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The gusty wind is pushing the clouds across the pastures and out to the Pacific horizon. Here in Monteverde there are often two layers of clouds, the upper level of slower clouds moving over the sky like elders shuffling across the lawn enjoying the journey to their favorite bench. The spirited lower layer of clouds speed past the unhurried ones as youth do in their great haste to get where they are going. Here on the green mountain, under that shifting quilt of clouds, we celebrate the young and the not so young. There is no doubt that Monteverde is getting older but, as in the natural world, it is constantly renewing itself!
The first celebration of 2012 was for the petite but always feisty Martha Moss, who turned 90 in early January. Martha arrived here in 1973 and decided to try inn-keeping when Irma Rockwell, who at that time ran the only pension in the community, was anxious to head back to Iowa. After a short visit and a quick decision to uproot her life in New York, Martha drove down in an orange Volkswagen Safari named “Tiger Lily,” her 15-year-old daughter Nan along for the adventure. By 1978, the small Green Mountain Inn was not big enough for the tourism that was increasing annually and other pensions were built, including the larger Hotel de Montaña. So Martha got out of the hospitality business, officially at least. She went on to a rich life of working in prisons teaching alternatives to violence, doing peace work, and writing and illustrating children’s books that feature her animal friends– a passion that still keeps her mind alive! For the occasion of her 90th birthday, she was visited by her daughter Nan and her step-daughter Cynthia (who lives in Nairobi, Kenya and runs the Amboseli Trust – an elephant sanctuary) and the gathering was full of stories, laughter, cake and love.
The next big gathering happened as a joint celebration for the 90th birthday of John Trostle and the 80th birthday of Lucky Guindon. Lucky is of course the ever-suffering, ever-loving wife of our dear friend Wolf. It is hard to imagine that she is 80 years old as she has that blond hair and those farm girl genes that keep her looking very youthful. While the family spent much of the last year caring for Wolf through his many health issues (see former posts from 2011), it is also true that Lucky had a number of health concerns herself. No doubt the stress of Wolf’s hospital stays and his near-death experiences helped contribute to Lucky’s heart and blood pressure problems but once she finally conceded to taking medication regularly, the crisis past.
Lucky isn’t as mobile as she was – she is now uncomfortable walking from the farm down to the meeting house and to Friday scrabble games – but she is always very busy, tending the chickens, hosting the many friends and family who come through the open door of their home, and going to as many of the community events as she has energy for. She also tries to save space for herself, finding time to make her beautiful ink drawings of the local trees, but it often happens that she forsakes her own time for that of Wolf, the family and the community. I often stay here on the farm with Wolf, Lucky and Benito and am witness to the love and kindness she shares on a daily basis with all those around her. I would also suggest that the health scares of the last couple of years have perhaps brought Wolf and Lucky closer, appreciating that their time on earth is passing rapidly and they have been blessed with each other and their beautiful family and need to enjoy every precious moment together.
John and Sue Trostle are other fine examples of living life in healthy, loving and productive ways. John has reached 90 years of age with a vitality, sharpness and curiosity that hasn’t seemed to waver. Sue and John made their initial contact with Monteverde in 1951, first visited in 1962 and moved here in 1974 to continue their life work as peace activists. They have been active in many aspects of the community, but particularly in the founding and development of the Monteverde Institute. They are also great supporters of music and other cultural and educational activities here. I will always remember that Sue, at a gathering in 1990, told me that she had seen Bob Marley live – I think she was the first person I knew who could say that! I certainly equate John and Sue with all things artistic in the area and expect to see their warm smiling faces at any community event I manage to get to.
On March 4th, a large group gathered at the meeting house and one of Monteverde’s traditional “coffee houses” was held in Lucky and John’s honour. Monteverde is a wonderful breeding ground for artists of all kinds. Participation in all the arts – music, writing, theatre, textile and visual arts – is encouraged and applauded. There is a wealth of talented mentors willing to pass on their knowledge and there are many occasions throughout the year to share songs, poems, painted creations and plays. I think the coffee houses – where near-professional talent shares the stage with the nervous first-time performers – is one of the best examples of the magic that is Monteverde as a community.
