Once again, time has got away from me. Due to extreme busyness, and a lack of internet much of the time, it has taken weeks to get back to this blog. It is Semana Santa, Easter Week, and I’m relaxing in Cahuita with some time to write and a good battery in my laptop. The good news is that I’ve managed to finish a few projects this past month, just in time for my imminent return to Canada.
One of these has been getting a mouthful of dental work done. Once or twice a week I’ve been going to the Clinica Dental Sonría Feliz (the Happy Smile Dental Clinic) and opening wide for the team, who have cleaned my root canals, planted posts and placed crowns. My mouth feels like a finely chiseled porcelain garden. There was almost no pain involved, and compared to North American prices, there wasn’t even much discomfort financially.
I’ve had the same dentist in Canada all my life, so just opening up for strangers took a lot of nerve; however a lack of insurance and the economics of dental work made the decision to have the work done in Costa Rica a relatively easy one. Antionetta, Yessenia and Carlos gently walked me through the procedures. I recommend them highly and consider the Happy Smile my new dental office, though I’ll have to go visit Dr. Cipparone back in Ontario just to flash him my new happy smile.
While I’ve been living in San José with Lorena and Edín, I did a little gardening on their balcony. There were some neglected plants as well as empty pots to fill, so I seeded some basil, thyme, cilantro and arugula and started watering. We’ve all been watching our garden grow, picking the young peppery arugula leaves for salads and now we’re starting to get enough sweet cilantro to garnish our meals. Even a very small garden patch can soothe your soul.
Among the other green residents are jade and spider plants and young frangipani. I walked out one morning with a pitcher of water and as I leaned over to water the pots, the glass globe on the ceiling light fell like a bomb, missing my ear by mere inches, slicing half of the leaves off the frangipani before shattering like a broken heart on the ceramic floor. Weeks later, we are still finding tiny shards. How I didn’t get touched by a single sliver of glass, I’ll never understand…as Lorena said, it’s my green life force protecting me…maybe true, but, phew, that was close.
Another project wrapping up in San José is the work with the editor of the Spanish version of Walking with Wolf. Lester and I spent many hours of many days and finally completed the question and answer portion of the revision, as in “What did you mean by this, Kay?” Once again I found myself trying to convince an editor that Wolf’s special turn of the tongue needs to be preserved in the text, even if it makes for a pause or two on the part of the reader. I have much less control over what is written in Spanish than I did in English, trusting that both Carlos Guindon’s initial translation and Lester Goméz’ corrections will stay true to the original.
The manuscript now goes back to the Editorials Universidad de Costa Rica for the next stage of publication. I hoped that Caminando con Wolf would be in print before I leave the country in June, but I highly doubt that will happen. I fear that it will be released in the months that I plan on being in Canada which would mean a very expensive if short return trip to Costa Rica to join in the celebration. Wolf is waiting as patiently as he can in Monteverde, telling everyone that the release of the book in Spanish is worth living for.
With the help of Lucky, Benito, nurse Stefani, all the family and many friends, Wolf goes about his daily exercises, physical therapy and medication protocol. He is most enthusiastic about eating and if appetite is any gauge, Wolf is feasting at the trough of good health. It is as if he exchanged walking, and even talking, for eating, and engages in it as relentlessly and tirelessly as his former pastimes. Soon to come: a cookbook featuring recipes for healthy meals that require little chewing called Eating with Wolf…
While I was in Monteverde a week or so ago, I also went and visited Martha Moss. Martha is about 88 years old, still living on her own, and still feisty. We started talking twenty-one years ago and our conversations easily pick up each year where we left off. As we both get older, we take on new subject manner – how to deal with the fact that we don’t all age gracefully, how to both support others properly and let others support us without resentment, wondering whether it is possible to change our ways as we get older (or why we should). The only real conclusion we ever arrive at is that you must never lose your sense of humor – and hope your friends don’t lose theirs either.
Another elder of Monteverde that I had the chance to visit with is Doris Rockwell. Many of you will know her as one of the originals of the Monteverde Rockwell clan. She has been living with multiple sclerosis for years but up until recently she was in her own home on the Rockwell farm and managing nicely with daily help. In February, Doris had a health crisis that has left her less able to cope with her physical reality, so she is now living in a rented home near Alajuela being tended by some womenfolk she knows. Her daughter Kathy and I went to see her one day, and I was very happy to see Doris very content with her situation. Life brings us all struggles, and it is with humor and good grace that we must try to meet them. Doris shares her story with a kind spirit, patience and a ready laugh and so it was a very pleasant visit.
