Noble: The beauty of living with a grateful heart

When we witness injustice and the brutal acts that plague our nation, it is not easy to be grateful. We groan under the weight of many human failings, and our first reaction is not gratitude.

Indeed, difficult times and circumstances are handy excuses to be disgruntled and ungrateful. We become embittered and hostile to each other.

A motorist experiences road rage.

It is easy to be thankful when things go well. It is hard when life turns us topsy-turvy.

The beheading of little Amarah saddens me immensely. The gulf of income and opportunity inequality burdens me. The idiocy of our leaders bewilders.

Sometimes, when I think it would get no worse, it does. As noted in last week’s column, I instinctively take comfort in Job’s story.

Four-year-old Amarah Lallite was murdered earlier this month.

But last Saturday, I was jolted into remembering a quote from GK Chesterton, an English author and philosopher. He said: “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

I was in a maxi taxi going to Blanchisseuse with some young men, and they were ‘ooh-ing’ and excitedly pointing out the majestic Poui trees dotting our hills. Then, the Saut D’eau coastline came into view with its blue waters. An unbelievable sight for them.

They had never seen a sea with this colour and could not believe it was in Trinidad. I had taken the view for granted.

I may not have given it much attention as we drove past but for the boys’ response. I even had to admit I had not seen the sea that blue for many months. It was remarkable.

I then remembered an X (formerly Twitter) post by Tillahwillah (@tillahwillah) that asked:

“Have you seen the yellow pouis on the north side of the Savannah today? Or anywhere, really?

A beautiful yellow poui tree.

“They are a much-needed light shining through the rage and ugliness of the news of the last few days. Everything blooms again, Trinidad. Please believe and know that.”

She posted this on 11 April. If you do not know, Attillah Springer, “Tillahwillah”, is the daughter of the well-known Eintou Pearl Springer. She is an environmental activist who has worked in the media.

Yes, Tillahwillah, I have seen the yellow Pouis. I have also seen the gorgeous Facebook photograph of the trees by Queen’s Royal College posted by Dennis De La Rosa. Posted on 10 April, it was stunningly beautiful.

A stunning image of the Queen’s Park Savannah.
(via Dennis De La Rosa)

These young people give me hope! They are the Gen X cohort. We, the older ones, may criticise them, but they are more concerned with “We” rather than “I”.

As Tillawillah demonstrates, they are taking the long view. Things are tough, but it is not the end of the world! It will bloom again!

This declaration of optimism contrasts the doom and gloom promoted by the older men of our society, who refuse to do what is needed. They wish only to complain.

Presenting the stars of World War II…

Tillawillah, with her one-door shop, will not qualify for membership in our prestigious business chambers. But she, like many of her social media peers, demonstrates more hope for our country than many of our business leaders.

They have seemingly instinctively accepted Chesterton’s view of earthly possessions:

“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things, and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”

The Cat’s claw vine.
Photo: Noble Philip

My heart is filled with gratitude for these young ones who refuse to accept that we live in a hopeless society.

As Chesterton also said: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

I want to give thanks for being able to live here and let my heart be filled with wonder at the beautiful country of my birth.

A view of the Saut D’eau.
Photo: Georgia Popplewell

Amid the wilting heat, it is as though nature, like an orchestra, is putting on a recital. It is not only the Pouis that are showing off.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in St Clair, the Cat’s claw vine appeared suddenly on Saturday and was gone by Tuesday. It wrapped its bright yellow showy self around a tree in a show-stopping sight.

The yellow poinciana tree on the north side of the Queen’s Park Savannah contributes its lovely majesty, with the Cannonball tree opposite Knowsley littering the floor with big beautiful flowers.

Cannonball tree flowers.
Photo: Noble Philip

Do we know that spiritual presence is attributed to this tree? Before you reach the tree, you can smell its reddish, yellow and pink flowers.

The towering Talipot palm is in full bloom in front of the President’s house. I am delighted to have witnessed this palm tree flower. It blooms when it is in the range of 80 to 100 years old.

Its bloom is one of the most enormous blooms in the plant world. Are we not fortunate to see this marvel?

The Talipot tree.
Photo: Noble Philip

All around, flowers are bursting up to the heavens.

I saw two yellow finches in the wild of Port of Spain. I was astonished. William Wordsworth remarked: “The birds around me hopped and played/ Their thoughts I cannot measure,/ But the least motion which they made,/ It seemed a thrill of pleasure.”

I understand what he meant. Finches represent, for some, a message of hope and the importance of enjoying the present moment. Was their presence not timely?

