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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.

 Looks like a leguminous plant to me

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.

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After those lovely few days of food and friends in San Carlos, I went to San José and on Monday morning met up with Wolf and Lucky.  We dropped off books at Seventh Street Books with Marc, one of the owners who has been very helpful.  We also left books with a couple of other chain bookstores who will hopefully decide to carry Walking with Wolf and place an order soon.

 

We spent an hour and half with Alex Leff, the reporter from Tico Times, the English weekly newspaper.  He was very generous with his time and asked a lot of great questions that kept Wolf and I talking (HA! As if we needed help…) We walked with him and the photographer up to a park to take pictures that looked like we were surrounded by greenery.  It will be interesting now to see how the photos and the story come out, but we both felt that Alex was truly interested in the book and the material and hopefully that will show up in his article.

 

We also left books with William Aspinall who owns the Observatory Lodge at Arenal.  He was the director of the Monteverde Reserve when I first came in 1990 and happily took books to sell.  It was great to see him after all these years. 

 

Monday evening, I went and saw the recently released movie The Incredible Hulk.  I had been an extra when it filmed in Hamilton last September.  They had built a large false set that was meant to be Brooklyn in a couple of empty lots in downtown Hamilton.  On the same block was scaffolding around the reconstruction of an old stone building that will be the first rooftop patio bar in the city, I believe it is called the London Tap House, and the filming included this construction site.  Although I didn’t see myself, there were a few minutes in the movie that came out of that whole week of nighttime shooting that we did – and I’d say the London Tap House got as much screen time as anything else.  Not my kind of movie, but I’ll still probably have to check out the DVD and scan the scenes where I’m running the streets to see if I can pick myself out in the crowd. It is fascinating to have participated in and seen how they make these movies.

 

We came back up the mountain yesterday to be here for today’s presentation of Walking with Wolf at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.  Since the maintenance crew and the forest guards were all in the forest the day of the community book launch, we felt it was only right to do something with them and the other employees of the Reserve where Wolf has worked all these years.  The director, Carlos Hernandez, once again was very supportive in enabling as many of the workers to be there as possible, and Mercedes Diaz, who has been unfailingly helpful for the last year in keeping Wolf and I connected by internet, organized the event.  Our heartfelt thanks goes out to both Carlos and Mercedes for the support they have given us.

 

 

Below: Luis Angel Obando, Head of Protection

 

Some other members of the community came as well as some of the guides who take people on nature hikes in the forest. Even the reclusive biologist, Alan Pounds, who plays a big role in the chapter on the golden toads, showed up. There were probably about forty people.  It was as touching and poignant as the community book launch had been.  It feels like family there, even for me, who only spends a part of each year here and only some of that at the Reserve. For Wolf, it has been his home away from home for many years.  Many of the staff has been there a long time, like the Obando brothers, Lionel and Luis Angel, and the Brenes brothers, Miguel and Jose Luis. Much of the staff changes, new younger faces appear, yet there is a sense of history there and they are all very aware of the role Wolf has played in the development of the Reserve that now furnishes them with their jobs and the area with its beautiful protected forest.  He is an elder in this community, an entertaining and dedicated figure that people don’t always understand but look up to and respect and thoroughly enjoy.

 

Since I knew that we would do the presentation in Spanish and it didn’t make sense to do a reading in English, I had thought that it would be good if we asked anyone there if they would like to share a story of walking or working with Wolf.  So that was part of the program.  Carlos introduced me and I gave the story of the beginnings of the book in the longest Spanish public talk I have ever given.  I’m very comfortable with this gang, many of whom I’ve known since I came here, so stumbled my way through, knowing that they would be generous with their understanding of what I was trying to say.  I don’t think I did too badly in the end (fortunately I’m far from a perfectionist, so speaking strangely in any language doesn’t bother me).  We had the pictures showing on the screen as we had at the other presentation, many with folks from the Reserve, and of course people love seeing themselves and each other, so that was a great backdrop.

 

Before Wolf spoke, Carlos presented him with two plaques, one in English, one in Spanish, each with a picture of him and a summary of his story.  Wolf’s son, Carlos, had asked me a year ago if I would write a short background on Wolf for something, and this is what appeared on the plaque in English, then translated in Spanish.  These will hang in the restaurant of the casona at the entrance to the Reserve so that visitors will always be able to read about Wolf’s role in the preservation of these woods.  Wolf was very touched – he was also given copies for his house.  Carlos also gave him a beautiful wooden walking stick with an “I love Costa Rica” glass ball on the head of it.  It was all very appropriate and kind and a really wonderful gesture to Wolf from his co-workers. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate Carlos Hernandez’ constant and respectful generosity to both Wolf and our book project.

 

The administrative assistant, Marjorie Cruz, then stood up and presented me with a beautiful arrangement of tropical flowers with thanks for the work I’ve done to record Wolf’s story.  That was very much a surprise to me and, once again, very nice of them.

 

Mostly keeping his tears in check, Wolf spoke about his years of developing the Reserve and working with the Tropical Science Center, the satisfaction he gets of seeing the young staff carrying on his work, the thrill of watching the guides teach visitors about the flora and fauna, and the fact that it takes a community to do such great things.  He is always humble when he speaks about his contributions. 

 

 

 

Wolf’s son Ricky with his son Francis on his lap

 

 

 

Marjorie than asked if anyone would like to share their own experiences and several people stood up and spoke – some with stories, some just expressing their gratitude to Wolf for the work he has done, some stating how glad they were that his stories and history have been recorded while he was still alive and able to see the book in print.  They all expressed, in different ways, the realization that what they were doing today came from Wolf’s hard work and gentle ways and that this would live on forever both in the spirit of the preserved forest and the pages of Walking with Wolf.  Wolf’s son Ricky, who hadn’t been able to be at the other presentation, was there today and took the opportunity to stand and publicly embrace his father. 

Miguel Leiton’s son, William, also spoke of the great relationship between his family and the Guindon’s and how his father was there today in spirit; Adrian Mendez, an employee of the Reserve since he was a teenager, now a professional guide, also spoke of the role Wolf had played in influencing the direction of his life.

 

William Leiton on right, with the elusive Alan Pounds in the blue

 

We laughed a lot, soft tears were shed, great stories were shared, then coffee and treats were had by all.  We took a group picture of the Reserve staff, although some had already left to get back to work and others had been left behind to run things while the rest participated.  The morning couldn’t have been nicer, the gestures kinder, the faces friendlier, or Wolf and I happier. Gracias ustedes, es un honor ser un parte de esta communidad.  

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