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My mantra of late is “patience, KKKKK, patience.” The fine art of patience served me well twenty years ago when I was struggling against cancer, and so I call on the virtue again to ease me through these days. I am not suffering any great hardship, just being tested by the bureaucracy of business in a new land and the sometimes harsh realities of life.  As I look at the explosive movements erupting around the world – from Egypt to Libya to Wisconsin – I think of communities of people who have run out of patience, finally, after years of oppression and social injustice….and I wish them strength.

Closer to home, Wolf is back on the farm and now there is much patience needed by all as he works at recovering his strength. He won’t fade away to nothing, as he is eating like a couple of work horses, even if all his food still needs to be in liquid form (because he is not patiently chewing it all up – gallo pinto shake anyone?). From the moment he rises till the hour he lays back down to sleep, he is asking for food – and so his family requires patience as they care for him and try to meet his many demands, nutritional and otherwise, serving it all up in a digestible form.

It would appear that the doctors have found a good cocktail of drugs to stabilize Wolf’s mind and emotions. He is very positive, with lots of plans for the future. He is talking quite calmly and rationally, but he needs to have patience as he can’t walk yet nor do much on his own, that alone oversee a major renovation of the house or go on an epic journey to visit his French Canadian roots in Vermont and eastern Canada, just some of the many inspirations rolling out of him.

Instead, he is religiously following his daily physical therapy routine, cheered on by nurse Stefany and all the clan, working to recover the use of his right hand that was damaged during his stay in the hospital (either from weeks of being tied to the bed or perhaps some neurological damage) and to begin walking again. Two months laid up has left him much weaker than before. In his mind, Wolf is ready to resume his active life, but his body has quite a ways to go to catch up. So have patience, Wolfcito, patience (and to his ever-loving family as well – patience, Guindonsillos, patience).

While Wolf is up on his beautiful green mountain, I’m back in bustling San José, working at the Tropical Science Center with Lester Gomez, the man who is editing the Spanish version of Walking with Wolf. Lester called on me to assist him in understanding words, sentences and concepts in Carlos Guindon’s translation that he just couldn’t quite comprehend. I’ve now worked three long days with him and it takes a lot of discussion and much patience between us to get to the point where Lester can find the proper words or sentence structure to convey the message as it was meant to be shared. I am really enjoying working with him – he is a very calm and intelligent young man with a respect and appreciation for the project. He is also very busy with his other responsibilities, so it is taking a lot of patience on my part to work only on the days that he can devote to this and make my plans around his schedule without pushing him too hard even though I’m biting at the bit to get this done.

I went to Cahuita last week (and am heading back there tomorrow). Besides going to see a very patient Roberto, I’m trying to finish up the paperwork for the property that I have bought there. When the topographer in Limon said the land survey was in order and ready to be picked up, we were thrilled – until we took the plan to the municipality office and found out that the topographer had made a mistake and that the people selling the land owe back taxes. So we had to return to Limon once again to get the survey fixed and also ask the venders to pay the taxes so I can register the property. Hopefully things will be taken care of when I get back there tomorrow. A process started back in August, this is definitely trying my patience.

While in Cahuita, I finally witnessed our little stream rising into a raging river. It had rained throughout the night, and in the morning, when I went out to relieve myself at 5 a.m., I looked around and saw that there was water at ground level crawling like a wet snake all around me! It was an incredible sight. Roberto lost his casita to this river over two years ago and his rancho is now built on higher ground. As he says, the water only rises like this once, maybe twice, a year so don’t worry. This time the water took away the tree trunk that has served as his bridge and we had to wait, patiently, for several hours till the river went down enough to safely cross it.

And patience served me well as I persevered, attempting to dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s”, and got the book into the Café Britt stores at the airport. It took three attempts (by myself, my wonderful friend Lorena Rodriguez here in the city and Deb Hamilton up in Monteverde) to deliver one box of books with a correctly-completed legal invoice – how difficult can that be???? – but after a couple of very expensive taxi rides out to the warehouse, and a lot of frustration, Lorena and I finally got it right and passed over the books to our receiving buddy Sergio, for their thirty day trial at the San José airport.

