Grenada -- "Don't worry, be happy," is painted on the side of a stuccoed shack on the fringe of St. George's, the hilly capital of the West Indian island nation of Grenada.
Bobby McFerrin's witless 1988 ditty has become something of an unofficial anthem in these parts, a distillation of the laid-back island ethos. But the shack's roof has been torn off, one of many local buildings to be decapitated by hurricane Ivan in 2004; like so many others, it has yet to be repaired, a symbol of the hard times facing this debt-ridden country.
Our driver on a round-the-island tour reflects the prevalent sense here: worries are everywhere, and happiness is a receding possibility.
"It feels like we're in the end of days," he says. "The climate change means more hurricanes, more of this," he gestures to a hilltop ruin, the remains of the governor-general's official residence. Ironically, though, tour boat traffic to the island has picked up post-Ivan. "They all want to see our devastation," he says.
And what a lot of it there is to see. Palm stumps are everywhere on the island, which was claimed by Columbus on behalf of Spain in 1498, named after the city of Granada, and ruled from Europe, mainly by France and England, until 1974. The hurricane levelled the nutmeg plantations; since 1843, when trees were brought from Indonesia, the island's economy has depended on their output.
In the capital, the circa-1800 Parliament buildings, the Supreme Court, the long-time seat of the military, Fort George, and the sports stadium were all damaged. The tempest didn't play denominational favourites, whisking the tops off all three of the main churches: Presbyterian St. Andrew's Kirk, Anglican St. George's and the Catholic cathedral, also named St. George's.
The cannon-studded fort high above the capital, though solid, didn't come through the whirlwind unscathed. One side of it has slid down the mountain.
It was in a small courtyard here that the leaders of the island-wide slave rebellion were hung in 1796 all but the revolt's chief instigator, the charismatic, cultured Julien Fédon, who was never captured and has become a folk hero.
Here also, more recently, the Communist leader Maurice Bishop died by the sword he lived by or, perhaps, the rifles. He and his New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979, a mere five years after the island was granted its independence by Britain. By 1983, members of his own party were chafing under his rule and gunned him and his cabinet down in the fort's inner sanctum, prompting the U.S. to invade six days later, asserting that its citizens on the island were in danger.
In a bid to draw eco-tourists, the government (with a grant from the U.S.) has spruced up Grand Etang National Park, a vast area of cloud forest circling a volcanic lake in the mountains above St. George's.
From Grand Etang an ambitious walker can reach Concord Falls, a 50-foot cataract. The Concord Valley could teach Eden a lesson in lush. Trees bearing nutmeg, papayas, cocoa pods, soursop fruit, calabash melons, breadfruit and avocado fill the valley; cabbages, pumpkins, tomatoes and callaloo (the spinach-like plant used in the delicious soup of the same name) have been planted here and there in discreet rows. Bamboo, used in scaffolding on construction sites across the island, fills in the few remaining gaps.
A half-hour north on the coastal road from Concord Falls lies Caribs' Leap. From a cliff here, in 1650, the last 40 Carib Indians living on the island jumped to their deaths, rather than submit, it is said, to French rule.
In another country, monuments would abound; here, nearby, there's another decrepit Catholic church, many of its windows blown out, a huge puddle of water on the floor. At the jump site, no guard rail frames the vista, taming it. Again Grenada provokes thoughts of endings, of last days.
What were they thinking? How did they persuade themselves to jump? Were they pushed? Hummingbirds visit the flowering vines on the cliff's edge, and a long way down, the sea, the same sea now as then, crashes on the shore.