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girls-surf-too

I spent the last week on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, living a very slothful existence. It isn’t hard to do that – the place is sleepy and the pace is slow. The week was rainy – it drizzled, it poured, it spit – and then the sun would shine and all would be forgiven. My friend Leila had her first taste of the towns of Cahuita and then Puerto Viejo – and, like me, finds herself a Cahuita girl.  I wrote about this last year – how people are drawn to one of these communities more than the other – and once again lethargic Cahuita has won out over quaking Puerto with one of my friends. We spent one night – Leila and our friend Largo, and Roberto and I – listening to live music and dancing in Puerto – but were happy to leave the next day and head back to Cahuita were life is as slow as a sloth’s jig.

 

 

orchid-sky2

Sometimes life doesn’t work out as we think it will. I have told the story here of my friend Roberto Levey, a man I have loved for years and was reconnected with last June after a few years passed when I didn’t go to Cahuita. I have written of how he was united with his eighteen-year-old daughter from Australia in October and though plans were started for him to go there following the loss of his jungle home in the floods of early November, he decided that he didn’t want to go that far away from his home. Instead he has been rebuilding his little shack in the jungle (after a second flood took some more of his possessions, he finally gave up the spot that he was on and moved to higher ground where the flood waters didn’t reach.)

 

robertos-home

And though there was a connection made between him and his daughter and her mother that almost took him far away, when he decided not to go it opened the door to our relationship that has simmered for many years. Now it is a pot started with friendship and filled with chemistry that has boiled over with love and respect. So Roberto and I have started something, and only time will tell if it can endure the tests brought by long distance and cultural differences.

 

roberto-in-river

 

In our favor, we are both bush people as well as dancers, thinkers, talkers and naturally positive people who have cared for each other for years and know each other’s history. We both believe in the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of kindness. Roberto lives his life proudly with few possessions and refuses to fret about what he has lost – something I admire since I think that consumerism and desire for material comfort is one of the greatest demands placed on our earth. To be able to live so simply is a challenge but Roberto proves it can be done with grace and humor. He loves deeply and lives passionately and he has lost plenty in his life. As have most. And he endures. 

 

dread-k

The fact that we are both bush people cannot be undervalued – I don’t think Roberto ever thought he would know a woman who could live in his humble little shack on his wild piece of tropical rainforest. But when I spent my first night there last week, I told him it was just like camping – something I have done all my life, not excluding my years of living in a funky log cabin in northeastern Ontario without running water or electricity. Here, however, there are monkeys in the trees and the possibility that a poisonous snake may have moved in under your bed.

 

torsalo-butt

The mosquitoes weren’t as bad as they would be much of the camping season in the north but there’s a whole other buncha bugs here that cause nasty problems. The leaf cutter ants march on their employment lines everywhere, taking down the best of the vegetation. Then there is the botfly, the torsalo, whose eggs are deposited by a mosquito and grow into fat larva and eventually into another fly unless you squeeze the buggers out.

 

 

torsalo1

This is what I squeezed out of one of the bites. There was also a white maggot elsewhere… after a visit with some biologists in the know, I found out two importants things: if you put iodine on a suspicious bite right from the offset, you may prevent the growth of the eggs inside you. If you have a torsalo larva growing, put some oil on it – it will suffocate the beast and make it impossible for it to brace its little arms and hold on while you are trying to squeeze it out – instead you have greased its way.  Zepol also works (sore muscle ointment) as an irritant for the the little intruders.

 

 

 

There are the sand flies (or maybe mosquitos) that cause papalomoyo (leishmaniasis) whose bite won’t heal and continues to grow into a huge scar of eaten flesh on your body. I’ve now experienced papalomoyo myself and have also had the intense pleasure(?) of extracting both the larva and the grown botfly out of Roberto’s backside. It is hard to explain the sensation of seeing the little hairs on the head of the creature appearing and then the fat maggot coming out. It is hard to squeeze the flesh of the person you love while they try not to scream in pain, but quite satisfying when the little bug pops out as if exploded from a cannon. Roberto has some great stories about these bugs but I don’t think I need to share them here as I can feel you squirming already. My work here is done.