So once again, I ask – no patiently beg – of any of you with friends or family heading through the Juan Santamaria airport this month to consider buying a copy of Walking with Wolf there. If we manage to sell enough copies of the book (we don’t know what the magical number is, but the more the merrier) then Café Britt will place a bigger order and carry Walking with Wolf in their country-wide stores. Although we receive much less money per book from them, it is a great opportunity to spread Wolf’s inspiring philosophy and history to thousands of people who haven’t been to Monteverde or necessarily know about Quakers, pacifism, conservation of the cloud forest, or that amusing wonderful friend of ours named Wolf Guindon.  We now wait patiently to see how we do in this month-long trial. Paciencia, geduld, strpljenje, tålmodighed,pazienza,cierpliwość – in whatever language, all we need is a little…..

I keep breathing, trying not to get ahead of myself, filling my days by checking off tasks from my list, my nights with song and dance as much as possible, taking last minute delays in stride, knowing that Walking with Wolf is but days away from being born. The only other event in my life that required this much patience was when I had cancer.  I never considered myself particularly patient – I’m not normally anxious either – I just like to get things done.  Pro-active, that’s how I’d describe myself, and it is when I can’t do anything to expedite a situation that I start to lose patience.  In 1991, when I was beating cancer with chemotherapy and then radiation, I had to learn how to live one day at a time, that you couldn’t rush the process, and that being relaxed was much more effective than being antsy.  I learned how to wait.

Back in the 1980s, I became friends with Gary Potts, who was the Chief of the Ojibway of Bear Island, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, on beautiful Lake Temagami in northeastern Ontario.  We were all concerned with the future of the area – the health of the lake, the survival of the forests, the fish, the moose, the people. Gary’s concern came from his blood, his heritage and his spiritual tie to the land that his people had lived on forever.  I lived a couple of hours further north of Temagami, and came into the area as a visitor, loving to swim in the cold deep clear water of the lake, canoe past the craggy rocky shoreline, walk softly on the pine-needle floor of the forest.  I became involved with the Temagami Wilderness Society, initially concerned about the environment and the pine trees, but soon learned about the native’s struggle for social justice.  After much public debate, soul searching, and through the experience of knowing the local inhabitants on all sides of the issues, I stopped calling myself an environmentalist and started calling myself a social activist.  Ever since, I have tried to proceed in any activism I’ve been involved in with the well-being of all parties – human and non-human – as my motivation because I just can’t accept that only saving the trees, important though that may be, is the answer.

Although there were stresses in the relationships between local landowners, the government,  forestry and mining companies and their employees, the natives, and the environmentalists – we all had our own “agendas” afterall – somehow I managed to forge a respectful, warm relationship with Gary.  And because of knowing him, I learned a lot.  One of the things he taught me, which came in very handy in the years that followed when I was fighting the “big C”, was about patience.  We were in the middle of the blockading of a logging road – an action instigated by the environmentalists but ultimately controlled by the Anishnabai – and even as we stood our ground, tall pine trees were being cut, some by industry, some by activists with a different idea on how to manage the situation.  In the final days of the environmentalists’ blockade, after I had been living in a tent in the bush for several weeks (this, about a year before I would be diagnosed with cancer), having dealt with actions and controversy on a daily basis, my physical energy was ebbing and with each blow to the forest around us, my spirit suffered. 

One day, on the shore of Lake Wakimika, I had a conversation with Gary. When he realized that I was losing faith and strength, he reminded me of how long the native people of North America have been working to see the treaties that were signed honoured, to reclaim their lands, to right the many wrongs that were imposed on them.  He said “Kay, if we cried over every tree that has fallen, every plant that has been stepped on, every battle that we’ve lost – even though these things are important – we wouldn’t have the energy to continue the struggle. You say a prayer for the loss and then pick up and carry on. And laugh alot. It has taken an incredible amount of patience and  perseverance to sustain our energy and continue on our path. If your path is a just one, you can keep going forward despite the many roadblocks.”   

His words have stayed with me and supported me now through many of my own struggles – most profoundly during my cancer treatments, and again, during these last months, his voice has been whispering in the back of my conscience.  I will always love Gary for his kindness and admire his tenacity and his heart. Whenever I manage to get back onto that glorious Lake Temagami, seeing this man, whose beauty equals that of the land he is so much apart of, is a gift. We’ve laughed together much more than we’ve cried, but there have been many tears as well.  And many lessons.

So I repeat his words now, in these final days of waiting for Walking with Wolf. I will be fine, before I know it that book will be in my hands and I’ll be on that plane to Costa Rica. Patience, Kay, patience. However, may I say that if there is one more delay, I just might be heard screaming “Give me an epidural – PLEASE!”

December 2019
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