Sacred Landscape


Mapping My Interior Landscape

Poetry is the response to the creative journey I have undertaken to trace my roots and feed that thirst that begs to be salved.

Dressekie Landscape

I am walking with my daughter, our hands clasped together, and she in turn clutches her grandmother’s hand, my mother, daughter of Enid Dressekie, my grandmother who has bequeathed her this land we are strolling. Before that the land belonged to Sylvester George Dressekie, Enid’s father, who bought it as part of a much larger estate when he settled in Jamaica from Scotland almost two centuries ago. I have been visiting this land [about five acres of overgrown property with two huge mango trees perhaps dating as far back as 1879 around the time great grandfather purchased a thousand acres of land in St. Mary, including a district that would later bear his name] every time I visit Jamaica in recent times.

Iron Gates at Dressekie, St. Mary

The Iron Gate-Entrance to the old Dressekie Plantation, Dressekie, St. Mary, Jamaica

Today, it is important that my daughter, my youngest child, be here with me for I want her to know this land, to touch it and perhaps experience that sense of connection- that guttural feeling I have every time I visit here– a connection that rumbles in the pit of my stomach, connecting me to centuries of a history that I struggle to understand and give a voice to. For there is no simple explanation of this multilayered history,  no simple words to smooth out the contradictions of the past that has shaped me: the great grand-child of a Scottish plantation owner and a diminutive African-Indian woman, Elizabeth, after whom my mother is named.  We have journeyed from North Miami Beach, Florida, the place we have called home since my daughter was two years old. And here we are now, walking the land with my aged mother, our footsteps marking a smooth rhythm as we move in quiet unison.

These are significant experiences that fuel my reflections and often find their way into the verses that I am continuously crafting to give voice to the notion of my hybrid identity. Poetry is that response to the creative journey I have undertaken to trace my roots and feed that thirst that begs to be salved. In this realm of creativity I merge fact with fiction and attempt to embroider the threads of my ancestors’ lives with that of my own, my children’s and my siblings’ and straddle the centuries and the histories to write the story that is continuously evolving.

Rio Nuevo River, St. Mary, Jamaica

Rio Nuevo River, St. Mary, Jamaica

Is there a place that speaks to the sacred within you?

Marvalous Marva May 2014

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Posted in Circle of Life, feminine leadership, creativity, Genealogy | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Dream Is The Truth


How are you investing in yourself? 

Sparkle & Shine!
It’s Time to Sparkle & Shine!

“The dream is the truth,” stated Zora Neale Hurston so many years ago. The words of this iconic African American writer remind us that the things we yearn for are what define us and become our truth. Whether we achieve them or not, this is what gives us ultimate satisfaction or dissatisfaction with life.  Rumi states that each of us knows intuitively what we are born to do and we know as well that we must take action to actualize this. These insights are particularly important to me in this month of April which hosts my birthday on April 23 as well as National Poetry Month. For I am pushed into a state of reflection about my life’s meaning: What have I achieved with my gifts and talents? What creative measures can I pursue to invest in myself and realize my dreams?  The truth is, we are faced with these questions from time to time whether we acknowledge them or not. These reflections should become gentle proddings that push us to think about creativity and steps we can take to invest in ourselves so that we may open up to the possibility and wonder of our dreams. While for me it is writing, reading, traveling and collaborating with friends, for others it could be a much broader mix of possibilities for as Thoreau states; this world is but a canvas to our imagination. However we decide to invest in ourselves the actions we take will gift our dream into the truth that defines us. This is the work we do that gives voice to our passion and introduces us to the world in a manner that honors the integrity of our vision and maintains our pathway to creativity. And as we journey, we acquire the tools to tell soulful tales to the world about who we are and what we are about. The journey is its own amazing story!

How are you investing in yourself?

How are you using your gifts & talents to improve humanity?

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | Tagged | 5 Comments

Turn Up the Praise: Saluting Women of Strength, Courage & Creativity

We Are Every Woman!

By Charmaine Wade Perry

Charmaine Wade- Perry

Charmaine Wade- Perry

Happy International Women’s Day to all the strong, powerful women who have struggled to make ends meet while being a single parent. Women who have been victimized, abused, neglected, lied about, sexually harassed and exploited and have still maintained their dignity. Go deep into your inner Nanny of the Maroons, Florence Nightingale, Winnie Mandela, Rosa Parks or Joan of Arc to keep the fire burning. I am you! You are me! We are every woman.

