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Can you believe it? Almost the end of July 2010! Whether time is passing quickly or trudging slowly for each of us, we still arrive at the same place together – ten years into the not-so-new millennium, two years short of the perhaps fatal 2012, and just one month away from Wolf Guindon’s 80th birthday when I’ll be returning to Costa Rica.

Provocative work by Kreso Cavlovic - visit his gallery in Elora Ontario

Just north of that Tico-paradise, oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for three months now, poisoning the waters and smothering local life. The responsible say that they’ve perhaps capped the leak, but so much damage has been done there is little to rejoice about. With tropical storms brewing, the future remains an industrial nightmare. A few days ago, when a pipeline burst and oil poured into the waters off of China, it barely made the news. The bar for oil disasters has now been raised so high that the media – as it does with so many other issues – doesn’t linger long in the small stuff.

Toronto in a more innocent moment

Here in Canada, there are still more questions than answers about what happened during the G8/20 fiasco in Toronto a few weeks ago. Somehow the government and police seem to be avoiding an inquiry into their own very questionable and abusive actions but are now daily releasing pictures of young activists assumed to be responsible for the destructive violence during those couple days of social unrest. There are many stories of police misconduct that will never be investigated without an inquiry as well as the much bigger question of our government which put this billion dollar show on in a vulnerable downtown Toronto against expert advice. Like the oil-coated fish in the gulf, the criminal records of those caught in the police nets may be the only reminder of a very troubling and twisted event.  

In the past couple of months, the Canadian government tried to pull another fast one by mixing some very important legislation into a seemingly benign budget bill – in short, they tried to have the requirement for environmental assessments on new projects taken away and the ability to sell nukes broadened. I heard nothing about this, as I’m sure many didn’t, until I went and saw Elizabeth May, the brilliant leader of the Green Party of Canada, who was here in Hamilton at a fundraiser. She left early to return to Ottawa and address the committee looking at the passage of this bill but first informed us of what was going on. I believe the bill didn’t pass until they changed these outlandish aspects, thanks to the diligence of politicians such as her. I remember Elizabeth from the 1980s when she was a young environmental lawyer working with others to have the requirement for environmental assessments, along with public participation in the process, entrenched in government policy.

Meanwhile, in Costa Rica the government has recently granted permission to the United States to send 7000 marines along with numerous planes and dozens of warships to Ticolandia for an accelerated campaign on the war-against-drugs. There are very few good examples of countries allowing other country’s armies to carry out their business on their sovereign soils. Costa Ricans are in the streets protesting, being citizens of a country that doesn’t support the international drug trade but certainly doesn’t support a military presence either, having abolished their own army back in 1948. I can envision being visited by camouflage-coated creatures rising out of the swampy jungle near Cahuita, (scene from Apo-calypso Now?) with the right to question, search and detain anyone who appears suspicious to them. I’m suspicious that this is another military move being made in response to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s oil supplies, and their less than sympathetic nature toward the Americans. It feels a lot like a military maneuver being put in a strategic place for a more serious conflict – that war-on-drugs has been a farce going on for decades, supplying the American military machine with money and an excuse for a continuing strong presence south of their own border while the drug trade continues to keep everyone high.

The world, both large and small, seems increasingly insane.

seeking relief in Elora Quarry

 

Here in the Hammer, as throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern US, the weather has been hot, record-breaking hot, frying brain cells and raising tempers. They say it is the hottest, driest July on record and is going to stay this way for a while yet. They say that the temperature of the Great Lakes’ waters is up between one and five degrees, depending on the lake, something that can cause a serious effect on lake health – increasing vegetative growth and toxic pollutants as well as affecting fish populations.

Down in Monteverde, our good friend Wolf is dealing with a variety of health issues. I will be writing about this again soon, once I’ve had a more recent update from the family. In short, he can’t have his knee operation he so desired, but needs to have cataracts remove and some other issues taken care of. And he has been taken off the insulin they started him injecting last July for his diabetes, as either the insulin is the wrong kind or the amount has been out of whack. This explains the dizziness, confusion and dangerously low sugar counts he’s been having. I am anxious to get back to Monteverde in time for his 80th birthday and hope that his new doctors and treatment changes are going to help him enjoy life again.

