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Because I have more fotos than time, taking y’all through the Christmas week festivities here in Monteverde with images. I hope your week was as fun, foodful, festive and frolicking.
First: the Christmas Program and Wassail (aka laughter then sugar rush)…
When Patricia was having problems with the boots and brace that she needs to walk safely, cobbler Roberto came to the rescue – a good Christmas elf, he.
BARBEQUE DAY – getting the meat ready for Community Christmas Dinner…
And in our cozy apartment in Cerro Plano (the flat part of Monteverde), our Christmas tree was the Ficus and the ornaments the birds…
And then came Christmas morn. We awoke to many birds, singing, shining and sparkling – just like gifts wrapped on the tree…
After the birds, there was the Friends meeting, where Tim Curtis very aptly put the feeling of Christmas – it is the time when we are focused on giving, and it soothes our soul…
After the meeting, we shared in the biggest potluck of the year, cooked and shared and served by community members – even the dessert servers seemed to give with their full hearts…
And then it is time for the big gift exchange – a couple months back, the community draws names and everyone must make the gift – from children to elders, the gifts that are shared are beautiful, created with heart…and Santa arrives just in time to help with the gift-giving. Wouldn’t you know, this year Santa came directly from Canada, and brought her Wolf-deer, since rain (and thus reindeer) has been scarce this year in these parts…it was a very hot Christmas Day and Santa had to take her clothes off bit by bit…but all was OK! After all, it’s a family show….
The community is all around…
Another navidad passes in Monteverde – it has been many years since I was here in this season and I have enjoyed it so much – the traditions of Christmas with Monteverde’s own slants…too much food (which happens everywhere that people are blessed with that bounty) and lots of community joy – and this year, phenomenal weather. Roberto, a man used to living alone in the jungle, not a Christmas kinda guy, adapted well – love, peace and joy were all around. I hope for you all too… now, almost a decade within this new millenium has passed – can you believe it? – so we dance! New Years Eve! At la Mata de Cana (formerly La Taverna) in Santa Elena – see you there! Or wherever you are, may you be with the ones you love….
I am writing this as the mist swirls – the day started out sunny, but it’s feeling like rain could move in. That’s okay with me because I’m headed to the beach. The Caribbean this time – Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Punta Uva – check up on friends, get some sun, do some swimming, do a little reggae dancing and eat fish cooked in coconut – they way they prepare it on the Atlantic coast.
But I’ve had a great few days here in Monteverde. I’ve been sleeping around – no, don’t get excited, one way or another – I mean that I’ve been staying in a series of houses – since I came back from the city, I spent a night with Wolf and Lucky, then a night with Canadian Margaret Adelman in her beautiful house (where I’m going to take up residence when I return next week), a night with Patricia Jiminez in Santa Elena, and a couple nights in the apartment at Patricia Maynard’s Bromelias. I’ve finally consolidated all my various bags and stuff to Margaret’s house while I’m gone. I’ve had some great evenings with friends, chitchat, music and dancing – and a wonderful day down in San Luis, the community that sits directly below Wolf Guindon’s farm.
On Wednesday evening, at Margaret’s house, Wolf’s son Benito came over to play the recorder. Well, I can read music and learned the recorder back in about Grade 7, and haven’t played in probably twenty years, but said I’d give it a try. The photo shows the fear in the my face – although it wasn’t that bad – and the other photo shows the bit of biology that was taking place at our feet – a spider had a scorpion spun in her web and we watched this little drama as we played, trying to remember to keep our feet away from the base of the music stand so we didn’t get either in the way of the spider or too close to the angry but doomed scorpion. Benito and Margaret told me that they started with a group of about fourteen recorders a few years ago but it has dwindled down to the two of them. And when they play, they just keep moving quickly through the music for duets, not repeating or trying to work out anything to sound a bit better (Margaret is a very accomplished pianist as well as artist and writer; Benito is accomplished in everything he does). However, my thing was to play a piece at least a couple times to try to make it sound like something – so we actually played one or two pieces not badly. I’d say it was great, considering how long since I played or even read music and was actually quite the physical workout.
On Thursday evening, I visited with my friend Patricia Jiminez in the big city of Santa Elena. She is another phenomenal artist as well as a poet. Her friend Sandra came over for dinner – it was supposed to be poetry night but other members of their group didn’t show so we just talked about things women talk about – men, writing, men, love, men, politics, women. It was a great evening which must have left several men’s ears burning somewhere in the world.