Honoring a Matriarch!

by  Marva McClean

Matriarch Dezrene Elizabeth

Matriarch Dezrene Elizabeth

In honor of International Women’s Day, I salute my mother, Dezrene Elizabeth Wade for her creativity and indomitable will. She has taught me much about approaching life with a positive spirit, always affirming that there is no problem without a solution. Her passion and energetic approach to life have been passed on to me and my siblings and for that I am eternally grateful.

Mama G, I Crave Your Essence

Rosie Gordon Wallace

Rosie Gordon Wallace

By Rosie Gordon Wallace

Mom, Maa, Moms, Mommy…..

I hear your voice

I see your smile

I feel your touch

I smell your presence.

Is that you?

Is it just your essence?

I crave your smile.

I crave your hugs.

I crave your food

I crave your prayers.

Is that you?

Is it just your essence?

Rosie with Marvalous 2012

Rosie with Marvalous 2012

I See Her Face in the Mirror!

by Yuki Tavera



I salute my great aunt Onaney, my paternal grandfather’s sister. My aunt Ona added so much to my life when I was a little girl. I’d see her during summer vacations and she almost single handedly embodied what “summer camp” meant. She rode bikes, played softball, spoke various languages, was avant-garde and unapologetic. She was from the Old World mentality (Roman Catholic, of Spanish decent) but managed to evolve into an influential matriarch with very modern and progressive philosophies.
She was a university literature professor but enjoyed reading school-age classics aloud to me (in Spanish) so that I would remain fluent after I moved to the states. She taught me to play chess, write in cursive, sew a button, draw from nature and speak my mind.
I see her face often in the mirror whenever I prove someone wrong and overcome challenges. Her legacy and spirit are still very much alive within my cousins, my sister and I.

Mom You Are Asum by Shain Johnson [ 5 years old at time of writing]

Mom You Are Asum
by Shain Johnson [ 5 years old at time of writing]


by Dredstar



My gift and my curse;

Completely ruined me from having a normal relationship

with any woman.

Stood me up when I could barely walk

Taught me to read when I could barely talk.

Showed me to want for things not bought,

Like fields of dreams and streams of thought.

Nanny of the Maroons

I am in her image, I am in her blood!

Ashanti Woman! Warrior Woman: Freedom Fighter: Nanny of the Maroons

Ashanti Woman! Warrior Woman: Freedom Fighter- Nanny of the Maroons

by Marva McClean

Warrior Woman, Bush Woman,

Black Woman, free! Nanny of the Maroons.

Ashanti Woman, Warrior Woman,  Bush Woman, free!

She pulled freedom to her bosom and claimed it for me.

Fiercesome Woman of truth, courage, resilience, and guile.

I hear the ancestral whisperings of her cry:

Know yourself, study the earth, strengthen the mind.

Listen for the movement of the birds in the wind.

Watch for the animals roaming the fields.

Be mindful of the insects crawling the Earth.

Fight! Fight!

If not with the sword,

the strength of the mind!

The power of the pen, the power of the word!

The Work of My Mother’s Hands [ An excerpt]

by Marva McClean

As I journey through the summers of my memory

I recall how you created with cloth, needles, and thread

and today I create with paper, pencil, and memories.

I know now that your hopes and dreams

are woven into the seamless fabric of my life.

Your love, dreams, and experiences

have swirled and knitted us together

into the embroidered tapestry of our  life history.

I am the work of your hands.

Marvalous on a Mission!
Inspiration Travels in all Directions

….from Black Woman Writing

I share these words in honor of  my friend Ivy Armstrong, writer, cultural activist, and psychiatric nurse who is recovering from a major illness.

I write to shatter the silence about our place in history

To leave indelible hieroglyphics on corporate walls

To traverse borders and open spaces

Where the mind can flourish and the spirit soar.

Ivy, all dolled up for an Ole Time Christmas Program in 2011

Ivy, all dolled up for an Ole Time Christmas Program in 2011

Posted in Circle of Life, feminine leadership, creativity, International Women's Day | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How Are You Fulfilling Your Creative Dream?

How are you fulfilling your creative dream? What does your deepest creative longing look like? 

Honoring Women of Courage, Character & Creativity!

Honoring Women of Courage, Character & Creativity!

There is often heartache in the discrepancy between the mythic journey we have set for ourselves and the real life journey we experience in waking reality.

