When I first arrived back in Dominica in January 2018, there was considerable Hurricane Maria-caused devastation and destruction all around. But what truly amazed me throughout my two and a half month visit, was the remarkable regrowth of plants and flowers, even during the short time that I was there. No matter where I traveled on-island, I discovered natural beauty rebounding in all areas. Despite the lengthy recovery process from this catastrophic cyclone, which adversely impacted life and property on Dominica, there were definitely signs of recovery in the botanical world.
From my first day in my old neighbourhood, I was truly amazed by the bounty of floral splendor around my apartment, located
on the property of Vernon and Geramise Gordon in Wallhouse. While they toiled away at extensive home repairs and roof reconstruction, as well as addressing the responsibilities of their demanding jobs, they always took time to tend their garden. I was definitely a grateful recipient of their energetic efforts, as I frequently sat on my porch to take in the immediate beauty that surrounded me.
One of my frequent favourite “haunts” during the years I lived near Roseau was the beautiful Botanical Gardens. But after Hurricane Maria tore up the island, this once-lovely setting looked “empty” when I was there a few months after the direct hit from the cyclone. A full report of the substantial losses in this previously gorgeous site can be found in this informative article in The Sun Newspaper Dominica. It is hoped that this historic and naturally attractive public space will rebound over time. I have previously written about this tropical garden, which originated in the 19th century in my blog, Ti Domnik Tales. You can read about it here.
Some views of the Botanical Gardens near Roseau, Dominica in March 2018:
My other favourite garden in Dominica, located near Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley also experienced dire losses of plants and trees, but thankfully the owners on-site survived the storm. Papillote Wilderness Retreat, lovingly designed and cultivated by Anne Jno Baptiste for more than half a century did not escape the wrath of Maria. Her four-acre tropical garden was drastically affected, but its changed condition was not stopping the vivacious octogenarian from picking up the pieces, revising her plans, and moving ahead to revive the naturally luxuriant rain-forest property.
Throughout my years in Dominica, I had frequented this sensational site, as its offerings of wholesome organic lunches, massages by physiotherapist Ariane, hot and cold mineral pools for therapeutic baths, waterfalls and 360-degree greenery were only 20 minutes from my home. I always felt rejuvenated after spending a healing day there. I have written extensively about this international award-winning property. You can find those pieces on my Ti Domnik Tales blog here.
It was a real treat to visit with Anne, and a delight to be in the company of mutual good friend, organic gardener Karen Sutherland of Roots Farm in Cochrane. I was grateful to Karen for taking a day off from her busy organic farm, which had also incurred devastating losses as a result of Maria. Karen and her partner Roy have worked extremely hard for about two decades (so far) to establish and maintain a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, 100 per cent organic farm, as well as their chemical-free home and guest apartment in the mountains, just north and east of Roseau. While I was on-island, I purchased their produce during weekly visits to the Roseau Market on Saturdays. The offerings were limited initially as the vegetables needed time and tending to regrow. However, as the weeks wore on, more edible plants flourished, so I happily bought and eagerly devoured the fruits of their labours from their pristine environment. While I did not visit their farm this time, I have previously written about their exceptional efforts and high standards for sustainable living on the Nature Island. You can read those posts on Ti Domnik Tales here.
On a very hot day in Dominica, Karen kindly drove us up the Roseau Valley to Anne’s cool place, where we chatted and sipped basilic tea freshly “snipped” from the garden. The spry proprietor showed me around the property: her latest projects included upgrades and repairs to some guest apartments, as well as modifications to her lush garden. While the hurricane had caused considerable damage, I could see that Anne was allowing nature to “take its course.” This wise woman appeared to be watching and waiting to see how things would evolve, as well as actively fixing up what she could on her stunning acreage near Trafalgar Falls. I appreciated her wisdom and intuition with respect to adapting to these unforeseen circumstances. This type of situation, which repeated itself all over Dominica reaffirmed to me that ultimately, “God is in control,” which is an oft-repeated affirmation on the Nature Isle.
As well as the organic offerings that I relished from Roots Farm in my own kitchen, I was happy to rediscover the Starline Ital Kitchen, a little gem of a “snackette” on River Street in Roseau. Although only a few months after Maria, it was up and running early in 2018. Nigel, the proprietor, serves up tantalizing ital (all natural) vegetarian meals and snacks for breakfast and lunch. Much of the produce comes from his own garden near Soufriere, on the southwest coast. Whenever I go to his establishment for lunch, I insist that I can only eat half of the meal, as the plates of food are so large. Now I better understand the definitions of “devour” and “savor” after having consumed such a tasteful combination of natural flavours! I know that this Rastafarian works very hard and spends long hours doing what he loves for the healthful benefit of others. I thank him for his loving efforts for better living. My mouth is watering as I write this. I can’t wait for my next meal from StarLine Ital Kitchen!
With so many encouraging signs of nature’s rebirth readily apparent everywhere on Dominica, it is hoped that the island will be spared from storms this hurricane season. One only has to look around this spectacular and unique country to be assured that nature always triumphs with innate resiliency. Perhaps this is an approach for all of us to emulate. Admittedly, it is not easy on many levels. However, we can definitely help nature along, so please do your part to protect this precious planet!