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I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I wrote last…what was I doing?  I have been on my computer quite a bit, took a couple trips to Toronto and Guelph, but really, there is no excuse.

I am sorry to announce the death of my camera – I have dropped it one time too many and the battery compartment has been taped for awhile but now the batteries aren’t lasting as long and, well, it’s time.  I’m on my way the the U.S. of eh? tomorrow, the land of the free and the golly gee these days – and will have to buy a camera while I’m there.  I feel very bland on my blog without photos – it took me awhile to learn how to post them, but once I did, well, I was having fun.  Now I’m just about the words, and that’s great and all, but the pics are half of what inspires me to write.  As my friends have found out, if the camera takes a good pic, then you’ll probably make the blog.  And I now try and remember to ask people if they don’t want their full name on the blog, those who want to keep living in relative obscurity, and keep it first names only with little bits of tape across their distinguishing features in the pics.  HA! As if we can really hide.

A week ago I wrote some articles – one for the Tropical Forests UK website, which was chopped down significantly since I hadn’t asked how many words they wanted and, well, I’m wordy. The other went to Quaker Monthly and I haven’t heard anything from the editor to know what she is going to do with it.  I spend a lot of my time on the internet, sending press releases, contacting media folk, and seeking out places to get reviews done.  I’m most disappointed with the local media specifically the Hamilton Spectator and CH Television.  I mean, I just don’t think there are that many authors in Hamilton that they couldn’t do a little piece about Walking with Wolf.  But I keep trying and maybe I’ll find the right hook to get their attention.

Tomorrow I start a roadtrip with my friend Shirley.  The purpose of the trip is to go to Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio for their Homecoming weekend.  Wolf and I are presenting the book next Saturday night – he and Lucky are coming up from Costa Rica.  I’m so excited to be doing this, but extremely happy to spend some time with them.  I know there will be many Guindons there as well as the families of the students who are presently enrolled. Wolf and Lucky are pretty well-known alumni and so this weekend, bringing Wolf’s book back to his alma mater, is bound to be quite emotional. That is what has kept me busy this last week, reworking the power point slides and choosing what to read.  A small problem is that I’ve had a seriously big frog croaking in my throat for a few days.  I’ve been trying not to talk too much but, well, that’s a hard one for me.  And even sitting here at home alone working on the presentation, I’m talking as I read aloud, timing the images with the talk.  I’ll have to try harder and keep quiet and let Shirley do the talking in the car.  I’m not sure if it is bad air quality here in Hamilton or some kinda weird bug, but there it is. Hopefully I’ll be fine by Saturday, but if not, that’s what they make microphones and amplifiers for.

We are driving down to Virginia first to go visit some of Shirley’s family.  Shirley wouldn’t do the drive herself and so I offered to take her there, kind of on our way to Ohio.  The thing we’ll be looking for the most is the deer on the highways.  I’ve driven at this time of the year to Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas – well, anywhere going through Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia it is shocking with the amount of dead deer carcasses and blood puddles on the highways.  It’s a slaughterhouse out there.  It makes it unwise to drive at night which I generally don’t mind doing. It isn’t worth the risk, when those poor crazed deer come leaping across the fences out of the dark shadows. I think it’s happening at this time of the year because of hunting driving the deer out of the woods – they just run onto roads as they try to escape. I guess the other possibility is that it is mating season and they are all love-crazed but I tend to think it is the first thing that is causing the vehicular slaughter. 

A few days ago I went up to the Guelph Arboretum to the launch of a new book called Growing Trees from Seed (Firefly Books).  It was a project started a few years ago by a wonderful man by the name of Henry Kock.  I knew Henry when I went to the University of Guelph in the early 80s and we were both on the board of the OPIRG (one of Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Groups).  I also knew his sister, Irene.  Well, these two people were some of the most dynamic, hardworking, committed individuals in Ontario.  Irene was an anti-nuke activist throughout her adult life.  She died tragically in a car accident on New Years Eve about six years ago.  Then Henry, this outstanding human being, larger than life, developed brain cancer and he died a couple of years ago on Christmas Day.  I’m sure the Kock family doesn’t look forward to that week at all anymore.

Henry was known for his love of trees. He started the Elm Recovery Project, to aid in the renaissance of the elms that were wiped out years ago by disease in southern Ontario.  He had a thumb so green it was emerald and a passion for nature that energized all those who knew him.  He started this book before the cancer was diagnosed but at some point couldn’t continue with it, so three of his friends and co-workers at the Arboretum, Paul Aird, John Ambrose and Gerald Waldron, continued with the book. It is a coffee-table-book-sized practical guide to growing native trees, vines and shrubs and is a must have for anyone who is interested in growing themselves an arboreal garden. Or even one really beautiful tree from scratch.