As I reflect on the work women have done to make this world a better place, it is clear to me that to achieve they must always rely on intuition and creativity. When we think about women in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kenya we recognize the creative mindset that these members of our tribe must take to their work every-day for they are forging ahead in spite of dangerous circumstances and limited resources. This moment in the year, Women’s History Month, is but a brief pause to stop and acknowledge their contribution. It is a worthwhile opportunity to think about the creative pilgrimage that we all have embarked on. And I know that I too, must consider the manner in which I am making this journey. When I think of all the things that beg for my attention, the choices I must constantly make, and the tender tugging at my heartstrings that hints at that which I was called to do, I have to ask myself:  How are you following your heart’s desire and creative dreams? What will you do to lessen the potential for heart break?

Canada 2010

Canada 2010

There is often heartache in the discrepancy between the mythic journey we have set for ourselves and the real life journey we experience in waking reality. When we struggle to find balance and are not able to find solace in our experiential reality, then the journey of our international sisters might offer a source of strength to nourish us. How does one remain inspired in spite of abject poverty? How does one remain hopeful when education is denied women? How does one gather strength when there is no drinking water to quench the thirst of the community? These women’s stories inspire me and are a reservoir from which I constantly drink. These are the stories that hold me accountable to my own success as I journey. They provide a steadying hand in keeping me purposeful on the pilgrimage for as I face them in quiet moments of reflection there is no room for hypocrisy; they provide a naked truth that brooks no equivocation. And I must at least be honest with myself. The story is the journey and the journey is the story.

Walking the Boardwalk, Hollywood, Florida 2014

Walking the Boardwalk, Hollywood, Florida 2014

Posted in Enlightenment, female empowerment, feminine leadership, creativity, Grassroots Leadership, Honoring Life's Cycle, travel & culture | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Where Are You On Your Path?

February Brings A Gentle Reminder to Cultivate & Nourish 

Along the path, we tap into the collective roots of family and friends and learn ways to transform challenges and disappointments into opportunities and celebrations!

Rio Nuevo Beach, Jamaica

Rio Nuevo Beach, Jamaica

February always takes a front row seat on my calendar. I love that it’s second to January with none of the pressure of goal setting and self -evaluation that comes with the first month in the New Year. It is also the birth month of four important people in my life. The fact that it is African American Heritage Month always pushes me to reflect on how wonderful it is to be part of a community with strong roots in courage and confidence. It is empowering to know you are part of a tribe of family and friends who know how to strive and nurture, reminding you of your own responsibility to reach out a hand to pull another along on the path as others have done for you. This is an important part of my lineage that’s rooted in the understanding that we cannot achieve marching single file. The power lies in the collective roots of my family and friends where we learn how to transform challenges and obstacles into opportunities and celebrations. 

Rio Nuevo River, Jamaica

Rio Nuevo River, Jamaica

I was reminded of this on a recent trip to Jamaica when a simple visit became a kind of pilgrimage that knitted the bond between my youngest child, my mother, and me. Simple activities like eating a meal, sitting in each other’s company in quiet talk, or visiting the land purchased by my great grandfather in 1889 became moments of great significance reminding us that there are simple and refreshing ways to be in the world.  These are empowering experiences that lead to a culture of strength. I love that there is time on the calendar to pause and think about these things. With its call to celebrate the roots of heritage, February brings a gentle reminder to cultivate and nourish…. to step out in new directions for the year is waiting to be filled with new adventures.     

Posted in Circle of Life, feminine leadership, creativity, Heritage, Honoring Life's Cycle | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Stepping Boldly with Nelson Mandela on the Long Walk to Freedom

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela

by Marva McClean, PhD

Mandela: Symbol of Justice; Archetype of Heroism

Mandela: Symbol of Justice; Archetype of Heroism

What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!

I was born amid the winds of change in Jamaica, a country fueled by the yearning for freedom and self-determination, on the brink of self government. By the time Jamaica achieved independence from Britain in 1962 and my parents readied me for elementary school, I was well schooled in the ideology of emancipation and freedom of expression. At school I learned about our country’s national heroes and at age seven played the lead narrator in a pageant celebrating the work of Paul Bogle in the Morant Bay Rebellion. Today, I have committed my life to the work of social justice and equity, determined to make a meaningful contribution in the struggle for equal educational opportunities and outcome for children who have been traditionally marginalized in the United States and societies around the world.