 

the-stream

 

The stream of water that flows through Roberto’s finca is fresh and clean and teaming with his little fish friends, his piranhitas, who clean his pots in a frenzy and nibble on your body when you sit in the aqua pools. He has seen a jaguarundi skulking about the banana plants and wild pigs rooting about as well as domestic ones that have come wandering down from a neighbor’s property. The bird, insect and amphibian songs fill the atmosphere throughout the day and all night long, coming at you from the tops of the trees to the forest floor, reaching a crescendo at dawn and dusk, songs I’ve never heard before. And the monkeys come to keep an eye on his progress as Roberto rebuilds his little hut.

 

cahuita-ruins2

One overcast gloomy day, we went for a walk north of town to where a friend of Roberto’s lived until he passed away recently. It was a sad day for Roberto who will miss his friend Jerry Lee. We passed the grown over ruins of Cahuita, houses that either had served their time and were abandoned, or which were never completed beyond someone’s dreams. The lush vegetation crawls everywhere and strangles everything it can.

 

black-beach

We returned by the Black Beach, named for its black volcanic sand (that alone its great Reggae Bar), which was full with the flotsam and jetsam vomited from the sea after the weeks and months of rain. The beach was almost non-existent, replaced by mostly soggy organic refuse and the ubiquitous plastic bottles that wash up from everywhere. I couldn’t help but think of Roberto’s father, Bato, who lived much of his life in wild constructions on the beach made by materials the sea had deposited at his feet (see East Coast Pleasures post). It was a melancholy day already and the waves of debris that we walked through kept us quieter than usual.

 

palm-viper

The wet weather of the last few months seems to be affecting the wildlife. On the trail through Cahuita National Park, a lovely path just a few feet inland from the beach where you can walk in the shade, I saw two eyelash palm vipers one morning. I have only ever seen these in pictures yet by the end of the week I had seen four. Whether they were the same two seen twice or not, I don’t know, but they were sitting so close to the path, wrapped around small bushes, that a tourist, intent on watching a bird up high in the trees, was warned by the passing park ranger to move out of striking distance as they are quite venomous. The poor birdwatcher hadn’t realized how close he was to this bright yellow serpent. They are usually a little further back in the forest, not so noticeable, but the wet swampy land must have driven them to the drier ground of the pathway.

 

path-thru-jungle

For three days and nights, sodden by intermittent showers, the howler monkeys roared.  Well, they didn’t just roar, they moaned and groaned and lamented and pleaded and cried and chanted and carried on in a way that even Roberto, who has lived here most of his life, had to admit was very strange. I have certainly never heard them go on like this. We started getting a little paranoid when they seemed to react to our every move though we were inside the cabin we had rented (at Villa Delmar, a quiet grouping of cabins with kitchens on the edge of town, very sweet place.) We started looking out the window to the branches where the monkeys were perched, to see if they were watching us with binoculars they had stolen from some distracted tourist. I will never forget this chorus of primates and how they provided a mournful soundtrack to our own restlessness throughout these wet dreamy days.

 

 

buttercup

A highlight of the week was heading up to the Sloth Sanctuary just north of Cahuita. Also known as Aviarios del Caribe, a bird sanctuary created in 1972 by a couple from Cahuita, it has become better known for its rehabilitation services for injured and orphaned sloths since receiving its first infant in 1992. This sloth is still there, Buttercup is her name, and I think she may have been Spielberg’s inspiration for E-T.

 

 

 

 

feeding-baby

Roberto and his daughter had taken a baby sloth there that they had found in October and he knew that I would be fascinated by the place. So we went up and met the babies left behind when their mothers have been killed, the amputees whose limbs were lost to electrical wires or road accidents, and the long-term residents whose luck brought them from whatever danger they had encountered to the tender loving care of the Arroyo family.