Roberto and stairway to heaven

In the meantime, I’m packing up my house so that when I leave, renters can move in. I have been purging the past, tossing the trivial, and surrendering the superfluous. I plan on being in Costa Rica for a longer period this time, to be closer to Wolf, to oversee the renewed effort on the translation of Walking with Wolf, and to close the deal on the land next door to Roberto’s. If all goes as planned, I’ll be constructing a little casita and settling down to write. After going through what is basically a smallish house here in Canada and still being overwhelmed by the stuff I’ve tried so hard not to collect, I will build the simplest structure possible – no walls, no storage – just efficient living space and one secure area for locking things up. Only hammocks and love will make my home.

Thank goodness for music, friends and sunshine. That is what restores me after a day of filling cardboard boxes and listening to the nightly news. Amongst other sweet musical moments, I went and saw local talented wild woman, Carolyna Lovelace, rock the house here in the Hammer, during her brief stay in between international gigs. She has also been packing up a lifetime and is moving on. Good luck to you Carolyna, see you in the south.

I indulged myself with the world cup. My original prediction was only half right – Holland was in, but not Argentina as I thought. I was happy that Spain took it – especially when Holland lost its cool and went aggressive – and especially happy that little Iniesto scored the goal. I got to watch some of the games with my great friends, the Bairs, along with some beautiful Tico friends, the Solanos, who were visiting. I thoroughly enjoyed the maleness and international flare of it all. I then spent the final game with a bunch of great women in a very mixed fan crowd in Toronto and paella pandemonium reigned. Now the world can relax once again – at least as far as futbol. Oh, to be in Brazil in four years.

On the set of History channel's The Kennedys circa 1940s

 

We each swirl in our own little orbits, each given day shining gloriously for some, while for others, they can barely see through the darkness. Re-reading this post, I find myself sounding quite melancholy. It is the heat, it is the transitional moment of my life, it is the global condition. I am much more affected here in Canada by the whacky world. Although I will miss my great friends, the groovy scene of the Hammer, and the autumn artistry in the forest, I’m glad that I’m returning to Costa Rica. Maybe things will look brighter through the green filter of the jungle and love will soothe my skittish soul.

IMG_3062

I’ve started writing this while laying in the hammock – it’s early morning and the heat is beating down the slight coolness that accompanied us in the night. If I try to count the number of types of leaves I can see without moving my head, face turned skyward, I reach twenty shapes and quit counting, the effort a little too much.  Or if I try to isolate the sounds – the voices of the creatures, the frogs, the morning birds, the cicadas – what are all those other insects anyway? – and the sound of a big bushman chopping firewood to get the coffee brewing – well, I get lost in the various layers of songs coming out of this steamy, verdant landscape. The only sound that could be deemed intrusive is the occasional passing of a vehicle on the highway a couple hundred meters through the bush. No matter how jungle-bound one may feel, civilization is never really that far away.

road in

It has been about a week since I last wrote (now two I admit as I finish this), thus my blogological clock is ticking and telling me to write. The time has gone by in a haze of lazy jungle love. From the moment I saw Roberto’s tall dark silhouette outside the airport doors, I felt myself breathe deeply again and knew I had come back to where I should be. When we arrived in Cahuita the next day and walked up the bush road, down the jungle path, crossed the now quiet (yet often fast-flowing) moat that encircles the place, and settled into his rancho nestled beneath the tall Guanacaste trees, I felt like I had come home.

home 1

 

We’ve barely left the place except to get food and to go dancing a couple of nights. The Quebrada Suarez, the twisting stream, provides enough sunning and cooling time that even taking the twenty minute walk to the beach seems like too much work.

 

nightroom

 A woman moving into a man’s domain always shakes things up, so we’ve been “remodeling” – making space for my things, increasing the comfort level, Roberto building rustic furniture as we sense the need – assemblage art it would be called back in Canada.

I brought a minimum of “stuff” with me, being very selective, simple living being one of the things that I truly appreciate about this place. The two most important things are my coleman stove which needs a different connection for the gas tanks here – in the soggy tropical forest cooking with wet firewood can be a full-time affair, not always a bad thing but often a frustrating one – and the components to hook up a solar system. My pal Chuck lent me a small solar panel and I bought the power inverter and now just need to buy a boat battery to get it all working.  With a bit of effort , a few dollars, and a little luck, I should soon be able to write directly on my laptop being powered by that free and easy big ol’ sun, the same beast that keeps us moving slowly and conserving our own energy – unlike the bustling hummingbirds who are zipping about me and the butterflies of all colors who don’t stop their fluttering all day long.

roberto

 

 

However, we haven’t got around to getting the stove or the solar stuff working – as I said, it’s been hard just getting out to buy food.

 

 

 

Instead we’ve been watching the howler monkeys fearlessly leaping about the tops of the fifty meter high trees.  There are moments here – mostly at daybreak and sunset – when the cacophony of jungle life swells to a crescendo before settling back down to a background buzz. It is often the male howler monkey who officially starts the day with his lazy roar – if he is in one of the closest trees it is as subtle as the engine of a Harley Davidson revving outside your bedroom window.

A pair of green and black poison dart frogs lives in the hammock tree (along with at least four different kinds of herps – geckos, lizards et al.)poison dart

Other constantly noisy neighbours are the oropendulas, tropical relatives of the orioles.  Like ecstatic percolating coffee pots, they bubble away while getting food in the treetops and building their long dangling nests.  The last couple of days the squawking parrots have taken over – it seems to me that there is a domestic dispute going on high up in the trees and those loud green birds are really having issues with each other.  Not everyone can be so content in the jungle it would seem.

The other afternoon we spent time watching a King Vulture, a strange sight here in the vibrant green forest – they are more usually seen around open places or where there is rotting food of some kind or circling high in the sky. This guy came and sat down on a branch in the cool jungle, as if pretending to be an exotic quetzal seeking a quiet refuge from its adoring fans. We were laying in the hammock watching him watching us when a weak rope holding Roberto and I finally gave out and sent us to the ground. I swear that vulture had a smile on his waiting beak, always happy to see an accident in progress.

As it turned out, he had his eye on the corpse of a large toad, laying dead in the foliage on the far bank. Who knows what killed it or when, but that vulture knew its worth and struggled to lift it up. This was one of those big cane toads, big enough to fill a coffee pot. It was a fight for the vulture, and he was under pressure when he realized that I was chasing him with my camera, but he managed to get that big carcass up and away before I could get a decent picture.

beach

The humidity has been building around us, night skies are filled with lightning and thunder rumbles in the distance, but not more than a drop of rain has fallen in the now two weeks I’ve been here. The rest of Costa Rica has had wild storms and deluges – the one night we went half an hour down the coast to Puerto Viejo to go dancing where it was pouring – but it remains dry and hot and steamy in Roberto’s piece of jungle paradise.

The country is waiting in anticipation of a big earthquake on the Pacific side and last night the Caribbean coast of Honduras suffered a significant earthquake. One never knows what one will be dealing with here in the tropics – it isn’t all pretty.

I’m now in San Jose with Wolf, awaiting the arrival of the shipment of the second printing of Walking with Wolf – we have all our ducks in a row, the Reserve truck is coming to get us, the money is in the bank, our customs man, Eliecer, is on the job – and the books seem to have got hung up in the same highway closure I did last night on my way here from the Caribbean. So our ducks are about to get scattered again and we will all be winging it. 

limon highway

As I made my way to the city yesterday, having left on the 11:30 a.m. bus, the highway from Limon was closed for several hours, the result of at least ten landslides from the heavy rain.  The workers wouldn’t clear the rocks and earth and trees while the rain was still pouring down and so the traffic sat – me in a dry bus so in no discomfort – but we pulled into the city about five hours later than usual, at 8 p.m. in the dark.  And I expect that is what happened to the books – slowed down by the forces of nature. Like our ducks.

 Once we have those books we’ll be heading up the green mountain and I’ll stay a few days in Monteverde talking book business and visiting friends. It’s nice to be out of the mosquitoes and humidity, but I am already looking forward to getting back down to the jungle next week. After all, love awaits and that is worth a little sweat.flower

July 2020
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