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Seems I’ve been too busy to write, but since 2012 is the year that ends the sacred Mayan calendar and has us all wondering about our future, I think procrastination may be an appropriate response to the season. Faced with this projectile that is hurling us toward the total destruction of the earth, well perhaps delaying our demise by a few centuries isn’t such a bad idea. Besides, things seem so overwhelming these days, surely it is understandable to want to participate in avoidance for awhile. So in solidarity with the future of our planet and life as we know it, I’ve been practising procrastination, but have returned to the blogosphere just long enough to let you know I’m still alive.

Looking over my pictures I’m remembering the wonderful moments of the past few months that I hope to have the chance to repeat one day, but I’m also reminded of the much harsher realities that I’ve witnessed in my travels.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is a cauldron of an endorheic lake (one that does not flow to the sea and has no natural outlet) – ringed by volcanoes and Mayan communities – whose waters have been steadily on the rise for the last few years. Around the lake, people are losing their homes to the ever-expanding shoreline, including my good friends Rick and Treeza in San Pedro. Many buildings are already under water, while elsewhere people are still sitting on their balconies watching the waters rise around them. After the last rainy season ended, the water receded enough that many were granted a year’s reprieve, but when the rains start again in the following months and continue through to the end of 2012, chances are good that the thirsty lake will swallow up many more homes.

Considering this is Mayan territory, this is 2012, and there is such a disastrous finality for so many good people living quiet peaceful lives on the shores of this magical lake, the divine providence of it is alarming. All one can do is hope for a dryish rainy season.

 

All things being equal, I had a fabulous time in San Pedro in February, visiting wonderful friends, eating incredible food (highly recommended are D’Noz fish menus on Friday; Ventana Blues’ green goddess cocktails; and Smoking Nestor’s BBQs on Sundays at La Piscina – if it is still there after the next rainy season), as well as hanging in this beautiful little apartment which is rentable for just $5 a night – if it is still there.

A few nights before I left, a heavy gust of wind blew a small brush pile fire up into a pasture and the flames took off, taking out electrical poles and transformers and leaving San Pedro and San Juan without electricity for several days. There was an unusual hush across the town – the loud speakers of the many evangelical churches were silenced – broken only by the hummm of generators from time to time. No doubt a great amount of meat went wasted (or stomachs were poisoned) as freezers thawed and businesses suffered without power, but it was wonderfully quiet while hiking on the hillsides above the town or sitting on the shores of the lake, listening to the ominous lapping of the waves.

It seems to happen everywhere that when politicians are elected – be it a president of a country or a town’s mayor – the first thing they want to do is fix roads. I think it is an elixir designed to keep the population subdued…if the highways are getting worked on, gravel roads paved or bridges built then surely progress must be happening. Maybe you won’t notice – or at least won’t rise up – when your health, education and welfare systems are crumbling. Guatemala elected a new president just a month before I was there and the road construction was everywhere – watching the men pulling their simple floats across the miles of concrete flowing down the Panamerican highway seemed somehow metaphoric if futile to me.

Back in Monteverde, the arts continued to shine – and this will be the theme of the next book I’ve actually started working on. With the main protagonist being Paul Smith – luthier, musician, painter, bohemian – the possibilities of what to reflect on in a narrative discussing Monteverde as the artist’s muse are endless. We have started the work here, but I will be spending much of my summer in eastern Ontario staying with old friends and continue to work with Paul whose Canadian home is nearby. We are curious as to where this muse will take us.

The latest art form to rise like a full moon over Monteverde is dance. The Quaker community has been holding square (also Contra and English) dancing on Saturday evenings here for probably as many years as they have been playing Scrabble on Friday afternoons (60+?) while salsa and merengue have kept the locals twirling on dance floors for just about as long. Now a more modern artistic approach to dance has sashayed its way up the mountain. Last year it arrived in the form of Marie Chantal Nadeau’s FuzionArteDanza, a show that the lovely Marie singlehandedly choreographed while guiding a crop of new dancers through to amazing performances. This year it’s been the University of Costa Rica dance company who came and held workshops over several weeks for anyone interested, a project that culminated in an evening of modern dance put on by all the participants. The performances were thrilling and once again the community on the green mountain showed its vast array of talent which always seems inspired by  the enthusiastic mentorship of other artists, the non-judgmental support of the community, and the natural beauty of our surroundings.

