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Tell Them I Came Home

Travel Snaps from Across the Sea

By Lily SéjorPublished 23 days ago 3 min read
Personal photos from Guadeloupe laid over my great-great-grandmother's birth record

More often than I’d want to confess, I speak to the wind. I picked up the habit as a child, in the Caribbean, where the trade winds constantly sweep across the islands, picking up scents from near and far—each smell, a nugget of information. On the backseat of my mother’s car, over the coastal road, heading to my grandmother’s, an inevitable gust would whisper to my nose and let me know whether or not a fresh batch of sargassum (brown algae) had landed on our shores. In early July, when we set foot on our family’s plot of land, gossips of ripe mangoes would buzz in my nostrils. I have no clear memory of when it started but, one day, I reciprocated and shared a secret with the wind. Today, I speak to my ancestors and send news to them on the flapping wings of birds made of air.

Home – Guadeloupe – is not a place I get to visit often. After the passing of both my grandmothers, within the same year, just six months apart, I truly believed that my connection to the land could never be the same again. As I later found out, it was true but it did not have to be a bad thing. My parents and their siblings are growing in age and the landscapes and places I once knew are sometimes altered by human activities and ambitions; but one thing in Guadeloupe never changes—the wind.

Right: grilled ray fish. Left: a traditional dish with dumplings, shrimp & our huge Caribbean crawfish.

Every single time, once I leave the air conditioned limbo of Pointe-à-Pitre international airport, the air welcomes my entire body with a hug so hot it could scorch my skin—that is, if it were not so swollen with humidity. Instantly, sweat drips down my face and a moist line forms in the middle of my back. The spirit of place is settling in me. A couple of minutes dragging luggage to the car, not fighting the heat but adjusting to it and off we go. I roll my window all the way down to allow the wind in. It slaps my face with the fragrance of tropical trees and growing grass. I want to close my eyes and allow my nose to enjoy the show to the fullest; but I am a glutton and all my senses want to bear witness. Within a minute, we pass the first mango tree with a cow tied right underneath and I know that I am home.

Right: Just the lower right front side of a mango tree loaded with (unripe) goodness. Left: a fragrant soursop.

I whisper my people’s names and ask the wind to let them know that their daughter is here. And when I leave, I petition the air again for a final message.

One column on the "stairs of the ancestors" that enslaved Africans were forced to climb to be sold. Each column bears the name of a tribe from which they were taken.

Tell my people I have come home.

Tell Grandma Nény I once again walked under her June plum tree that miraculously bears fruits year-round. Tell her the soursop tree watches over the garden like a giant and we still use its leaves for teas and soothing baths. Tell her the starfruit, the cocoa and the cotton bush are gone and we do not miss them but we never forget.

Tell her I went to Limèl, where she had been a girl, and stood right by the pond to let the place fill me with memories not mine. Let her know that I climbed the avocado tree and the spirits beneath are still just as chatty.

Tell her I went up hill, to her grandmother’s land where the allspice abound and the kapok tree rules.

Tell her and tell them all that, when it is my turn, I will straddle the wind and, this time, I will be the message.

My mother, dancing on our traditional music, Gwo Ka (she can never resist the drum).

On my last trip, I was blessed to witness the one in a lifetime bloom of a royal palm tree.

photographynaturecentral americacaribbean

About the Creator

Lily Séjor

Lily is really not the best at describing herself, so she'll put this down for now and circle back when (if) she's inspired. For now, she wants you to know that she's your verbose friend who rarely knows what to say.

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Comments (3)

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  • D.K. Shepard21 days ago

    Breathtaking, Lily! The beautiful pictures and your poetic petition to the wind were framed so perfectly with your masterful story telling!

  • Novel Allen22 days ago

    Your story has won hearts and hopefully more. I am Jamaican, last time I was home I remember the burst of heat as i walked out of the airport. Yes, our Caribbean home is like none other. My parents moved to the city, which I so regret, I never knew my people as well as you did. I now live what I missed vicariously through yours. Thanks for an enjoyable trip.

  • Christy Munson23 days ago

    I feel as if you've brought me into something sacred here. I feel the whispers enter my ears and bring me somewhere new that, at the same time, feels known to my bones in ways my being has yet to understand. I feel I should tell you, Welcome Home. But it is you who told me. And I feel the welcome with my whole self. This story is magic. Pure magic.

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