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I fiddled with my dress that curtained over my crossed knees. Although crossed, my legs shook vigorously. It was soon to be my turn to deliver a eulogy for my grandmother. As usual, the winds blew hard against the stilts of the church. The swaying of this building phased no one. It never does anymore. I wondered casually if my cat boat would still be tied to the lamp post, or if it crashed against any of the others that belonged to the attendants of the funeral. “Tenoko Wonders will now say a few words,” said the funeral director. That’s me. I had about 5 seconds to get up and pretend to flatten my dress, about 12 to walk up to the stand and gather my thoughts, I’m here.
My heels clacked louder than I expected and I scorned myself. This isn’t a runway, it’s a funeral. Excusing that thought, I continued to organise my papers on the stand. I looked out to the pews and looked straight back down. That’s a lot of people. I cleared my throat and said hello into the mic. It started raining violently over the church, thunder clapping, lightning flashing. I gasped. It’s like there are windows that only I can see through. Not a single head turned to the natural disaster outside, not a cough, not a blink, bodies frozen, frozen in time. What time is too late? There is a blindness that sweeps through these islands, and from the start I have been running from it.
“I am Tenoko Wonders, and yes it’s all I ever do. I’m going to tell you a second-hand story that intertwines with the extraordinary life of my dear grandmother.”
The wind bashes against a side door of the church and I make air time with a startled jump.
“Did anyone hear that??” I am now panting, near losing it. “Sorry,” I said to the frozen bodies that sat before me. I licked my lips and started again.
“Miracles were empty skies on a July day. Grandmother exhaled a breath as melodic as a decrescendo on the piano. The day was hers to seize. She didn’t know if there’d ever be one like it ever again. Frequent hurricanes, storms, flooding, droughts, the Caribbean was facing a shift in energy that hardly anyone paid attention to. The earth was not healthy, and we humans continued to pump it with sickness. The year was 2023, and grandmother called up her friends to go to the beach. It was a day without rain. These friends were 20 years old and in love with each other. They were friends who laughed, cried, danced, and did peculiar things. Location: 7 mile beach. Grandmother was not an ordinary girl and-”
I heard a crack in the window of the church. I stopped reading and gulped my saliva. My heart pumped ruthlessly yet slow. I continued reading.
“-And it’s important to note that her name is Change.”
Water busts through the window of the church. I screamed like I was dipped in hellfire. The water started filling up the church like a glass of water. These... bodies, frozen bodies, remained still. The silent horror. Even my immediate family did not move a muscle. I had to get out of here. Funnily, I grabbed all of my eulogy papers ran like hell to the church front doors. The church stilts were collapsing and on that note I clutched the cross tied around my neck. The sky is grey and daunting, but I must leave this church. The stilts tied to all new buildings in Bodden Town were collapsing. I made it to my cat boat and laid down under this angry sky. A sky that calls out for earthly revenge on those who have wounded its counterpart. I had my moments rest, but I had to set sail.
My story may not have been finished at the funeral, but it was unfolding right before my eyes. Climate change, spoken of like a lingering beast, tried to send signs through our withering environment, but I fear the time is now that it is too late. Grandmother Change told me that this day would come. When the water ceases to peacefully hum, and begins to curse us out with a ferocity powered by nature. When the water started rising many years ago, our tourism industry suffered. Life became dystopian. Old buildings crushed and sank to the bottom of our Caribbean sea - like an Atlantis of our modern century. What’s now known as a diving site with civilization above, was once home to Grandmother Change. That one fateful day that aligned her with her destiny to awaken those around her, the sea rose 300 ft tall and separated to behold sea animals of all kinds. Turtles covered with plastics around their necks, trash coating our corals, and the animals invited her into the hallway of the deep. She walked through and danced with the dolphins, kissed the mermaids, and shook hands with Pirates in their sunken ships. These creatures told her tales only known to marine life, in a language she could somehow understand. She heard their plea; to save them.
I’m sailing through this hurricane out of the Bodden Town area, thinking of the rest of the story I was going to tell. Who in the world other than Tenoko Wonders, thinks of a story in the midst of disaster? My cat boat crashed against the stilts of some modern home.
I swear the rich will be the only survivors.
In pieces, my transportation sank to the bottom of the sea. I clutched to the lamp post and remembered that this hurricane might ruin us once and for all. My dress tore, bit by bit. The lamp post was nailed to a big sign that promoted quick fixes to lowering your carbon footprint - when in reality, our focus should be turned to methods like revolutionising food systems and limiting food waste. Did our culture get in the way of protecting our islands? I sank. I saw the old nation, I could even see Grandmother Change.
Grandmother Change saw this with her very own eyes, yes it was real. Grandmother never lied, especially when it came to the wonders of our country. When this phenomenon happened, it seemed as if everyone on the beach couldn’t see it. A hidden sight, passed on for generations. Once she saw how desperate the ocean was for help, she made it her life’s work to protect it. It was that year that the stilts were built, to say goodbye to the old nation below. Grandmother Change’s eulogy is a story about her rebirth in light of her passing. As I saw her in the old nation, she commanded the water to lower to its rightful place, for the sun to shine at its rightful temperature, for the winds to be at bay, for the cycle to officially be closed. The cycle between me and her. The cycle of give and take, between teacher and student, generation to generation, Caymanian to Caymanian.
We could lose everything. Look at the signs.
This story is a warning for the present, a promise to future, and an enemy to the past. My perspective on the loss and damages to our environment in the Cayman Islands, is that I am part of a generation blessed with endless possibilities in fighting this battle. Our envied youth is a gift to all, with the opportunity to learn and surpass the wrongdoings of those before us. We all can see the changes in our environment, as if it could tell time. It is our current presence that bestows the responsibility of protecting these islands and those who have yet to inherit a beautiful patriotism.
I am 19-years-old, and my favourite part of the island is a double swing set in East End. Romance lives there. Secrets blow between the trees. Let’s all protect our favourite spots, all of it, the whole island, for each other.
Tahiti Seymour is a 19-year-old aspiring poet and author who uses her love for writing to express her viewpoint on the looming crisis of climate change. As a young Caymanian who wants to preserve the soul of her country, she believes it is imperative to observe art that responds to this global emergency and educates wider populations. She hopes to encourage others to make art and be creative in spreading awareness on this issue, as well as remaining informed on how to make a difference.