 

baby-sloth

Besides nursing the injured back to health and reintroducing the strong back into the wild, the center is very much a place of knowledge and information about sloths (also known as kukulas in Cahuita or peresozos in Spanish, from the word that means lazy.) There is much misinformation and falsehood spread about these gentle animals and the center makes it their duty to correct that as they study and amass understanding about the Bradypus and the Choloepus families (three and two toed sloths). It is well worth a stop at the Sloth Sanctuary, even if you never thought about these beautiful, humble soft little creatures before. There is perhaps a lot to be learned by their vegetarian, pacifistic and slow-moving ways. The world could no doubt benefit from their example of simple non-aggressive living. I think the Dalai Lama would be proud of the sloths as well as the people at the sloth center who have taken on their rehabilitation and protection.

 

butter-and-friend2

I will be returning there in a couple of weeks to take some copies of Walking with Wolf to their gift shop. I look forward to spending a little more time amid their gentle ways and graceful movements. I’ll then walk back into the vibrant green forest to Roberto’s little humble shack and count my blessings. And suspend myself, in true sloth style, in a hammock, slung between trees, and contemplate my next very slow but deliberately pacifistic move which, I think, involves writing another book.

ms-vickie2

 

I am safely back in my home in Hamilton, unpacked and reconnected. It was a festive few days in northeastern Ontario that I just had the pleasure of passing while presenting Walking with Wolf and visiting friends.  There was also a bit of bush time, some sailing, and, of course, music involved and now all that is left are the memories.  I sold enough books to justify the trip, which wasn’t difficult as I will always jump on the chance to head north to the rocks and pines and lakes, so selling some books and getting the story of Wolf out only makes it that much richer.

The night before I left, my old friend Bob Martinez came to the Hammer. I was driving him home the next day to New Liskeard.  We can now tally one more convert, an innocent seduced by the brick city’s charms.  Sitting in my jungly backyard with the sun streaming through the leaves was beautious.  We then followed the call to go to the bayfront where some folks were drumming.  Bob is a fine drummer himself, just not doing it much these years, so it was good to see him doing the skin thing and enjoying himself. 

 

We then had the delicious favas and shrimp at the Wild Orchid (this restaurant in itself tends to bring my friends back) and then walked up to Pepperjacks.  Watermelon Slim – a truck-driving, union-carded, slide-guitar playing, harp-blowing, incredible teller of tales and interpreter of songs –  was playing and singing and talking.  Though I was falling asleep in my chair and knew I had to get up and drive, I couldn’t leave. The man was mesmerizing in a slippery kind of way. I think it might have been his shiny satin shirt but it was also his buttery voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night at the Chat Noir in New Liskeard was warm and comfortable as a cat on your lap.  A number of friends, and others, came out – maybe thirty-five? – and we had a pleasant soiree.  Dave Patterson, one of the sweetest guitarists you could know, played along with Dean Murphy on bass and Dan Dalcourt on drums.  Although Dave has played for decades all over the area, this managed to be his first time at the Chat Noir Bookstore, a cool space run by Jennifer and Paul Fournier.  Besides a large variety of books and other items, as well as a stocked coffee bar, the place has a real friendly character. They have a perfect event space in Liskeard and are real nice folks to boot. (No, don’t boot them. Where does that expression come from anyway?)

A bunch of friends were there – from Temagami came Glen and Diane Toogood who, after more than two decades, have left isolated lake-living for closer access on the highway. We have lived in some bushy places together, and survived camp life at two wilderness canoe camps, along with other trials and tribulations, proving we can survive anything. They brought Heidi Buck, another comrade from past Temagami adventures. I learned many years  while in Costa Rica that Canadians have a very different sense of distance and time – to drive an hour to see a movie or have dinner with a friend has never been much of an issue when you live in the Canadian countryside, just the cost of living in a very big land – that is changing with rising gas prices, but is still part of our very large psyche.

