang often:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus” blood and righteousness……….
on christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
One of the tasks that I disliked was cutting sisal (hemp) soaking them in the pond and later stripping them to prepare bales to be sent to Nassau for sale. The sap from the sisal would cause an itch and I would be covered with salty brine from the pond. In the evenings I would be plagued by the ubiquitous mosquitoes biting me and buzzing in my ear. Birds known as piddymidick, based on the sounds they made would swoop around swallowing varmints and then releasing them with a loud swishing sound. Nevertheless, I preferred mosquitoes to the sand flies, whose presence could only be felt by the sting but not seen. To get rid of them, we would have to make a fire from green branches which would cause a dense smoke that drove the pests away.
Another chore for me was that of toting water very early in the morning to fill up big tubs for boiling hot water to scrape off the hair from slaughtered pigs. The meat would be shared with family and portions cured with salt for making delicious stews with lima beans and okra. Sometimes the meat and conch hanging out in the sun would attract flies that produced maggots. No one seemed to be bothered by that, as the meat was cooked over intense heat to kill any bacteria that may be lurking. In fact nothing was wasted. The intestines and other parts of the slaughtered animal were meticulously cleaned in the salt water for making souse. One of the interesting things to me is that we seldom got ill from eating so many different kinds of meals, but if we did, parents had every sort of remedy from the many natural herbs. In fact, children got daily morning doses of worm medicine, castor oil and bitters and numerous other kinds of elixirs ⎯ all bad-tasting, but effective cures.
My mother was an excellent cook and always prepared delicious meals of peas and grits with tasty stews of mutton or chicken. She never ate pork and to this day, it is not a favourite meat of mine. I used to watch in amazement how deftly my mother used to fan the grits. After grinding the corn, the grits would be put in a fanner made of the ribs of the straw. She would toss the contents into the air a couple of times and, in the end, the husks would appear on the top, the grits in the middle and the corn flour at the bottom. It was certainly an art and young children never ventured to perform that task.
I would always remember another after school chore. We would go to the creeks in the marshes and collect gold shells (the home of a type of mollusk). They were very popular in Nassau for making earrings, bracelets and other native jewellery items. We had to wait for low tide when the shells were “walking”. We would gather them in marmalade jars or soda water bottles. We had to move against the current because the water would get muddy and we would have to wait for it to settle in order to see the shells. We would also bait them with pieces of conch, soldier crab and any other stuff. Sometimes we would be very successful and fill up our jars. We always knew the favourite creeks to go to. At home we would put the shells into fresh water and the mollusk would die emitting the most horrible smell imaginable. We would shake them until they were clean and then put them into the sun to dry. The next step would be to get them to the market in Nassau. Gold shells were quite popular and brought a good price. We also used to collect the cones form the casuarina trees. They were plentiful but not as lucrative as the gold shells. This is one of the ways that youngsters earned money to buy school material and other things.
I remember, very well, two other interesting adventures. All of my grandparents’ children were responsible for preparing evening meals for them. Once, when it was my mother’s turn, she asked me to deliver the meal. Our home was not far away but in order to get there, I would have to pass Ma Sue’s big fig tree, which was in a deep hole, as well as the church’s graveyard. I knew that I could not go by myself, so I asked my older brother to go with me. He was just as scared as I was, so we sat on the wall and ate the food instead. When we went into the house, we answered all of the questions concerning her parents’ condition. She learned the next day that the food never arrived. My mother did not ask any questions, she simply grabbed me by the ear and gave me a sound beating with the famous tamarind switch. I cannot ever remember doing that again. I was more afraid of the beating than the “sperrits.”
The bane of my existence was my turn to “break in” a young colt. My brothers before me had to do it as well. When my turn came i panicked. The task was to ride the horse into the sea with only a halter over his nose. There was no bit in his mouth or rein for control. To make matters worse, I had to ride a barebacked animal into the water and walk him around until he got a bit tired. My father, afterwards, would slap the horse on the rear end and he would begin to gallop at full speed along the shore. I was bouncing up and down. I believe that my hollering caused him to slow down and enabled me to jump from his back, very sore to say the least. I never had a great love for horses. He reared up and kicked me in the chest. I guess that my chest would have been smashed were it not for the fact that I was too far away to get the full force of the kick.
Another was to accompany my father on a raft to search for conchs, which normally were plentiful along the beach. My dad would carry a crude water glass. Once we found the bed I had to jump in and dive to get the conch. I did not know how to dive or swim. I was an utter failure on those outings. My father was not very understanding and I believe that these were the factors that caused my oldest brother and sister to leave home at an early age.
School was my haven. At the age of eleven years I was made a monitor and supervised classes in spelling, math (rudimentary) and reading. I was nver good at math. On the other hand, I received many prizes for English, history and reading from the British inspectors who came to the island to test students. I remember winning a dancing toy for spelling the word “Popocatepetl” I spelled it according to the sound. I added an “a” between the “t” and the “l” but received the prize anyway. I later learned that it is the name of a volcano in Mexico.
Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn of the Bahamas is a distinguished member of the international community, well known at New York UN Headquarters as Ambassador to the Bahamas for 10 years as well as in Paris at the headquarters of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one of the lead agencies mandated to promote a Culture of Peace. His many diplomatic roles included over a decade of service as the Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to the United Nations and most recently two years as President of the UNESCO General Conference from 2009-2011.
Kusumita P. Pedersen
The Keeper of the Pass
The valley falls away
East from this high pass;
Forested mountains rise
On both sides, densely green.
The sky lightens as night ends;
A dawn-colored cloud moves
Toward me slowly saying,
“It will be today.”
At noon I hear steps of the ox
Coming up the path,
The Sage riding on his back.
He dismounts and I prostrate,
Head on the ground. He blesses me:
“My son,” he says, “We meet
For the first time and the last.
Tomorrow I go into the west.”
I make a place for him
Under the great tree, the platform
Where I watch the moon,
And beg him to write,
Write his knowledge of the Way.
Let it not depart with him unlearned.
He sits long unmoving, takes the brush
And writes, is still, then writes again.
At times he sings faintly, hardly to be heard.
The silence grows. Small sounds of bird
And leaf are keen. The sun descends.
Twilight falls, now darkness, darkness
Deeper and deeper – we have come
To the gate of the Nameless.
It is dawn. The ox stands ready.
With the scroll in my arms
I watch him ascend the path
And disappear from sight.
The Sage embraces the One
And takes care of the whole world.
Lao Tzu means simply “The Old Master.” This poem is inspired by the legend of Lao Tzu’s departure from China across the western frontier in his old age. The keeper of the toll gate asked him to write down his spiritual wisdom, and these 5,000 characters became the Tao Te Ching or “Classic of the Way and Its Power.”
A Need to Fill
Something inside me calls
to fill in that empty space
at the front of the yard,
a single voice traveling
the length of the body
in need of a conversation
with the outside world.
The thought to add color
where there is little,
transplant daylilies and let them sing,
dig out a shovel full of earth,
move the bulbs and roots a stone’s-throw away.
bright orange and yellow flames appearing
where before only a dry dirt patch.
When Eyes Awake
When Eyes Awake
When eyes awake, day appears
a stranger at the door.
Should I welcome him or turn my back
like I have done so many times before?
Each morning a blank page to write upon
and I must choose to take up the pen.
Slowly, I am drawn out of myself
by the needs of others:
the cat reconnects me to the world
with her soft sounds.
A flash of white catches my eye,
a crane landing on my neighbor’s roof
waiting patiently to dive into the pond for fish.
Afternoon, the bloom
of daylilies in the front garden.
Sudden mysteries sparking the mind to motion,
inviting me to step forward,
take a walk outside myself.
– Glenn Garamella
Stopped by Words
Stopped by words, tied to their meaning by a rope of thought.
Words fit into their sentences like houses along a street,
each a world of its own.
A word stands apart, abandoned;
a cabin in the woods.
To look into a word is seeing through its window
imagining what life inside could be about.
Is the word filled with activity or a quiet place,
a living room without much living going on?
If I stare at a word long enough, the shape becomes
loosed from the mooring, drifting off the page,
afloat, a leaf down the river.
When a word awakes, great vines grow,
no separating the house from the landscape.
The wooden furniture goes back to the forest.
I remember, words are living things.
– Glenn Garamella
A Lucky Day
I pulled to the side of the road
saying “hello” to my neighbor
from the driver’s side window of the car,
she, taking her newborn
for a walk in the stroller.
Heading home to feed her child,
me on my way to a doctor’s appointment.
Only a few minutes later
along the narrow road
a massive tree fell.
One could say this was a lucky day,
an incredibly lucky day,
better than winning the lottery.
At that very spot our paths had crossed
standing so near the feet of death,
fate determined not our time.
In a matter of moments
our world would have changed forever.
In a matter of moments
our worlds changed forever.
How can we think of grace
without considering the willow?
With oriental beauty it speaks to us,
arching its limbs to softly touch the earth
in brush strokes, patterning the light
with sun and shade.
Have you made it your home,
even for a day, an hour, a minute?
A first herald of spring to watch for,
with its pale yellow shoots.
Under its branches the silvery green leaves
fill in to fall softly as quiet, airy rooms.
Can you not imbue your buildings
with such grace,
with space for air and subtlety,
writ with an artistic brush
to settle your soul
in the arms of beauty?
Have you asked the butterfly
why she dances
on the wings of the wind?
What is the cadence of her dance?
And who plays the music that moves her?
After her long, dark night of the soul,
when she awoke to wings, was she grateful?
Would you be?
If you spent your time on earth
inching along the tender spears of grass,
nibbling the green skins of leaves,
would you not be astounded by the sky?
By your place in the wind?
By feasting with the flowers
on their nectar?
When she travels
with all her kin to Mexico,
on wings as light as light,
with the map singing in her veins,
does she not show courage?
Or does she simply put one wing-beat
in front of the other?
Can you not also find that courage,
let your spirit leap into the sky
and follow after,
committing to the Love that moves
the wind, the clouds, the sky?
That plays the music for your dance?
– Hashi Roberts