Margaret and Jennette

I’ve benefited from the friendship of many truly remarkable people here, including a group of women of diverse ages who, like me migrate each year from our homeland, Canada, and make Monteverde our winter home. We are all friends as well as artists, teachers, volunteers or mentors, and I am so happy to see them whenever our paths cross. Monteverde grows with the influx of many sub-groups, and Canadian women seem to be creating a culture of our own here.

Speaking of great women, two of the most important women in my life came to Costa Rica this year and we had ourselves a lot of fun. Having my friend Cocky, and later my sister Maggie, visit meant the world to me. Cocky and I spent a lot of time hiking and, as is our desire, even more time dancing.

I know a highlight of Cocky’s time in Monteverde was having a gloriously deep massage by the amazing Janet Jenkins. Janet and her husband Michael arrived in Monteverde back in the 90s as the hosts and foodsmiths of the Hira Rosa Restaurant. They moved on to massage and yoga and opened Rio Shanti a few years ago. In the cosmic nature of 2012, they are about to make a change and take a break from their business and the community and return with their daughter Elan to the US for a while. Even though Rio Shanti is to continue under the loving care of a new family, the Jenkins will be truly missed here. Janet has these strong healing hands and this huge heart – I’m so glad that Cocky (and I) had the opportunity to experience the positive power of her talents while she is still here. I wish them wave upon wave of peace, love and joy on their new path and trust that it will lead them back up the green mountain soon.

Cocky also had a chance to go walking with Wolf in the Reserve. Wolf has been in good form for the most part, our book has been selling very well, and it is only the lack of progress on the publication of the translation that frustrates me these days. We continue to wait for word from the Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica on whether they will publish it. We are running out of time if there is any hope to get Caminando con Wolf finished in time for the 40th anniversary of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in October. It would be a huge climax to celebrate at the end of 2012 but is only going to happen if we are blessed with a miracle at this point.

When my sister Maggie came, we also had a great day out walking with Wolf and Lucky in the Monteverde Reserve. We are now constantly joined by little Winky, Blinky or Twinky – the now two month old orphaned sloth that Benito was mothering until he went off to Africa for two weeks and left Lucky in charge. So Blinky goes wherever Lucky goes and it is quite noticeable that, like the rest of us, he/she is happiest when in the forest.

Maggie and I also spent time with our friend Zulay in San Carlos and down in Cahuita with Roberto. The Caribbean Sea was once again too rough for fishing but was warm and wonderful for swimming and floating.

Roberto has a new shack that he built on stilts that will hopefully survive the river when it rises in the inevitable heavy rains when they come. The waters seem to be threatening everywhere and one has to wonder what the rainy season of 2012 will bring to many places.

Whereas Cocky and I focused on dancing, Maggie and I indulged in as many games of Scrabble as we could. We played in many lovely places, including the wonderful third balcony of the Hotel National Park at the entrance to Cahuita National Park. This is my favorite little hotel in Cahuita these days – $45 gets you a private room and bath with great balconies and views – and the most important thing I can think of at the beach, a refrigerator!

Unfortunately, the government of Costa Rica is attempting to make good on its promise to tear down buildings that are part of the Maritime Zone Law, a law passed in 1977 stating that nobody can build within 50 meters of the high tide. It is frightening to see how many family-owned businesses and homes could be taken down –before the end of 2012 – if the government fulfills its promise along both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. Most of the towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo were built within that zone, long before the existence of the law, by the early Afro-Caribeños without the assistance of the government while establishing their communities. They built by the water to avoid the inhospitable swamps immediately inland. It breaks my heart to see the kind of destruction that could happen, the huge loss of tourism revenue, and the disappearance of family homes and lands. All these coastal towns will change dramatically and there will be great waste in the de-construction of the coastline. The people of these communities are rising up to fight for their future. In the meantime, if you get to Cahuita, I would recommend the National Park Hotel – enjoy those amazing balconies while you can.

