There is a powerful breeze blowing in Monteverde these days. It is creating a stir in the treetops, a whirl on the dance floors and a buzz in the back forty at the Monteverde Friends School. This community never seems to be short of projects that need the commitment and sweat of volunteers and the enthusiastic participation of supporters near and far. If you have the good fortune to be on this verdant mountain in the first months of 2013, you know that you are needed – somewhere to help someone with something – and that you are going to have a very satisfying time doing it. And if you can only dream of being here, well, there is probably something for you to help with from afar too!
Trying to keep this short, so I too can get back to one of the many other things going on, I will start with a quick update on our good friend, Wolf Guindon. Following that very difficult period two years ago, Wolf has made a phenomenal recovery. He has obviously aged – now 82, he isn’t doing the marathon hikes through the Peñas Blancas valley as he did for the last sixty years, but he is back to being able to walk from his farm, through the mystical bullpen, and up to the Reserve – slow and steady, usually with Lucky at his side, but he can do it. He gets out with his machete and works on his own trail around his farm and he keeps a small campsite open and ready for any visitors who may want to spend a night under the stars or share in a family cookout.
Both Wolf and I are waiting with bated breath, following communication from the Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica stating that they are ready to proceed with the publication of the translation of our book, Caminando con Wolf. In December, the EUCR contacted Olivier Chassot, Director at the Tropical Science Center, saying that they are going to re-edit the translated text to their standard and so we believe that the process has begun. I have every extremity crossed that the Spanish edition with be ready before I return to Canada in early May, as I want to be here for a very big fiesta! I will keep you posted…
In another personal project, I’ve been spending time “doing research” into the creative side of Monteverde. I am slowly working towards a second book looking at Monteverde as the Muse of so many artists, dancers, musicians, and writers. People come to this community often unaware of their own special talents and in short order they are on stages receiving applause from a very appreciate and encouraging audience. You don’t have to be a star and run a fast mile, you just have to take the first tentative creative step, and you will be supported here. I certainly didn’t plan on writing a book when I arrived in Monteverde twenty-three years ago, and now I’m headed towards my second tome after the positive reception that Walking with Wolf received – my own entanglement with the lovely Muse.
So I’ve been dabbling in all manners of Musiness (dancing, singing, writing…) and spending time with the man I feel is the obvious protagonist of this book about the arts in Monteverde, Paul Smith – violinist, painter, and luthier. Recently he added creating mosaics to his CV, playing with broken ceramics and grout and producing some beautiful large mosaics that are being hung at his family’s hotel, the Fonda Vela. He welcomes any and every one to come and play with him. I’ve helped him with the grouting which is the most satisfying part of the process – when you wipe the dirt away, the glory of the design is revealed. Playing with Paul is coming to life through colours, shapes, words, and musical inspiration.
Monteverde has always been rich in music and as the population grows here, the number of musicians and audience members grow accordingly. There are some spectacular places to hear music and feel its magic – one in particular being Bromelias Amphitheatre. Patricia Maynard started the new millennium with a beautiful building surrounded by a garden full of bromelias; in January of 2005, she opened a unique concert hall. The wooden stage is set inside a concrete bromeliad flower and the tiers of Romanesque seating, designed for both sitting and dancing, are protected by a roof that resembles a modified parafoil kite. The acoustics are perfect and, especially when the weather cooperates, as in not too windy, cold or rainy, we are treated to bewitching nights of music under the stars. Patri has been away for a couple of years and just started holding concerts again, starting with the very cool Ojo De Buey, a Costa Rican reggae band for which her son, Mark, is the stage manager. If you come to Monteverde, check out Bromelias.
Over the last several years, Robert Dean, a gifted artist and guitarist who came here from Britain many years ago, has been gathering local musicians and singers to perform popular music together. The first years were all about the Beatles – New Year’s Eve would bring many people together (originally at Bromelias) – musicians performing, singers singing and the audience joining along in all those songs that we tend to know so well. Then Robert started moving through the decades and this year was a tribute to the 80s. The talent in this town continues to amaze and this concert was no exception. Although people are apt to say “there was no good music in the 80s” (something I highly disagree with – there has always been, and will always be, good music written and performed), Robert, and his collaborator Alan Masters, arranged about twenty-five great songs that featured some of the best singers and players on the green mountain (by no means all of them though).
There was a very enthusiastic crowd, a full band, a visiting accordion-player (my good friend Stu Pike from Kingston, Ontario), and Robert even let me be a doo-wop girl which I do with as much abandon as possible so he will let me return to the stage another time. Shows like this, along with the coffee houses, open mics and local stages at restaurants and bars, constantly reaffirm just how musical is the Muse of Monteverde.
2013 is the year of the newest rendition of the famous Monteverde Music Festival. This year a new group of volunteers has taken over the organizing and it will be held in a new location. The musical groups who are coming are guaranteed to please, many of them having participated in past years with some new additions. Editus360 and Son de Tiquizia are composed of members who have won Latin Grammys and are well-loved here in Monteverde; Rumbo Jam, the Big Band, and the Percussion Orchestra will bring big sound and energy while the Latina Ensamble of strings and then Edin Solis and David Coto’s classical guitar duo will represent the softer classical side of life. So if you are coming to Monteverde between February 23 and April 6, and find yourself here on a Saturday night, check out the concerts starting at 6 pm, $6 for visitors – and no doubt there will be more live music later in the night at either Bromelias, or Bar Amigos, or the new bar, Farallones. Bring your dancing shoes….