Bobby, Terry, Linda & Bill From further north near Englehart came Joe & Kathy, Linda & Ambrose, Bill & Linda – all my old neighbours and wonderful friends. Even my ex-mother-in-law had been through and bought a book for me to sign.  A pleasant surprise that was. It was all real nice, and although I didn’t feel I talked as clearly as I did in Hamilton, it helps to not be a perfectionist…really, it was fine. 

               Kathy Martin & Heidi Buck with the Wolf.

 

 

The next morning Terry and Eva Graves, who helped me put the evening together, threw the afterparty and gave me a real comfy bed, took me out on steamy Lake Temiskaming in their sailboat.  That’s twice I’ve had the luck of going sailing in the last month after several years of nary a sheet in the wind. The lake, at the inevitable end-of-the-summer, was warmer than the air that morning, and the sun was beaming down, so there was a lot of mist and cloudy fog in the distance. What a way to start the day.

As it turned out, this was New Liskeard’s Fall Fair weekend. There were all the prerequisites – horses, chickens, cows, the midway and candy floss. And a huge crowd with a definite French accent – makes me think that the Quebecois (the border between provinces is less than half an hour away) really enjoy homegrown community-driven entertainment. With their band, Headframe, Terry and Eva played a set in the afternoon on the Harvest Queen stage.

 

 

 Our friend Dave Patterson, recently of Chat Noir fame, played a little violin with them.  Or was it fiddle? … still a question that.  Dave is very sentimental about the whole community fair thing.  It was real nice walking around with someone who wasn’t cynical but instead enthusiastic and downright tender with the spirit of the fair.  

Tom Preston &  Eva of Headframe & Dave Patterson

 

Alec Morrison of Crank Radio, Jeff Lundmark & Terry of Headframe

Near the end of the night at the Chat Noir, I realized just how well the Hammer was represented – I live here and Terry, my longtime friend, former boss and committed activist extraordinaire, who very kindly introduced me, is from here, as is Dave Patterson. Who said it’s only slag that comes from the Hammer? I spent the night with my pals Linda and Bill Murray up in Charlton, relaxing, eating mmm-mmm food and drinking a precious little bottle of Don Julio tequila they had given me for my birthday – I brought it back north to share with them, in Bill’s very tasty margueritas. That must be why there are no photos to document the occasion.

Sunday afternoon’s book show was about a three-hour drive away in Mattawa at the Moon Cafe. Lorne Mick and Bev Bell have a perfect recipe – great food, great people, great building.  They’ve only been open a year and a bit, and it is a struggle in a small northern town like Mattawa, but hopefully they’ll do well and the Moon will become a stop on everyone’s journey west from Ottawa on Highway 17. There wasn’t a big turnout that afternoon but it was a quality group.  I stayed with my friends Patti and Leo Lessard – Patti and I being old friends from the same neighbourhood and high school in Burlington. It was while visiting her back in 1982 that I got the job that landed me in that northeastern area of the province.

 

The youngest participant so far at any of the book events was the lovely Lily, their grandaughter, who seemed to enjoy the show.  There was an impromptu concert following the readings by Haley and Chanel, the granddaughters of our friends Terri and Ted Kennedy. Chanel promises to be a talented songwriter and Haley, well, she’ll just be a star. 

 

 

 

  Bev, K & Lorne of The Moon

 

 

The next day Terri and I took Little B and Trula, her bear-like dogs, out on the trails at Eau Claire Gorge. A new place for me, it was beautiful.

Autumn is in the air, there is no doubt.  You feel it faster up there, compared to here in Hamilton – and I’m feeling it here too.  Crisp walks in the woods at this time of the year is some of the best walking you’ll do – you can almost hear the sighs of the flowers as they fade and twittering of the leaves changing colour. The river was pretty high, what with all the rain that has fallen.  No drought this year in that area.