When not rambling, I’ve been house-sitting here in Monteverde in a beautiful little hobbit house, but I am about to leave – off to Colombia for a week then back for a few weeks of nomadic life in Costa Rica before heading north to Canada for the summer. I plan on returning to Monteverde before the end of 2012, whatever that will mean for us all. Cocky and I have a trip to New Orleans planned for September – another community whose existence was turned upside down by rising waters – and I’m hoping to be in Monteverde in early October for the events surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Monteverde Reserve – right in the middle of the heaviest part of the rainy season! I don’t anticipate floods here, but these days, one never knows what might happen.

At the rate we are going, Noah’s Ark is going to be one busy ship in the following months, gathering us all in, two by two. Hopefully the waters will recede and leave our homes standing and we will survive. May love be our flotation device of 2012.

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I have returned to life on the green mountain…and life here has somewhat returned to normal. Of course, what exactly is normal in this constantly shifting thing called life!? Normal so quickly becomes abnormal – and vice versa – that we all – humans along with all the rest of the earth’s creatures – must continually adapt if we are to survive.

The best story of survival in Monteverde that I can share is that of our friend Wolf Guindon. He is immensely better than he was when I left last June. Stefany, his lovely nurse, has left; he then had another young woman helping with his physical therapy, but she too has gone. Lucky has taken over guiding Wolf through his daily exercises. The results of all this attention is obvious – Wolf is walking steadier, even without his stick much of the time. He takes care of his own bathing needs. He gets in and out of the car on his own. He goes for short hikes on trails in the Reserve and elsewhere. He even has been working on a trail in the forest beside the house, where his son-in-law Rodrigo installed a bench so that Wolf and Lucky can go and sit to watch the sunset together.

Wolf is back to having some purpose in life – he gets out daily and works a little more on that trail. One of the best improvements is the use of his right hand that had serious damage from being tied to the bed posts during his time in the hospital. In June, about three months after his release, he was still barely using it. Now he can clearly sign his own name, handle his eating utensils, and hold and swing his machete with a fair amount of force.

photo by Gretchen Ann Scholtz

And due to the addition of a new pair of dentures, Wolf’s speech is much more understandable. By the time he went through all his trials and tribulations last year, his skeleton had changed enough that his teeth weren’t fitting properly. He is talking clearly and his smile is wide, warm and brand new!

He is also getting woollier. There was a time, exactly a year ago, when he was weak, his body frail and his head almost bald. I remember walking into his hospital room and thinking that he looked like Gandhi.  One year later, his sideburns are bushy, his eyebrows are furry and he has the look of a robust, if elderly, bushman. The twinkle has returned to his eye and his humor remains contagious and genuine.

Brad, Dale, Eric, Debbie, Julian, Kay, Wolf, Lucky, Tomas, Olivia Guindon

Something that brought huge smiles to his and Lucky’s faces were recent visits by their son Tonio and his family from Connecticut – who left eldest daughter, Oriana, here for a prolonged stay with her Monteverde family; a week with son Tomás and his family from California; and a very quick visit by Wolf’s nephew Dale and his family from Ohio, their first time in Costa Rica. They were here for their eldest son’s wedding down on the beach, and despite the fact that their son, Jeff, broke his foot playing beach soccer a couple of days before, it sounds like they had a wonderful wedding. Unfortunately, Jeff and his new bride couldn’t come up the mountain with the rest of the family as he needed to rest his foot and I’m sorry not to have met him. As I’ve often said, I’ve never met a Guindon I didn’t like – wonderful folks all.

So, this year I returned to Costa Rica without a plan.  I usually have a good idea of what I’m going to do in my months here and some sense of how I’m going to do it.  Last year became an amazing roller coaster ride undulating between Wolf’s health crises, working to finalize the paperwork for my bit of jungle near Cahuita, and the push to complete the publication of the Spanish edition of Walking with Wolf.  Wolf survived, the property paperwork appeared on my last day in the country, and the translation got edited, but nothing went quite like I expected. This year, I decided that instead of arriving with expectations, I would come with a buncha seeds in mind, cast them out, and see what germinates.  Now, a month later, I’m starting to water the plants that took root, and I hope that I’ll have a fruitful garden to show for it over the next six months.