When I think of the work I would like to accomplish, I peer out into the world for inspiration, for examples of others who have left a well traveled trail to guide us.  Like the national heroes of Jamaica, Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, and Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela stands tall as an icon of strength, a figure recognized for his stand against injustice and his unwavering commitment to dismantle the hegemonic construct of Apartheid. President Mandela went to prison for twenty  seven years, yet emerged a victor as president of the Republic of South Africa. While in confinement he wrote his autobiography, mentored fellow prisoners, earned a second degree, and co-directed a massive grassroots movement that led to his release from prison.  What a friend the world has in this symbol of possibilities!

My friend, what step will you take to continue Mandela's journey in the long walk to freedom?

Dr. Marva McClean

For the past week I have been working with youth, reading and analyzing the biography of Nelson Mandela, writing essays about his character traits and those qualities that shaped his pathway to heroism. With my adult friends, I seek to inquire into how they will honor Mandela’s legacy; what they will do to mark the fact of his influence on their lives. As for me, I will hold onto Nelson Mandela’s legacy as a gift from a friend, a source of inspiration to remain steadfast on the path; to work with children, youth and young adults in ways to use reading, writing, and speaking as tools of social justice and empowerment. I am so grateful to have Nelson Mandela, his work and his legacy, as an archetype of heroism. I know that we, my students, my friends, family and I are in good company the world over as we continue this journey on the long walk to freedom.

Posted in African Diaspora, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Anti-Racist Ideology, cultural diversity, Disrupting/Dismantling Hegemony, Grassroots Leadership, Nelson Mandela | 5 Comments

What Empowers You?

What Empowers You?

Marvamargaret 079

               Paseros: Marva & Margaret

Celebrations! I am committed to celebrating the bonds of friendship. I see this as my estate of great wealth. In particular, I believe that my circle of friends is that fertile womb of creativity and inspiration that has that capacity to propel me to realize my greatest dreams for they are caretakers along the march, allies and paseros who guide my steps as I search for healing and inspiration.  The words of R. Hall sum it up very effectively for me: A friend should be one in whose understanding and virtue we can equally confide, and in whose opinion we can value at once for its justness and sincerity.  Over the years I have discovered that the true value of friendship lies in the fact that a friend is both a supporter and a critic, one whose honest praise uplifts you and thoughtful criticism guides you to empowered action.

I was reminded of this today as I began pulling Christmas decorations from storage and came across a collection of cards yellowed by age. I rifled through the box with the intent of tossing those that were old and musty. For Sister and her Family. The bright red letters on soft yellow paper framed in green holly and red berries caught my eye.  I flipped the card open to see the flowery signature of my friend, Margaret with whom I have shared a life time of friendship since we were both ten years old. These simple words, to my sister and family summed up for me the essence of our friendship; the deep value of a relationship that expands into the realm of familial cords. As I rifled through the collection other cards beckoned to me. One hailed me as Soul Sister #1: a trusted accomplice…connoisseur of juicy tidbits; financial commiserator; supreme fashion visionary; Friend! Healer! Ally! I smiled, acknowledging the value of these simple words from treasured friends who have been and continue to be witnesses to my journey and I know that when our group, Circle of Friends International gathers together in celebration this December, I will be reminded of these simple words by Yeats:

Think where [wo]man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was that I had such friends.

Circle 2004 001

Pasero-Jamaican vernacular for friend.

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | 4 Comments

Send My Roots Rain

Marva Waterside

Send my Roots Rain

The  morning after the accident on Florida’s I -95, I found myself browsing my book shelf for my volume of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry. Something deep within spoke to me and sent me searching for this particular nature and religious poet whom I had studied so many years ago at the University of the West Indies. I took the book with me to the doctor that morning and in the many weeks that followed with doctors’ visits, physical therapy sessions; facing down acute pain, physical and psychological, I found solace in the words. The rhyme and meter of his verse spoke to me as much as the words did.  In waiting rooms and during quiet moments of reflection, it seemed that my heart beat in sync with the heavy, deliberate sometimes truncated rhythm of Hopkins’ poetry. His interrogative stance, his survey of the world and its unpredictability, all spoke to me in a spiritual and transcendental manner that connected with my soul’s yearning. I read his words throughout the weeks, and one late evening, just as the sun was setting in the sky I came across the words it seemed I had been searching for, “ Send my roots rain.”

