The water trembles at the wriggle of my toes, sending a gentle ripple trundling outwards from the edge of my foot until it touches the invisible corners of the infinity pool and makes its escape by spilling over the edge.
A slosh, as the water hits the hidden overflow channel and I look up from where I’m seated to see an Antillean Crested Hummingbird flit by and hover for a second at a bright pink flower, purposefully extracting its irresistible nectar.
The power of healing
Breath in. The Saint Lucia rainforest air drifts up from the trees below and fills my lungs with a new freshness. Exhale; and with it some of the heaviness of pregnancy seems to leave my swollen, aching body.
Bird-watching has become my solace as the weeks expand into months and the months turn into trimesters. At this stage I’m told I should be ‘glowing’, but before touching down and embracing the vibrant Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, I feel nothing but tormented.
I have lost count of the number of times my sleepless nights have been shrugged off as “nothing; compared to what will come soon!”, and as medical appointments have bled into medical appointments — all with the predictable diagnosis of “pregnancy: this is what you should expect for the next few months, and at least a few months following” — I’ve begun to accept that I’m slipping into a state of depression.
Carrying a child should be blissful, beautiful, ‘earthy’. But the black dog walks beside me frequently and I can see him stand over me sometimes in sleep-deprived hallucinations.
Saint Lucia’s bird life seems to be gradually chirping, twittering and pecking him away.
Birding for better mental health
Of the 157 bird species that live on the island, it’s the National bird; the Saint Lucian Parrot (Amazona versicolor), that I long to see.
The Saint Lucian Parrot is one of five native parrot species found in the Commonwealth country, and I make it my mission to spot at least one of them before my time here is up.
We have six days.
On day two I have a proper appetite for the first time in weeks.
Pregnancy has wreaked havoc with my immune system, and my thyroid levels and red blood cell count have plummeted below the acceptable line.
I haven’t eaten meat for years now, but the local chef gives a convincing argument for Saint Lucians building an economy around sustainably fishing the invasive and ecologically damaging ‘lion fish’.
On his recommendation I sample this dish and try traditional Saint Lucian banana cake for dessert. My body thanks me.
On day three I have the energy to swim in the sea, respectfully gliding over coral and tropical fish.
I snorkel, I dive down and touch the sand at the bottom and I remember what it feels like to not be bound by this new weight on my body.
By day four, I sleep.
Real dreams of rainforests and tropical coral reefs and sighting a blue-coloured parrot.
By day five I’ve walked, I’ve climbed, I’ve hiked. I’ve seen banana plantations and sunset mists roll through towering gum trees and encase fiddlehead ferns…
…but I haven’t seen a parrot.
The power of the rainforest
On my final day I journey skyward through the Babonneau rainforest in a green gondola that gently rocks and climbs its way over 76 square kilometres of lush, protected rainforest.
The island’s aerial tram showcases the tropical rainforest, which is home to large wild boar; the unusual agouti; rodents; lizards and four different species of snake.
I’m glad that the tram ride gives rest to my now fat, swollen feet.
At 430 metres above sea level we emerge from the treetops and are treated to incredible views of forest, clouds and distant ocean.
We see hummingbirds; the Purple-throated Carib and the Green-throated Carib. We see magnolia shrubs and giant hibiscus flowers brought over from Jamaica.
But I don’t see a parrot.
On the way back down I realise it doesn’t matter. I feel alive again. I feel like some of the fog in my mind has lifted. I feel like my baby and I are going to be ok.
Drifting in and out of exhausted slumber as the taxi bumps and bounces its way towards the airport, our driver slows to a near halt. “Look!”, he exclaims, pointing excitedly, “over there you can see our national bird; the parrot!”
My heart races as I bolt upwards in my seat and reach the taxi cab window just in time to catch the slightest glimpse of colour pulling itself forwards through the humid afternoon air. I recognise the animal’s methodic figure-eight wing movements.
At check-in a representative from Travel Saint Lucia hands me a blue linen bag with a smile; “For the baby”, she adds.
I open it to find a cuddly toy parrot.
Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 — Special announcement
I’m so delighted to announce that my story: ‘Saint Lucia: The birds and the baby’ was chosen as First Runner Up in the Terra Incognita Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 Awards.
Read my prize-winning entry here.
The article looks at the power of nature in helping to heal mental health issues, and how my quest for the Saint Lucian Parrot helped to calm some of the struggles of pregnancy.
Travel Blogger of the Year judge Eilidh Munro said: “This moving piece shows how important it is for our wellbeing to connect with nature. Kate wrote with a clear purpose right from the start and I thought this piece gave us a refreshing and brave angle on the power of travel.”
Thank you so much to those who have supported my blogging and writing career so far.
I’m so excited to carry on this journey with Terra Incognita, as the prize includes a year’s Conservation Careers Academy membership, access to the Conservation Career Kick-Starter online course and at least one of their AMAZING Eco tours from around the globe. I cannot wait.