The most important project, and the one that will take the most of my time, will be overseeing the layout/design and computer work of Caminado con Wolf. If I get nothing else done in the following months, I am committed to publishing, one way or another, the translation of our book. The English version continues to be very popular, selling well by word-of-mouth here in Monteverde and online, as well as on the shelves of the Café Britt souvenir shops in the San José airport.

MV Reserve Christmas float - all recycled

Last March and April I spent working with Lester Gomez, the young editor hired by the Tropical Science Center to edit Carlos Guindon’s translation. The TSC has been very generous in its financial support in this project. Carlos Hernandez, the director of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve, and Javier Espeleta, the director of the TSC, as well as other staff and board members, have been very enthusiastic and helpful in getting this done. Don Javier then went to the Editoriales de la Universidad de Costa Rica, whose director, Julian Monge, agreed our book should be published in Spanish as a valuable addition to Costa Rica’s historical and nature-centered literature.

Just as the TSC was passing the edited manuscript on to the EUCR for the next stage of production, Julian Monge left his position. Six months have passed and they have not hired a new director/head editor, and until they do, we don’t know what the future of our relationship with the EUCR will be. We are hopeful that the new director will have  the same positive position toward the project, but we can’t assume anything. We expect that there is bound to be a substantial backlog of projects waiting to be published when they have been missing a director for so long.

More than three years have passed since I self-published the English version in Canada. We have watched a warm and critically-positive reception to our book – it has been used as the inspiration for a high school course in New Hampshire, it’s been bought by local biology professors for their visiting university classes and I’ve received many letters of thanks from visitors to the Monteverde community who say that it has provided a valuable background that enriched their time here.  We know there are many Spanish-reading Costa Ricans waiting to read the book. The coming year 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Monteverde Reserve and the 50th anniversary of the Tropical Science Center. They have numerous activities and special events planned and it would be wonderful to have Caminando con Wolf available for the participants of these celebrations throughout the year.

Since I have already gone through the process of “self-publishing”, I don’t fear stepping back into it. We are so close to finished I can taste the hors-d’oeuvres at the book launch! So I have decided to start walking down another path with Wolf, and get this thing done. It will mean some fundraising on my part for the costs of printing, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. If the EUCR’s new director remains interested, we will be thrilled. If not, we will be ready to go to print ourselves.

Throughout Wolf’s months of medical crises last year, he told people that he had no plans to die until the Spanish book came out. I think it was one of the mantras that kept him alive, along with his love for Lucky, his joy in the time he got to spend with his family and friends, and his phenomenal strength of spirit that is nurtured by his relationship with the natural world around him. The rest of us had somewhat of a dilemma on our hands when we didn’t know if getting the book finished quickly would send Wolf sooner to heaven, but happy, or if we should be slowing the process to keep him with us here on earth as long as possible, perpetually waiting for the book to appear.

In the end, of course all of our fates were out of our hands and things happened as they would. Wolf doesn’t look to me like he is going anywhere soon, but he regularly expresses his faith in my ability to get this translation done. Our talented friend here in Monteverde, Pax Amighetti, is ready, willing and able to do the computer/design/layout work for the book. I have arranged my dance card between time in Monteverde working with Pax, time in San José helping out a friend in need of some organization in her home, and time in Cahuita helping Roberto build a small casita. I have my eye on the prize, my heart in the right place, and my body and mind will go wherever it needs to be to get this job done.

A recycled bottle Christmas tree

As we move into the very busy holiday season, I am leaving Monteverde to spend Christmas in Cahuita. Pax and I have already made some important decisions about the design of the book’s cover. We will break for the yuletide and return with strength and determination in January. I have great faith that Caminando con Wolf will see the light of day in this exciting upcoming year of 2012!

I proceed inspired by the words of one of my heroes, civil rights leader and freedom fighter John Lewis, who says, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” I find it interesting that his own autobiography is titled “Walking with the Wind”…coincidence, I think not. Happy festivities everybody! I’ll keep y’all posted.

photo by Gretchen Ann Scholtz

I’ve been up and down the mountain to Monteverde several times over the last ten months – this is my last stay here for awhile, as I fly back to Canada next week. Last minute tasks are at hand, getting book business in order, saying goodbye to friends, and making
the first plans for what should be several months in the north.