 Gerard Manley Hopkins  Poems and Prose Selected and edited by W.H. Gardner

Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poems and Prose Selected and edited by W.H. Gardner

Throughout my life, books have been constant and faithful companions, bringing words of comfort, sometimes jolting me out of complacency, often stirring up fires inside and prodding me to take action. I am so deeply grateful for authors who devote themselves to the art and lay themselves bare to connect with the rest of the world in this deep and meaningful way.  Books have helped me to look deeply into my heart of darkness and get to know myself better as I reflect on the nature of my own experiences.

The tragic aspects of human life balanced with the magnificent splendors of nature and the indefatigable will of the human spirit are all conveyed in the books I adore and those I know waiting for me to read. For I truly believe as author Ernest Hemingway has stated, “There is no loyal friend as a good book.”

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity, Honoring Life's Cycle, Poetry of Redemption, The Miracle of Life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

And I Shall Find Peace There [Yeats]

The Circle of Life: Searching for Peace on the Continuum


The third week in September, I joined with friends from my childhood to celebrate the 50th birthday anniversary of a dear friend. We kicked up our heels, danced the night away and reminisced about a past forty years in the making. One week later, I attended the memorial service for an in-law, who died after a long illness at age 64. This weekend, I will be attending the memorial service of her niece, who died tragically at the tender age of 22.  At times like these, one is compelled to contemplate the circle of life and one’s place in it. The hub, the wheel, the character Angus Tuck calls it in the book Tuck Everlasting. In his case, he bemoans his condition of immortality after drinking from a spring that bequeathed him and his family with a legacy he would rather let go, yearning for a normal life; yearning to be part of the circle, to live and to die when the time comes. If dying as Angus Tuck puts it, is as important as living, how then does one reconcile the pain, the feelings of dislocation, of having one’s world turned topsy- turvy with the passing of a loved one? How does one measure one’s life and give meaning to one’s days?

One way, I believe is to explore your potential to create, produce and give meaningfully of your talent to those in your circle and to the world around you. I believe that we can strive to be magnificent in all that we do, wherever we are located. In accepting that we are part of the hub of life, we have to respond to the challenge to be creative and explore the abundance of the universe in ways that honor our talents and creativity; those unique gifts bestowed on us. I believe we can reach out beyond ourselves to touch, support and lift up those around us and offer strength in times when there may seem to be little relief from the depths of despair.  We can connect to others in our tribe and share the hopeful message that even within the midst of pain there is beauty in life. As for me, I realize that even in the throes of relentless pain,  I need to summon the strength and the courage to move on to the next step in the journey; listening carefully, intuitively; living my truth; taking each step boldly. For, it is at this  place of awareness and acceptance I shall find peace.  



Posted in Bereavement, Circle of Life, feminine leadership, creativity, Honoring Life's Cycle, Loss & Acceptance, Tuck Everlasting | Tagged | 2 Comments

Friendship..Mutuality & Social Justice: What Are You Doing For Others?

Dr. Marva McClean What does it take to be a true dear friend?

Dr. Marva McClean
What does it take to be a true dear friend?

We may have all come in different ships but we are in the same boat now. MLK

“We may have all come in different ships but we are in the same boat now,” Martin Luther King declared decades ago. This quotation speaks so eloquently to me about the significance of friendship, mutuality and compassion.  And it makes me wonder, what does it take to be a true dear friend? What prevents us from fully showing up for others and in such a manner that they know without question that we are there; ready to be the wind beneath their wings to buoy them up? King’s quotation is particularly important to me not only because I place such a high value on friendship but also because it speaks so poignantly to the issue of race and ethnicity and the complex issue of relationships between people of color; people with a heritage rooted in the African diaspora.

Dr. King spoke often and deeply about relationships and friendship in particular, consistently examining the theme of brotherhood and the notion of our responsibility to pursue social justice and equity beyond the narrow boundaries of our personal life. I share below, some of my favorite quotations on friendship from the writings of Dr. King in the hope that they will stir you up into thoughtful reflection and perhaps action to unravel the social injustice so deeply rooted in our social landscape. We should begin at home with ourselves.

Dr. King

Wise Words From Dr. King!

  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
  • All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
  • Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.
  • There can be no deep disappointment when there is no deep love.
  • In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Posted in African Diaspora, Caribbean Diasopora, Dr. Martin Luther King, Education, Enlightenment, relationships, Social Justice and Equity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment