Seems I’ve been too busy to write, but since 2012 is the year that ends the sacred Mayan calendar and has us all wondering about our future, I think procrastination may be an appropriate response to the season. Faced with this projectile that is hurling us toward the total destruction of the earth, well perhaps delaying our demise by a few centuries isn’t such a bad idea. Besides, things seem so overwhelming these days, surely it is understandable to want to participate in avoidance for awhile. So in solidarity with the future of our planet and life as we know it, I’ve been practising procrastination, but have returned to the blogosphere just long enough to let you know I’m still alive.
Looking over my pictures I’m remembering the wonderful moments of the past few months that I hope to have the chance to repeat one day, but I’m also reminded of the much harsher realities that I’ve witnessed in my travels.
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is a cauldron of an endorheic lake (one that does not flow to the sea and has no natural outlet) – ringed by volcanoes and Mayan communities – whose waters have been steadily on the rise for the last few years. Around the lake, people are losing their homes to the ever-expanding shoreline, including my good friends Rick and Treeza in San Pedro. Many buildings are already under water, while elsewhere people are still sitting on their balconies watching the waters rise around them. After the last rainy season ended, the water receded enough that many were granted a year’s reprieve, but when the rains start again in the following months and continue through to the end of 2012, chances are good that the thirsty lake will swallow up many more homes.
Considering this is Mayan territory, this is 2012, and there is such a disastrous finality for so many good people living quiet peaceful lives on the shores of this magical lake, the divine providence of it is alarming. All one can do is hope for a dryish rainy season.
All things being equal, I had a fabulous time in San Pedro in February, visiting wonderful friends, eating incredible food (highly recommended are D’Noz fish menus on Friday; Ventana Blues’ green goddess cocktails; and Smoking Nestor’s BBQs on Sundays at La Piscina – if it is still there after the next rainy season), as well as hanging in this beautiful little apartment which is rentable for just $5 a night – if it is still there.
A few nights before I left, a heavy gust of wind blew a small brush pile fire up into a pasture and the flames took off, taking out electrical poles and transformers and leaving San Pedro and San Juan without electricity for several days. There was an unusual hush across the town – the loud speakers of the many evangelical churches were silenced – broken only by the hummm of generators from time to time. No doubt a great amount of meat went wasted (or stomachs were poisoned) as freezers thawed and businesses suffered without power, but it was wonderfully quiet while hiking on the hillsides above the town or sitting on the shores of the lake, listening to the ominous lapping of the waves.
It seems to happen everywhere that when politicians are elected – be it a president of a country or a town’s mayor – the first thing they want to do is fix roads. I think it is an elixir designed to keep the population subdued…if the highways are getting worked on, gravel roads paved or bridges built then surely progress must be happening. Maybe you won’t notice – or at least won’t rise up – when your health, education and welfare systems are crumbling. Guatemala elected a new president just a month before I was there and the road construction was everywhere – watching the men pulling their simple floats across the miles of concrete flowing down the Panamerican highway seemed somehow metaphoric if futile to me.
Back in Monteverde, the arts continued to shine – and this will be the theme of the next book I’ve actually started working on. With the main protagonist being Paul Smith – luthier, musician, painter, bohemian – the possibilities of what to reflect on in a narrative discussing Monteverde as the artist’s muse are endless. We have started the work here, but I will be spending much of my summer in eastern Ontario staying with old friends and continue to work with Paul whose Canadian home is nearby. We are curious as to where this muse will take us.
The latest art form to rise like a full moon over Monteverde is dance. The Quaker community has been holding square (also Contra and English) dancing on Saturday evenings here for probably as many years as they have been playing Scrabble on Friday afternoons (60+?) while salsa and merengue have kept the locals twirling on dance floors for just about as long. Now a more modern artistic approach to dance has sashayed its way up the mountain. Last year it arrived in the form of Marie Chantal Nadeau’s FuzionArteDanza, a show that the lovely Marie singlehandedly choreographed while guiding a crop of new dancers through to amazing performances. This year it’s been the University of Costa Rica dance company who came and held workshops over several weeks for anyone interested, a project that culminated in an evening of modern dance put on by all the participants. The performances were thrilling and once again the community on the green mountain showed its vast array of talent which always seems inspired by the enthusiastic mentorship of other artists, the non-judgmental support of the community, and the natural beauty of our surroundings.