Amongst the sunshine and splendor of Monteverde, a little rain must fall – sometimes a lot of rain – and the community has suffered some serious losses in the last few months. If you are reading this and knew these people, but did not know of their deaths, I apologize if you are finding out in a less than gentle way. Meg Wallace – artist, Creative Learning Center board director, singer, entrepreneur, mother, and husband of Richard Laval – passed away in October after a year-long struggle with cancer. She approached her illness bravely, choosing to not undergo conventional treatments, but the cancer proved too strenuous. Her loss has left a huge hole in the community.
Following years of living as well as her multiple sclerosis would allow her, including the last two years spent in a very social and happy neighborhood near Alajuela, Doris Rockwell returned to her beloved green mountain and died in November with her family nearby. She was well known for her positive and sunny approach to life and, like Meg, is missed as a long term, much loved member of the Monteverde community.
The most shocking and least understandable loss was of the beautiful 17-year-old Adriana Salazar Ugalde. Well known for her lovely voice, huge smile and her many talents on stage as an actress and dancer, Adri packed a ton of positive living into her short life. She was a great friend and mentor to her fellow students at the Monteverde Friends School. She died on January 23rd from complications of Wilson’s Disease, a genetic disorder, very quickly and almost without warning. In December she was singing in the Christmas choir, in January she was helping haul and work the timbers for the new schoolhouse building project and on Saturday, just four days before her death, she was at the English country dance at the Friends School, laughing and swinging about with her friends. And then she was gone. We are all, especially her parents, brothers, and many close friends, still reeling from such a dynamic life being taken so quickly from a sleeping giant of a disease within a seemingly strong body. Some things are so hard to explain.
We lost another giant at almost the same time. The huge strangler fig that has guarded the entrance to the Monteverde Friends School since it was built fifty-seven years ago, and we can only guess how long it stood before that, had to be taken down. Almost every child and many adults who have visited Monteverde have climbed up the center of that tree at some point. In this the windy season, its shallow root ball could be seen rocking on the surface of the ground, and people have been aware for some time that it would have to come down. In a show of community cooperation, a crew went out one Friday and cut down its branches, sawed up its largely unusable wood (it is too soft for lumber and isn’t even good firewood I’m told) and brought it gently to the ground where its large body remains. Fortunately it is seldom that you walk by now that you don’t see a gaggle of happy children climbing over, around and through the woven wooden limbs that laced their way around the trunk of the original tree. It reminds me of kids crawling on top of a big golden Lab laying calm and still with the patience and wisdom of an elder.
Which brings me to the biggest project of all, the one that is putting callouses on the hands of the locals – and many visitors – the timber frame construction of the new Friends meeting house. Under the direction of another giant, David Hooke, and supported by both experienced and newly trained volunteers, this mammoth project is truly a work of love and a testament to community cooperation. At the same time that a new kinder is being constructed at one side of the school, an ever evolving, very dedicated crew is preparing the timbers for the new meeting house that will sit where the old kinder has been. More and more people are joining David (and Shannon, Sam and Sara), learning how to measure, cut and chisel, taking part in whatever way big or small – some bringing lunches, others working where the trees are being cut nearby, yet others baking pies for the big pie social that was held last night.
At the beginning of the evening, Lucky Guindon reminded us that the first pie social held in April 1951 by this same group of Quakers, in anticipation of their move up the mountain to their new land that would become the community of Monteverde, was held to raise funds for their new meeting house.
David wrote this report on the Timber Frame Meeting House Facebook page this morning:
“Fantastic Pie Social and Art Auction last night. More details to follow, but the short is that we have $3700 in hand, and another $700 expected, from 48 pies, 10 artworks, and various other sales. There were some hilarious moments, and some remarkable prices, including $110 for a certain pecan pie… so this means (by my count) less than $2500 to go to finally commit to raising and roofing the frame, less than $19,000 to completely enclose, and about $29000 to completely finish. We have now cut 537 of 1292 “joints,” including just under 250 in the past week.”
Rather than try to explain this myself, I am giving you the link to a short video that was made very recently by Bill Adler and videographer Jody Jenkins, giving David Hooke himself the opportunity to explain the history of the project, the design process and the depth of the commitment by the community. Please copy and past to go to the video at: http://vimeo.com/58865363 and see for yourself how the new Monteverde Friends meeting house is coming along. The hope is that the frame will be raised on the March 22, 2013 weekend – can you make it down here by then?
If you can’t be here, you can participate in this great community work bee in many fun ways… one is to donate! Please be sure to specify that your donation is for the meeting house and go to: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/MakeDonation.aspx?ORGID2=223722119
And if you haven’t come up with some way to get involved in Monteverde, whether you are here or far away, then you just haven’t been paying attention!