Two finches converse…

“All creatures big and small, the Lord God made them all!”

Squirrels running around and eating and climbing trees. I take photographs, knowing that no one will look at them in the future. But it gives me joy to record the goodness of God while living in the mire.

“What a wonderful world!” is a signature song of Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong. He had a tough life—a school dropout at 11—he mustered on and used music (“It has given me something to live for.”).

Iconic late musician Louis Armstrong in Amsterdam on 29 October 1955.

He had a complicated relationship with the black community but found his purpose with the arrival of the civil rights movement. He criticised President Dwight Eisenhower for not doing enough on civil rights.

The very first line of the song, “I see trees of green, red roses too,” encourages us always to believe there is a chance for improvement and growth! Eh, Tillahwalla?

There is much for which to give God thanks. I belong to communities which bolster me when I feel oppressed by the cares of life in my country.

Morvant residents enjoy their first taste of Pro League football as Morvant Caledonia United and San Juan Jabloteh battled at the Morvant Recreation Ground on 16 October 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/ Wired868)

The young men and adults from the Saturday field trip form a valuable group. These adults are working to help the young men look up and see the skies and not be burdened by the dirty drains and terrible lives in their neighbourhood.

These men and women fuel me to continue trying to help our youth not get entangled with crime. They have no earthly reward for this every Saturday commitment. But they are there faithfully.

I walk most mornings and meet people who are not part of my regular life. There is the mayor of the park, the person who knows everyone by name. He is cheery and welcomes you each morning.

Activity at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
Photo: Noble Philip

Some walk with their dogs. There is a chap with four non-descript rescue dogs, but he is also a walking encyclopedia. Most people greet you cheerfully. A tiny minority do not, even though you see and greet them daily. LOL.

This fellowship is utterly joyful as it represents a time of communal sharing. As one retired woman explained, she does not walk if it is too late because all her friends would have gone home. Walking is the excuse. The company is the reason. You can face the cares of the world after receiving this mental boost.

What will you give thanks for today? Gird your spirit to face the cares.

A stately poui tree.
Photo: Noble Philip

As Paul, the apostle, wrote: “In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God!” Give yourself a chance to live victoriously.

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  1. What an outlandish blatant hypocrite is this fella called Noble Phillip ! With a PNM Government that has destroyed our country , Noble finds himself thankful for the beauty of our nature . Had it been the other party presiding over the carnage and destruction that we’re witnessing , you can bet based on his fully biased writings , he would have called for Kamla to demit office. Hypocrisy guised as a Noble !!!

    • Precisely the kind of diseased spirit that needs—but almost certainly does not avail itself of— the therapy of the beauty of nature.
      Go to the Botanical Gardens this weekend, Jean, and take a few hundred deep breaths. Balm for the soul in need.

  2. Who remembers the days in the 1990s when Newsday began life as a “good news” newspaper? Had they had contributions such as this, maybe they would never have got to the point where they they put Dole Chadee’s beheaded brother’s head on their front page on a New Year’s morning.
    Ah, Noble, you could have spared us all that.
    But we are still grateful that you have shared it today.

  3. I am a Trini living in foreign , an avid gardener and environmentalist. Only yesterday, I circulated 15 photos of my Spring Garden flowers to a select list of friends and family worldwide. My garden gives me personal joy and satisfaction but the greatest reward is the engagement I have with my neighbors and strangers who make a point of greeting me with compliments for the delight they get each day that they walk by.
    One older Pakistani senior who takes his daily walk past my home takes great delight in a purple Lace Hydrangea plant which has beautiful large flowers. It makes such a positive impression on him that he took a photo of the plant and told me that it is a photo which he looks at often. But as noteworthy as that is to me, it dwarfs the satisfaction I get from the very young children who tell me how much they enjoy the flowers.
    I also have this majestic 40 foot Oak tree at the front of the property which NYC planted as part of its One Million Tree Initiative and which I have nurtured from the day it was planted as a sapling almost 20 years ago.
    Noble’s story resonates with me for all those reasons and being a QRC alumnus and former Newtown resident, the images described in his article are burned into my memory. Job well done!

    • Thanks, for sharing these thoughts and reflections. I found it inspiring and hopeful.
      It captures precisely how I feel on my Saturday walks around the savannah. I always stop to admire the beautiful trees. Like the writer, I try to preserve the memory by taking pictures and sharing with family and friends. The yellow poui are my favourite. God’s majesty on display plus the community of walkers who do this routine on the same day and same time. Hard not to feel gratitude in those moments.

  4. Well said and the photos are beautiful. Thanks for the uplifting thoughts.

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