The next day, I took a book over to the lovely Miss Martha Moss – 88 years and glorious. I came upon her laying down with her three kittens. She has been the human mother to many cats and kittens over the years and has a theory that the cats she has shared her house with are related to wild cats that have become domesticated. She is putting together an article to send to the National Geographic or the NY TImes (I don’t remember which one) who has featured stories on these cats from around the world - hoping that the magazine will take interest and maybe send somebody to come and check out her cats’ DNA. Nothing would surprise me. Martha has written books for children as well as others – at 88 she is going strong, but needs to take rests, so you must drop in when it isn’t her nap time. I had heard that she wanted a copy of Walking with Wolf, so I took one to her and signed it with – “For Martha – you have been inspirational, informative, entertaining and a great pleasure to know – I hope this book is some of that for you”. It is so true about Martha – any of us that have had the great privilege of knowing her are indeed fortunate.
Wolf and I spent Saturday down in San Luis with our friend Luis Angel and Rosario the chauffeur from the Reserve. We wanted to go and visit Dona Alicia, the widow of Miguel Leiton, who we talk about frequently in the book and there is a picture of him with Wolf that I took about a year before he died. I can remember the day I took that picture, outside the beautiful new house they were then building and that Dona Alicia is now living in. Wolf and Don Miguel, both in their seventies and slowed down due to illness from the speed that they lived their earlier lives at, talked like a couple of teenagers about their adventures in the forest – and kept urging each other to get back out on the trails – VAMANOS! It was the last time I saw Miguel who died a year later from cancer - and a wonderful memory for both Wolf and I. Having the picture in the book has received great reaction from people in this community.
Dona Alicia and Luis’ sister Cristina served us rice pudding and rich San Luis-grown coffee and we talked about Miguel and the beauty of his passing – that he had his many children and grandchildren around, there was much love for him, not just from his family but from people all over the area. He was a well-liked and well-respected man. Unfortunately, on Friday, the night before we headed down to San Luis, there was a murder in Santa Elena – one of the first anyone can remember. A nineteen-year old boy (the son of friends of mine) stabbed and killed a girl who he was jealous of. It seems to be not really a crime of passion, but more of obsession and jealousy and I can only think that he just lost it. A very very sad occurrence here in this small community – and I know his parents, who I haven’t gone to see since this, must be beyond devastated, as would be the family of the poor girl. Down in San Luis, we talked about the different ways we die, and what luck and privilege it is to die peacefully with those we love and who love us around. Otherwise, there is often too much sadness.
These pink bananas aren’t for eating – when they are mature, they open into this beautiful ball of white seeds and flesh that the birds love…the flesh tastes like very unsweet and less flavorful bananas.
We went down to the Reserve’s Biological Station in San Luis and visited with Edgar and Betelina who stay there. Luis, Edgar and I walked down to the river where Edgar showed me a sunbittern’s nest they were monitoring. We had the great fortune of having a beautiful sunbittern fly across the road in front of us just before we got to the station – with its intricate wing design spread out in full, we had a perfect view as it glided past us. What luck! We stayed for lunch while it poured rain outside and then we headed back up the mountain to get Wolf back home as they had visitors coming from the US, arriving that afternoon, and Wolf was going to be in trouble if he didn’t get back to help Lucky with preparations. It was a perfect day in San Luis. I’ve never lived down there but am very tempted to take up the different offers I’ve had to stay and work for awhile. This tiny little farming community is growing – the University of Georgia now has a small satellite campus there – but so far it feels much like it always has – rural, humble, friendly, surrounded by stunning scenery.
Wolf with Betelina and Edgar at their home in San Luis
Friday and Saturday night I helped my friend Patricia Maynard prepare food for a group of twenty-five students. Her place, Bromelias, which has been a series of things over the years from a beautiful art gallery to a store to restaurants as well as a concert venueand finally her home - I’ve had the use of an apartment in the tree tops there for many years – is still beautiful although she has less going on after moving her store to Santa Elena and changing its name to Ritmos, where she sells a great selection of music and books. We prepared vegetarian lasagna, vegetables in vinegrette, garlic bread and arroz con leche - even though I blew a fuse in a major way putting the microwave and toaster oven on at the same time (this is what we were cooking all the food in) and we lost all power in the kitchen and had to move the microwave to another room - we still managed to get the food out to the crowd. Then Eduardo and Chela, a couple of Argentinians who have lived here for about eight years, came with some friends form Uruguay, and drummed and fire-danced and got this group from Long Island University in New York up on their feet. We danced and sang and clapped around the fire – it was a beautiful night, no wind, no rain, just abunch of stars in the sky and happy people on the ground.
Luis invited me to participate in the bird count that they will be conducting down in San Luis on Monday and Tuesday – he was so kind to arrange to take Wolf and I down, and I’m sorely tempted to go play in the forest of San Luis again – but I’ve got the beach on my mind, and my time here is going by fast, and there are many things yet to do…so the birds will have to wait, but the sun can come out tomorrow as I head out to the Caribbean.