Also related to Henry, I went with my friend Lynda Lehman, to see the breathtaking textile art of Lorraine Roy.  Well, as a person who has worked with fabric all my life, sewing my own clothes when I was younger and then working as a furniture re-upholsterer for years, I have a natural interest in anything made of fabric.  Lorraine Roy makes these textile canvases that are compositions of tiny pieces of materials laid out and sewn, quilted in a way, into intricate designs – some abstract but many of them inspired by the lifecycle of trees.  She met Henry when she went to the University of Guelph and was moved by his passion which blended with her own love of nature.  She has done several series of these masterpieces that feature seeds, trees, ovulation, and much more. Go to her website, (Lroytextileart.com) and take a look. The delicate power of her work is awe-inspiring.  There is an incredible amount of detail that results in muted landscapes and still lifes which are not still, but living, organic creations. Her colour sense is musical. I wish I could afford to own one of her pieces, which I don’t even find that expensive, but that won’t be happening for awhile. But…wow.

The last little item that lingers in my head is watching the debates last Thursday night.  Here in Canada, we have a federal election next week and the candidates for prime minister sat around a table with a moderator and had a very lively discussion. I quite liked the style of the round table which allowed for lots of real interaction. Proudly, the person who seemed to be announced the “winner” by much of the media was Elizabeth May, the head of the Green Party.  I’ve known her from afar for many years and always known that she was a very intelligent spitfire.  She had to fight her way into the debate, as there was disagreement about the Greens being there at all.  There was a public outcry and so the other parties relented and she was allowed at the table.  As it turned out, she was the hottest on many of the issues, especially hot on Steven Harper’s case. Good on you, Elizabeth, this Canadian woman was all substance, style, spit, and smarts.

The other debate that night was the infamous vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Tina Fey’s less intelligent double, Sarah Palin. I know this woman must be intelligent to have got to the post of governor of Alaska, but her hokey manner, frequent winking and subterfuge of her very right wing values made me crazy. She kept trying to sound like a mild conservative and either stayed away from answering the questions or contradicted herself.  I spent the whole time with my remote, flipping between debates whenever one made me squirm or scream. My take on the Republicans is that I find them wholly irresponsible and arrogant to have put a person of so little experience and sophistication into the (hopefully not so) possible position of being the president. IF McCain were to be elected and IF something bad were to happen to him, she could be the leader of the so-called free world!  It seems to me that they were more interested in choosing someone for the ticket who would appeal to the lowest common denominator of the electorate, to the religious right and perhaps (though I’m not sure how) who would appeal to the women who wanted Hillary. I am appalled that they would have put this woman in this position.  What I do see is that Palin would appeal to the same folks who voted for that other hokey guy, George W.  I can remember seeing an older woman from Kansas in an interview during the last election who I suspect spoke for a certain part of the population when she said that she was voting for Bush because she thought she’d like to sit and drink a pot of tea with him and couldn’t imagine doing that with John Kerry.  Well, that’s all very nice and fine, but do you really want this guy as your president? I mean, is feeling comfortable in the tearoom really a prerequisite for being presidential? I mean, is anyone really surprised at what is going on in the US and the world today because of Bush’s presidency.  I mean, really???

If you want to invite the woman to go moose hunting, well, go for it, but please don’t put the rest of the world at the risk of being run by Palin and her muddy morally-maverick mind (and the Republican powers-behind-the-Palin). Now that is truly scary.

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It is as inevitable as the wind and rain in Monteverde, that one day my time will be up and I have to leave. I don’t worry about going and I quickly transfer my thinking to arriving instead – back to Canada, friends there, familiar haunts, a different kind of music and the beautiful northern landscape. As long as I have the privilege and ability to return when I want to Costa Rica, then I can leave with a simple “nos vemos” – “we’ll see each other”, rather than “adios”, which feels much more final.

 

Of course this year also takes me back to Canada with a whole new purpose in life – bringing Walking with Wolf to the masses, doing publicity, marketing and distributing of my precious little tome. So there is an excitement at the back of my brain that I try not to get too caught up in, but will soon – within twenty-four hours now, I’ll be full on ready to conquer the north. I have until September 6 to prepare for the first big official book launch in Hamilton, and then the following weekend I’m returning to my old community in the northeast to do hopefully three presentations over a few days. This is the part of the world close to Temagami, Ontario, which I talk about in the book. I have many old friends there who have been very supportive and I am really looking forward to the book parties there. And in the second week of October, I think I will be doing a presentation at Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, which we also talk about, Wolf’s alma mater, for their Homecoming weekend. This hasn’t been decided yet, but the idea seems to have interested the director and so I will soon be in touch with him about the possibility. 

 

Having received such wide spread acceptance and praise in Monteverde from the people who are closest to the story will truly help me go out in the big northern world and hold my head up, proud of our book. I know that I was most nervous of the reaction of the biologists – sticklers for detail that they are, strong-willed, educated and quite sure of their own versions of the world – but several of them have spoken up for the quality of the book and have enjoyed reading it and shared a minimum of criticism (maybe I shouldn’t have called the tropical cloud and rain forest “jungle” but to the outsider, that is truly what it is, by dictionary definition as well.)