 

The last book talk happened at the Hibou Boutique in North Bay on Tuesday night.  Liz Lott and Christine Charette have a very friendly shop, eco-wise and people-wise, specializing in their own creations (restyled/recycled clothing, photography and porcelain jewelry) and very deliberately chosen smart products. Once again it was a small crowd out, but a warm one in a lovely space. Bob and Anna Gibson-Olajos came down from Temagami, carrying their 7-month baby melon with them (well, Anna is the vessel.)  I stayed with the Northwatch folks, my friends Brennain Lloyd and Phillip Penna and their daughter Beatrice who was headed to her first day of junior kindergarten.  A big day in the Penna-Lloyd house.

 

  Inside Hibou

 

 

I drove home as the green forest shifted colours in front of my eyes. This is the time of year I feel the most Canadian – it must be the red maple leaves everywhere.  The temperature is just fine for a northerner. And you know you need to enjoy every minute before the winter comes on.  Thanksgiving is coming up and ideas of fall food start to invade your mind’s taste buds…potatoes, brussel sprouts, turkey dressing, apples, pumpkin pie. I’m feeling tired and I don’t think it is from the trip – my natural rhythm tends to follow that of the world around me – and the days are getting shorter, the nights are coming on strong, my body is preparing for hibernation. Slowing down, slowin dow, slow...

If one must travel, one should at least try to make it worthwhile.  Now sometimes, for some people, for their sanity – which is something that affects all those around them and therefore the world – a trip to the Caribbean for a week of sun, endorphins, rest and relax is worth the footprints.  If you must spend them then you should try and trade them off by good ecologically-sound behavior at other times.  I think that the fact that I gave up my car four years ago, don’t have an air conditioner, very seldom use my dryer, turn off my lights, control my general consumption – well, that will have to balance out the fact that in the next while I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling.

Tomorrow I head to northeastern Ontario (in a small rental car).  This is where Temagami is, which is a small community and large lake I mention a few times in Walking with Wolf.  It is also the area where I lived from 1982 until I left my husband in 1990, on my way to Costa Rica and a changed life. Might I add that I lived without electricity or running water for seven years – kaching! in the carbon bank for me.

I worked at Camps Wanapitei and Keewaydin through the 1990s, two canoe camps on beautiful Lake Temagami.  At Wanapitei, where I worked for six years,  I would stay at the camp the better part of four months of the year, two of those while camp was in session and two when there was only a handful of us enjoying our isolation in the bush at the northeast end of this huge body of water. I then worked at Keewaydin, an all boys camp at the time, for one summer at the end of my canoe camp career, cooking for a dining room full of grateful boys who would come to my window and sing for extra pieces of dessert – how cute was that.  Life at both of these camps allowed me to spend the summer in the north, on water, with groovy people.  It all involved a lot of work and chaos, but I loved it.

I am going to be an hour north of there in New Liskeard on Friday night, presenting Walking with Wolf at the Chat Noir Bookstore.  Because I lived in the area, I should know alot of people there – it is the third presentation (after Monteverde and Hamilton) where I feel I’m bringing the book home.  My friend Dave Patterson, of the Wabi Delta Band,  is playing a set before and after my little book talk.  It’ll be great.

Then on Sunday, I go a bit south to Mattawa.  Friends own a colorful new cafe there and I’m presenting the book in the afternoon – at the Moon Cafe at 2 p.m. Once again, I know enough folk in the area so will be happy to see friendly faces.

On Tuesday September 16 in the evening, I do one more presentation at HIbou Boutique in North Bay.  I have never been there but friends tell me it is a good space and community with sound eco-practices so I look forward to that.

After the Pearl adventure, the rest gets easier, and really, that was an easy night.  Traveling and talking is what I do best.  I’m not shy and I’m proud of the book and privileged to tell Wolf and Monteverde’s story, so this is fun for me.

I have October booked up but I’m running out of time and will write when I’m through this northern tour.  But coming up:  Barnesville, Ohio; London, England; Barcelona, Spain; Kingston and Guelph, Ontario. Did I say carbon footprint? – maybe a coalmine worth of bootprint is more like it.  Sorry about that.

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