I’ve benefited from the friendship of many truly remarkable people here, including a group of women of diverse ages who, like me migrate each year from our homeland, Canada, and make Monteverde our winter home. We are all friends as well as artists, teachers, volunteers or mentors, and I am so happy to see them whenever our paths cross. Monteverde grows with the influx of many sub-groups, and Canadian women seem to be creating a culture of our own here.
Speaking of great women, two of the most important women in my life came to Costa Rica this year and we had ourselves a lot of fun. Having my friend Cocky, and later my sister Maggie, visit meant the world to me. Cocky and I spent a lot of time hiking and, as is our desire, even more time dancing.
I know a highlight of Cocky’s time in Monteverde was having a gloriously deep massage by the amazing Janet Jenkins. Janet and her husband Michael arrived in Monteverde back in the 90s as the hosts and foodsmiths of the Hira Rosa Restaurant. They moved on to massage and yoga and opened Rio Shanti a few years ago. In the cosmic nature of 2012, they are about to make a change and take a break from their business and the community and return with their daughter Elan to the US for a while. Even though Rio Shanti is to continue under the loving care of a new family, the Jenkins will be truly missed here. Janet has these strong healing hands and this huge heart – I’m so glad that Cocky (and I) had the opportunity to experience the positive power of her talents while she is still here. I wish them wave upon wave of peace, love and joy on their new path and trust that it will lead them back up the green mountain soon.
Cocky also had a chance to go walking with Wolf in the Reserve. Wolf has been in good form for the most part, our book has been selling very well, and it is only the lack of progress on the publication of the translation that frustrates me these days. We continue to wait for word from the Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica on whether they will publish it. We are running out of time if there is any hope to get Caminando con Wolf finished in time for the 40th anniversary of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in October. It would be a huge climax to celebrate at the end of 2012 but is only going to happen if we are blessed with a miracle at this point.
When my sister Maggie came, we also had a great day out walking with Wolf and Lucky in the Monteverde Reserve. We are now constantly joined by little Winky, Blinky or Twinky – the now two month old orphaned sloth that Benito was mothering until he went off to Africa for two weeks and left Lucky in charge. So Blinky goes wherever Lucky goes and it is quite noticeable that, like the rest of us, he/she is happiest when in the forest.
Maggie and I also spent time with our friend Zulay in San Carlos and down in Cahuita with Roberto. The Caribbean Sea was once again too rough for fishing but was warm and wonderful for swimming and floating.
Roberto has a new shack that he built on stilts that will hopefully survive the river when it rises in the inevitable heavy rains when they come. The waters seem to be threatening everywhere and one has to wonder what the rainy season of 2012 will bring to many places.
Whereas Cocky and I focused on dancing, Maggie and I indulged in as many games of Scrabble as we could. We played in many lovely places, including the wonderful third balcony of the Hotel National Park at the entrance to Cahuita National Park. This is my favorite little hotel in Cahuita these days – $45 gets you a private room and bath with great balconies and views – and the most important thing I can think of at the beach, a refrigerator!
Unfortunately, the government of Costa Rica is attempting to make good on its promise to tear down buildings that are part of the Maritime Zone Law, a law passed in 1977 stating that nobody can build within 50 meters of the high tide. It is frightening to see how many family-owned businesses and homes could be taken down –before the end of 2012 – if the government fulfills its promise along both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Most of the towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo were built within that zone, long before the existence of the law, by the early Afro-Caribeños without the assistance of the government while establishing their communities. They built by the water to avoid the inhospitable swamps immediately inland. It breaks my heart to see the kind of destruction that could happen, the huge loss of tourism revenue, and the disappearance of family homes and lands. All these coastal towns will change dramatically and there will be great waste in the de-construction of the coastline. The people of these communities are rising up to fight for their future. In the meantime, if you get to Cahuita, I would recommend the National Park Hotel – enjoy those amazing balconies while you can.
When not rambling, I’ve been house-sitting here in Monteverde in a beautiful little hobbit house, but I am about to leave – off to Colombia for a week then back for a few weeks of nomadic life in Costa Rica before heading north to Canada for the summer. I plan on returning to Monteverde before the end of 2012, whatever that will mean for us all. Cocky and I have a trip to New Orleans planned for September – another community whose existence was turned upside down by rising waters – and I’m hoping to be in Monteverde in early October for the events surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Monteverde Reserve – right in the middle of the heaviest part of the rainy season! I don’t anticipate floods here, but these days, one never knows what might happen.
At the rate we are going, Noah’s Ark is going to be one busy ship in the following months, gathering us all in, two by two. Hopefully the waters will recede and leave our homes standing and we will survive. May love be our flotation device of 2012.