I wish I could say that we will be celebrating the release of Caminando con Wolf, our Spanish translation, before I go, but sadly I can’t say that. I hope, for Wolf’s sake, that it will be soon…for my sake, later is better as I don’t want to turn around and make a costly return visit here within a couple of months. Alas, the timing is out of my hands and I will just adapt to whatever happens. I know Wolf is very anxious for that book to be in his hands so he can share it with his Costa Rican neighbors and friends who couldn’t read the English version, Walking with Wolf.

Wolf is doing okay, his spirits mostly high and stable, his physical state showing slow steady signs of improvement. He does his physical therapy twice a day with Stefany, his nurse, or with Lucky when Stef isn’t there, and he does the exercises quite willingly. However, as you can see by the picture, he does get bored with the process and often drifts off when he should be putting all his
strength into each movement. The hand with the damaged nerves (from being tied to the bedrail in the hospital) is reacting well to the exercises and bit by
bit Wolf can use it and it doesn’t seem so swollen. It is a long hard road to
recovery.

3 of 7 cane toads found piled together

This coming Saturday, the International Day of the Environment, Wolf will be receiving recognition for his lifetime of work in protecting the cloud forest. There is a
symposium happening here in Monteverde, and the various groups involved,
invited by the Costa Rican chapter of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and
Conservation, will be gathering for a daylong event focused on the science of biological
corridors running from the mangroves at sea level to the cloud forest close to
the sky. It is wonderful to see Wolf’s work still being acknowledged by
colleagues and those on the frontline of conservation in Latin America. I know
it means a lot to him.

The MonteverdeFriends School’s campaign to raise funds – Monteverde 60th: Friends
in the Canopy – was very successful. My last blog post was mostly written during my 17 plus hours on a platform in the canopy. Many people in the community took part by climbing up a variety of tall trees, sleeping on platforms in various locations, painting, photographing and writing while in the trees, even performing music. The school raised about 2/3 of what they had hoped to gain money-wise, but as importantly, they excited the whole community to go out into nature and breathe in its magic. Most then shared their experiences with the world through the internet. There was also an art auction, with stunning work contributed by many of the very talented artists of this community. Bravo to the fundraising committee who oversaw this great month-long event – I hope they repeat it.

The tree and pics I’ve posted here are of Wolf’s son, Benito, climbing up to his hammock that he tied at the top of this big tree on the farm. He spent a few nights
there, happily swaying in the breeze, enjoying his solitude and the nighttime
sky. Like Wolf, Beni never fails to amaze us with his physical endurance and
the unique ways he employs it.

Many came out one Saturday afternoon for a goodbye dance party for our friend AA Leath who is leaving Monteverde to live in the United States after twenty years here. AA was part of the San Francisco post-modern dance scene in the 1950s, a collaborator of Anna Halprin, well known as a creator of this dance genre. During AA’s years here in Monteverde, he has treated us to many impromptu dance performances and enthusiastically supported both the arts and the artists.

Now, in his mid-eighties, AA has had knee replacements and other health difficulties, but
the worst tragedy has been the number of times his cabin was broken into. A year or so ago he moved and then he was attacked and robbed on the street – a total of seven times the punks have stolen from AA. Yes, this is true – in Monteverde – that an old man was assaulted for what little money he had while walking on the main road. And he isn’t the only one. (with Mary Stuckey Newswanger and Lucky Guindon)

Fortunately people came out to give him lots of love before he left, as it is horrible that he would leave this community with the bad taste of abuse on his mind and a lingering fear in his heart. Not only did we all dance together, but AA and neighbor Mills Tandy treated us to an improvised dance routine, dedicated to a dance instructor they had both happened to work with years ago.

Martha Moss, Margaret Adelman, Sarah Dowell

I hope that AA will keep the lovely images of this day and the people who love him here foremost in his mind, replacing the negative ones that have been bothering him for the last couple of years. He is already truly missed in Monteverde.

Unfortunately, AA left just days before Monteverde had its first major dance event. Over the years, many professional dancers, besides AA, have visited and performed, but never has someone taken community members, young and old, and worked with them on original choreography in preparation for a grand night of performance. And the community must have been starving for it, because well over 200 people came out, so many that we couldn’t all fit into the room.

Marie Chantal Nadeau, a beautiful woman originally from Quebec, Canada but living here many years now, who is well known for the stunning jewelry she makes, has been working with a group of dancers for months. Her principle male lead dancer is Daniel Vargas, a multi-talented, much loved local, soon heading to the US and college. Marie and Daniel performed a stunning piece of modern ballet to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which was sung by the amazing Riley Walker. Daniel and Riley both lost their mothers to cancer about a year ago and Marie’s father also succumbed to the scourge a few years back. They dedicated this lovely piece of art to the parents they are all missing and it was truly moving and beautifully manifested.

There were colorful performances of folkloric dance by Costa Ricans, there was an enthusiastic South African gumboot-slapping number, acro-yoga dancing, a mother and son from Montreal doing a structured improvisational dance… something for everyone. Most numbers were accompanied by live music played or sung by locals. The night ended with fire dancing outside, and Marie, who had danced in two of the numbers and choreographed many of the others, left us with the image of her joy twirling in flames, no doubt with post-performance relief and contentment. The community is still thanking Marie, Daniel and all those who participated, for this spectacular evening.

The huge turnout, including a bus of tourists that we had to turn away, demonstrated that this community has been waiting for a show like this and if you give it, they will come. It also showed the necessity of a new community arts center for Monteverde and area. As Monteverde continues to grow in population, it continues to attract more artists and performers, and we need a place not just for performances, but studio space dedicated to each of the artistic disciplines. Originally these kinds of activities took place in people’s homes, then got moved to restaurants and hotels, and then there were private venues such as Bromelias Amphitheatre or the Centro Cultural Galeron where this dance evening took place. But these places aren’t fully equipped for this big of an event to be held in any kind of weather. Monteverde has grown beyond its small rural roots, and is bursting at the seams with people who appreciate the arts.

I came up the mountain specifically to help Marie with the show as the on-site keeper of the
keys and guardian of the gardens and animals who live here on the property of the Galeron. I am real happy to spend time with Marlene, who works here, and Tyra, the gentle white husky who takes over my bed when I stay. It was an easy decision to come right now as I wanted to have time with Wolf before I leave for Canada, to be present at his award ceremony, and I also had an upholstery project waiting for me.

As you can see, the chair got pulled apart, much to the pleasure of the cats Miel and
Olly, but due to technical difficulties – as in having very poor toolage – I’ve put off its completion until I return in a few months. Monteverde will still be here, and so will the chair – hopefully so will the trees, the birds, the wonderful people, and the howling Wolf of the mountain.

 A SHORTER VERSION WITH LESS PHOTOS CAN BE FOUND AT THE MONTEVERDE 60 WEBSITE, LINK BELOW

Morning is starting to lighten the eastern sky. It has been a starry starry night – each time I opened my eyes, there seemed to be another layer of stars sprinkled across the top of the world. All last evening, the fireflies that played throughout the valley below seemed like playful reflections of the stellar ceiling, and sometimes it was unclear if I had seen a shooting star or if it was just one of the more adventurous fireflies traveling at the top of its range. The branches above us, bobbing in the constant breeze, kept distorting the pattern of the heavens – was that star moving or a satellite or a plane or was I dreaming? On our platform in the tree up on the ridge, we were under the influence of a nocturnal mirage.

Mary Newswanger and I were excited to spend a night together on the Joyce platform which sits about six meters up a tree – but that tree sits on a steep ridge hundreds of meters up from the deep dark valley floor. The total effect is one of being securely suspended over top of a verdant abyss. We volunteered for our time on this platform, following those other tree sitters who have joined in this unique fundraising effort for the Monteverde Friends School. We listened to all those who climbed before us – expect it to get a little freaky when the wind blows, prepare ourselves for a cold night. Mary insisted that we haul her heavy thick sleeping bags – the kind used for camping in a previous century, the ones that roll up into something almost the size of round muffety hay bales (hey, those Muffets are Quakers too!) – so we lugged them down the narrow ridge path and up the ladder to the platform. Thanks to Mary, we’ve both been warm and comfortable all night.