 

One of the surprises of the reaction to the book is how many people have said to me that it has revived in them the spirit of the community. Wolf’s stories about the founding of Monteverde, and my modern day descriptions have given them a renewed sense of what a special community they are part of. I had always hoped to properly present Wolf’s life and accomplishments but it had never occurred to me that our book might be a positive factor in the community. How proud can one be for playing a role such as that?

 

I have also heard from friends in Canada who don’t know Wolf, Monteverde or Costa Rica, and have said they love the story and the writing. So that bodes well for the future of the book simply as a piece of literature. I think it’s deepest purpose is the telling of Wolf’s interesting and dedicated life with all its flaws and colorful tales, and that is what I feel the most able to go out and talk about. His is an inspirational story of humor, hard work and humility and I take great pride in being able to tell this story.

 

In the week that I was offline, I returned to Monteverde, saw friends, packed and repacked, sat down with Wolf and signed a whole box of books to take back to deserving friends in Canada, did some dancing, had some great conversations and enjoyed my final days of tropical life. I spent a day down in San Luis waiting for the arrival of fifteen teams of oxen who were coming from the low lands for a festival, but unfortunately had to leave by the time only one team had arrived (those beasts move very slowly). I managed to get bit on my finger by something – I thought an ant, but now think maybe a spider – that now, four days later, is still swollen up in a bunch of itchy bumps. What a year for bites! I think it may be caused by the rainy season, as I found the bug population rampant. I ran off to Cahuita on the Caribbean for twenty-four hours and was blessed with sunshine and a starry night, whereas there had been pouring rain for the days before I got there. Here too I was bitten while swimming in the sea, something that rarely happens at all, especially in the Caribbean. But I was floating and some seaweed wrapped itself around me and four sharp stings (jelly-fish? Some say sea fleas?) sent me out of the water, waiting to see if I’d have some weird reaction like that poor Australian nature guy. You just never know these days. My papalomoyo seems to be under control, though I’ll continue with my sulpha treatments in Canada – and I still have a series of bitemarks on my thighs that we think are from mites of some sort. Hmmmm, August in Hamilton, the bug situation should be pretty tame in comparison.

 

I spent the last couple nights with Edin Solis (the photo is me with one of his Grammies) and his wife Lorena Rodríguez, he of Editus, she an interior, exterior and just about all round everything designer.  Edin was finishing the work on the soundtrack to a BBC documentary production called “The Winds of Papagayo” – about the changes of the environment in Guanacaste, the northwest province of Costa Rica.  How interesting was that – not just listening to the musical themes that Edin had composed (great surf beat dude) and admiring how the music followed the images and the story of the documentary, but the information within the work itself. It promises to be a very interesting piece of journalism (with a beautiful soundtrack) about what is happening with development on the fragile Pacific coastline. I had never realized that the winds collect and transport great fertility that has risen from the huge Lake Nicaragua to the north, as well as from the potent gases of the various volcanoes that run in a chain straight through Central America. The strong winds we know in parts of Costa Rica do have an important purpose besides blowing us around and keeping us cool. The doc also focuses on the over-expansion of development on the coastline, the extreme change of community life in less than thirty years, the changes in the winds themselves, and the struggle of the turtle population to survive the many forces that are working against them. 

 

I think of Costa Rica in general as about as fragile as a population of olive ridley sea turtles. Even though I know so many dynamic, charismatic, kind, intelligent and hardworking people in this little country, over all I feel they are all under threat. Out of control development, foreign influence, fear, and an economy that isn’t servicing the people at the lower end of the scale are all signs of a difficult future. The country has great “green” policies but doesn’t seem to have the backbone to enforce the laws. Most people I talk to have little faith in the government, having had three of their last presidents found guilty of some form of kickbacks. The president of the day, Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in the 80s on bringing peace to the Central American region, had the constitution changed, by the vote of 4 judges, so that he could be re-elected (up until the last election, Costa Rica had a rule, similar to the USA, that presidents could only serve one term). He also supported CAFTA, the free-trade agreement with the USA, which many people are extremely leery of. This all adds up to a disgruntled society in an over-stressed country with a frustrated view of the future.

 

I love these people and this country.

 

The very talented Sofia Zumbado, award-winning saxophonist and her beautiful mom Myrna Castro

My friend 100-year old Otilia Gonzales and her daughters Gladys and Margarita

Luis Angel Obando, Head of Protection, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

HEY! How’d this guy make it in here?

 

Everyone I know in Costa Rica is involved in some interesting project, not only to make a living, but to bring some new awareness to their life. I wish them all well. Tenga fe mis amigos, nos vemos pronto.

 

 

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