People who arrive on this seductive mountain and have their first exposure to its vibrancy often believe that they have met with some kind of communal-nirvana, but the truth is (and I think most people who live here would agree with me) that it is still just a small community with all the gossip, frustration and conflicts of any group of human beings – aka imperfect. There are organizations within the community that work to encourage conflict resolution, open-mindedness, constructive dialogue, non-violence and collective movement towards a healthy way of life. In the end, Monteverde is composed of people who are essentially flawed creatures, especially in their social structures, and there are plenty of occasions for disagreement and pettiness. Many people who live here understand that and actually bristle at the comments about what a perfect place it is. Myself, I kind of like that people enjoy the idea of a “perfect” community, even if it is but an illusion. It gives us hope that such places can exist on this troubled earth.
I’ve had the great fortune to spend much of the last twenty-two years here, and much of that time in the presence of Wolf Guindon. He is definitely a flawed character who has made valuable contributions. His imperfection is one of the things I love about him and is what I think made him such a wonderful subject for our book (besides being the protagonist of so many great ventures – the community, the dairy plant, the Reserve, the Conservation League). However, no matter what his missteps I have no doubt that he is guided by love, understands the power of respect, and tries to practice kindness in his dealings with people….and always has a wonderful sense of humour.
I am now considering another local man as the subject of my next book. Paul Smith – artist, musician and luthier (and like myself, a Canadian with many years living in Monteverde) – approached me about writing text for a book about his art. I was immediately intrigued with the idea for a number of reasons. One is that I like Paul. He has many of the same qualities as Wolf Guindon that I love – he is a very unique character who does things his own way, he is funny and irreverent and intelligent, and, I believe, under-appreciated in the world. He is definitely a flawed character as well but with a big heart and an open mind. He is also a very active member of the arts community here in Monteverde, a huge part of this place that we barely touched on in Walking with Wolf. Writing about Paul (and his very talented sisters Margaret and Lorna) would allow me to tell the tales of music, theatre and art on the green mountain and in Costa Rica, including the infamous Monteverde Music Festival that Margaret and Paul started and I worked with for years. Paul said to me, “all you have to do is come up with the vision, Kay”….but I know that ‘all’ I have to do is all the work!! I already have the title - “Playing with Paul“! Since he is already in his late seventies, I will have to work a lot faster than I did on the Wolf book. Hmmmm…
As for the new in Monteverde, I’ll share a couple of pictures of Benito’s latest orphan, a two-week old sloth that came to him after it dropped out of a tree and was left for dead. Beni has a lifetime of bringing creatures young and old back to life and although he tends to grumble through the process, it is amazing to watch his patience and commitment to them. These days Beni can be seen wandering around with a pouch that houses the little guy (Maximus, Mini, Lovely?) although he doesn’t really like taking him out in public as people can be quite insensitive in their desire to see the baby.
Here in the house, Lucky and Beni take turns feeding him a small bottle of milk and colorful hibiscus flowers (I happily take my turn when I can). The sloth makes a little creaky sound when he/she is unhappy (gender is difficult to determine) and this is often because he/she has been put back alone in the basket with a heating pad. Baby sloths live wrapped around their mothers in the trees so it is obvious that they don’t enjoy being left on their own. At the same time, Beni doesn’t encourage petting it or treating it in human ways as we would our own children. I have watched him over the years tend to many animals and so I take heed of his experience. It is lovely having this little creature in the house, almost as sweet as the presence of a new born baby.
There are always new ideas, projects and individuals emerging out of the mists of Monteverde. It seems to me that this mountainous place, still very much a rural and forest landscape, has the cultural life of a dynamic small city. One of the extremely talented men here, Mauricio Valverde, and two of his friends have opened a new bar named Tr3s Monos, to provide a place for local musicians,artists and friends to gather in a lounge-like atmosphere. Mao is also part of Ars Monteverde, a new organization that is working to support all the arts in this broad community. The Camara de Tourism (Tourism Council) is looking at bringing back the Monteverde Music Festival. Last week the poetry group, Gatos Pardos, along with Ars Monteverde and others put on the first Peña Cultural, a day-long event that included theatre, music, poetry and dance, along with many traditional games and activities for the children, that was such a grand success they are making plans for many more – there is so much talent here, the program lasted two hours longer than expected.