Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nature in Jamaica through the Eyes of Childhood

To be able to act with innocence or speak with the tongue of child is a taste of freedom. 

My visits to Jamaica have never lacked the expected tropical flavor, fun, finds or the irresistible cuh de (look there).  In my excitement, when it comes to nature, I unashamedly exercise the traits of a child in a candy store.  I look, yearn, savor, salivate, touch, poke, grab, pocket and play with its pieces. Pieces such as old man’s beard, old man’s pipe, poor man’s orchid, cup and saucer, chinny pee pee, search mi heart, single bible, duppy umbrella, and duppy soursop to name a few.  Nature in its moment exudes discipline. For example it has provided a lesson on how inconspicuous a female should be.  We see this in the plant called “shame old lady”.  It folds up when touched, hiding itself.  By the same token nature can be vulgar as seen in the flower which depicts the female sexual organ. It is called pum-pum flower and draws a lot of attention.
As I rummage through nature, I find that in the category of creepy crawlies, a slug will bring out the naughty child in me.  As soon as I see one, I quickly pour salt on it and watch it melt.  As for the snail, I will kick its shell or turn it around with a stick to see what is going on inside and then spit on it.  Should a bee aim at me I would scream “green bush” for it to go away.  At the sight of a scorpion, I begin reciting the Lord’s Prayer hoping that it will freeze in place until I find an object to kill it.  The duppy riding horse is an interesting insect to scrutinize. It stands on long thin legs so thin that they almost appear invisible as its riders, duppies (ghosts). 

Besides the wanton attacks and cock-and-bull stories on nature, nothing can compare to the solace and interests that are found within the bowels of nature itself.  I recall, as a child, that my friends and I believed that the foods eaten by the birds were also good for human consumption. As a result, we feasted without any concerns or cares.  We did not worry about being poisoned.  Perhaps, it would be sufficient to say we had strong reassurance because it is said that God takes care of babies and fools. 
On the other hand, perhaps we were rebels of the bush within our own rights like our fore parents.  They used plants for medicinal purposes and ate foods, showing very little interest in whether or not they had scientific names or scientific proof to confirm benefits.  Why dampen the glory in the cultural lexicon or nourishment. The scientific names are low energy. They do not spark the mind as readily as their layman names which are more direct, descriptive and sweet sounding.  The legacy is rich. Such names should remain alongside their scientific names, not ignored nor removed to vex the spirits of our fore parents who worked their ingenuity.
Nature is incredible. My childhood hamlet is Maidstone in the parish of Manchester and the account given is that it obtained its name from its appearance: stony, with mountains that resemble maidens’ breasts.  Like many other places in Jamaica, the village is dubbed “bush” because of its geographical location.  This is a good attribute to its relevance as it continues to provide me with its delicate and hard core beams of nature; mystical yet a humbling experience. The opportunity to embrace and enjoy the maximum benefits of the village was immensely underestimated.  A place where bright lights reigned had seemed more appealing and appropriate than rural living which harbored the ever blooming trees and plants, rowdy birds singing here and there and noisy nocturnal creatures.  A clear vindication for the misunderstanding would be the saying, “Cow nevah noh di use a him tail until him lose it” (Do not take things for granted because you will miss them when they are gone).

 Come walk with me in the bush.

Maidstone Village
Coffee Berries

Duppy Sour Soup

Gum Card

Love Weed

Moringa Seeds

Nature's Brush for Pedicure


Old Man's Beard

Pum Pum Flower

Relaxing in the River

Slate Stone

Snail Shells

Soap Suds

Star Flower

Walking in the Bush

Bind Spear

Chinny Pee Pee
Tah-tah!  Every bush has a story to share. 
Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2014


  1. Gracie, you should put all this in a book just very interesting, informative and brings back the good memories of our childhood

  2. Great blog, very informative

  3. Is nat Pum Pum flower. Is "ole ooman pum-pum".
    Wish I knew the official name. The Chinee peepee is Spathodia.

    I enjoyed viewing this.

  4. This brings back such great memories.

  5. The scientific name for the pum pum flower is Clitoria ternatea

  6. My childhood days were fun growing up in the cockpit country. We would pick all these 'bushes' and have session with my grandmother who was versed on all these 'bushes". I got spanking for using the word pum pum in a vulgar way. Grace your knowledge is needed for the young people. I hope a book is in the making. Walk good.

  7. Great piece, Grace. Looking forward to reading the book.