April 19 was the 60th anniversary of Monteverde Day, celebrating the arrival of the first of the Quakers on the green mountain. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there, but just prior to it I was contacted by a man I met a year or so ago in Monteverde, Austin Haeberle. With the support of the Monteverde Institute and the United Nations Mandated University for Peace, Austin created a series of videos of conversations with various residents of Monteverde and the project was to be shared with the community on Monteverde Day. Like me, you may not have been in Monteverde for this special anniversary, but we can go to the website and watch the short videos. There is a lovely one with Wolf and Lucky, made more precious by how young Wolf looks, though the video can’t be more than two years old. The link is http://MonteverdeNow.org and it is a very impressive modern look at the past, the path, the plan and the present of Monteverde.
May 1st will celebrate the first Eco Fest in Monteverde. Local pal Fish has put together a team of people planning this special Mayday to share the many environmental, ecological and creative projects going on in the Monteverde area. A daylong event, it will give residents, visiting students and organizations a chance to demonstrate their work and get information on the work being done by others, including grey water treatment, glass bottle walls, recycling, composting, etc. The Monteverde Conservation League will be participating as part of their 25th anniversary celebration. There will also be a display of creations by local artists and an evening of local entertainers, including songwriters, musicians, and poets (even yours truly giving a short presentation on Wolf and the book). Monteverde is growing by leaps and bounds and Eco Fest is hoping to be an (annual?) event where locals can get together and celebrate our collective commitment to caring for the earth, still planting and watering the seed of conservation, always looking toward a peaceful and sustainable future for the green mountain.
For me, the highlight of the last month, if not the last year, was the arrival in Monteverde of a group of students from Lister Street Academy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A teacher there, Bryan Mascio, had twice visited Costa Rica, the second time picking up our book. Over three days he consumed the stories, intrigued by the various themes and recognizing Walking with Wolf as a teaching resource. He returned to his school in New Hampshire and convinced the principle that he could design a course for his high school students that would incorporate everything from biology and conservation to peace and community – and they would use the book as a central reference.
It was a big undertaking, aided by another teacher Jessica, who had originally visited Costa Rica and urged Bryan and his wife to take their first trip to the land of coffee and bellbirds. From the beginning of the school year, they planned a trip to Monteverde as part of the curriculum. Many of the students are economically marginalized and so it was only through class fundraising that they gathered the money for the group of seven students and two teachers to realize this dream field trip.
Bryan contacted me last July to buy several copies of our book, which I sent, never hearing from him again until March when he wrote me to see if there was any hope of meeting us while the group was in Monteverde. On April 7th, they came to Wolf and Lucky’s farm and we spent a very emotional morning together. Wolf was in good form and, as always, happy to receive a group with the hope of encouraging them down their own paths of commitment to community and the welfare of the earth. Lucky added her own warmth and intelligence to the encounter along with an excellent batch of Lucky Surprises (blonde brownies to die for). Wolf’s good friend and comrade, Eladio Cruz, came along to bring to life one more character from the book that they had read about. The students shared their stories, claiming that the book, Wolf’s story and my persistence in telling it, had affected them deeply, even changing some of their lives. It was a powerful morning for me, listening to a group of adolescents who had read Walking with Wolf and taken it into their hearts and minds in such a positive and profound manner.
Those who know Wolf know that his eyes water up readily and his emotions rise to the surface like cream. In this gathering, there were tears and shaky voices all around as the students shared their impressions and their reactions. Until we got together with this group, I hadn’t realized the depth of their involvement with Wolf and I and the positive influence that our collective words had on them. I plan on going to visit these students in New Hampshire in June. They were just at the beginning of ten days of discovery, of meeting the beauty of Costa Rica, and creating a lifetime of memories. They were all working on individual projects that looked at the similarities and differences of their northern homes and Costa Rica and I’m intrigued to hear their findings. Wolf and I may have influenced their lives, but I can assure them that they touched mine as deeply.
When it was time to leave, I offered to escort them through the magical bullpen where Wolf’s trail to and from the Monteverde Reserve passes. Unfortunately Wolf couldn’t join us, his walking still limited. The students, their teachers, and I started out in a single file along the path to the Bullpen, all of us at varying comforts of being surrounded by forest. When we arrived in the middle of the verdant clearing, huge trees sheltering us, birds twittering in the shadows, I asked for a copy of the book which some had brought along to get autographed. I opened it to the beginning of the chapter “All Trails lead to Home” and read the beginning quote where Wolf recounts his many encounters with animals he had while in this special place, reminds us that all paths eventually end in a woods somewhere and, most poignantly, all trails will lead us home. It was a moment when literature came to life for this gathering of people standing on Wolf’s path, all of us having grown to love Wolf through his stories, very aware that he was close by but not able to be walking with us. For that reason alone it was bittersweet but as we listened, we could hear Wolf’s laughter lingering in the trees, and his spirit urging us down our own trails. Vamanos!