The wooden platform feels like a raft being manipulated by a current, but the force providing the push isn’t water, it is wind. Here on my back, looking up at those stars, I can imagine our raft floating lazily down an airy stream until it hits the turbulent white rapids of wind. We are pushed into an eddy where we are held against our will for a few moments, threatening to be tossed, until we are released again and resume our tranquil floating. During the first hour or two of darkness, as can only happen in cloud forests such as Monteverde, or when you are on a river or sea, a spray of mist kept our faces moist and added to the watery effect, yet there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. Considering that in our aerie we seem closer to the sky than the land, I’m sure we would notice if a cloud was lurking above us.

I fell asleep as Mary was telling me stories of her experiences with the Peace Pilgrim and her hopes and dreams for the future. I realized I was asleep when I felt her crawling into her sleeping bag, no doubt noticing that she had lost her audience to slumber. I slept quite well through the night but woke from time to time and watched the heavens, once listening to a creature of some kind passing on the ridge below. I didn’t have a flashlight to check it out without waking Mary, so I will just think of it as the jaguarondi that Liam spotted here the other day and be pleased with the possibility.

with visiting Patricia Fogden

Of the night time thoughts that came to me, there were some that visited my drowsy mind often. One was wondering how our friend Wolf is doing as he has been struggling with his blood sugar more and more. Yesterday they took him to the local clinic believing him to be in insulin shock. They fixed him up with an IV but he also came away with yet another round of more serious antibiotics for his chronic urinary tract infections. Benito, Stefany and Wolf dropped me off here yesterday on their way home from the clinic and Wolf seemed okay, but as time goes on, one wonders if he will need some medication adjustments again soon. He often seems down, though whether that is emotional, physical, or drug-related is difficult to decide.

My mind also wandered to my homeland, Canada, this being the end of an election day. I realized that at the same time I was lounging in the tree, somewhere in that maple-flavored country one of the party leaders, a man, would be walking to a microphone in front of a room full of supporters and claiming victory in the federal election. I took two trips to the Canadian Embassy in San José to cast my vote, a privilege that I continue to take seriously. I don’t like the present right wing conservative government and the direction it is taking our beautiful country. As I finish writing this, obviously back on the ground and in cyberspace, I ache with the knowledge that the same party is back in power, with a majority and more possibilities of extending their agenda. The consolation is that the NDP, the social democratic party that has always attempted to speak for the working man rather than the ruling class, gained ground and is now the official opposition for the first time.

Just as promising is the fact that an incredibly intelligent and devoted woman, Elizabeth May, also had her moment at a microphone, claiming victory as the head of the Green Party. She is the first one of their members elected to a seat in our federal parliament and she will keep the important issues of environmental and social protections on the floor. Our voting system is deceptive, with the number of party members elected not reflecting the actual numbers of people voting for each party and until we change to some kind of proportional representation, we will continue to struggle to achieve a government that truly reflects our national political desires. As Canada is dragged down a more corporate and less humane path, I consider that I feel safer, up here in a tree, suspended over the sheer cliff edge, wind shaking our little raft to the bones at times, than at the hands of any ultra-right wing regime. Oh Canada, I weep for thee.

As we passed our peaceful night, I thought about the many tree sitters who used this type of action as one of protest to draw attention to specific forests under threat of destruction by logging companies. They placed themselves physically between the harvesting machines and the remaining Abuelas, those large redwoods or pines or hardwoods that had survived all the natural forces for centuries only to be cut down in a matter of hours for lumber.

Forests and trees have been saved and others not, but tree sitting is an effective and non-violent means of civil disobedience. Perhaps it started in the Pureora Forest Park of New Zealand in the 1970s – which was saved by peaceful protest in the treetops. Famously, in northern California, Julia Butterfly Hill stayed for two years in the late 1990s in her arboreal home “Luna” – a tall redwood that is still standing amidst the ravages of barren deforested hillsides in Humboldt County. In central Los Angeles, in 2006, Julia Butterfly, actress Darryl Hannah, Joan Baez and others sat in trees in what was then a large fourteen acre urban organic community garden. They were there to draw attention to the injustice that was unfolding as a company refused to allow the neighborhood to continue growing food on this plot of inner city land – even though the community came up with the same amount of money to purchase the land as it was being sold to a developer for. In the end, the garden was moved out of the city core.

Back in 1989, in Temagami Ontario, I was one of a group who supported our friend Maryka (the same woman who later introduced me to Monteverde), who lived in a tall ancient pine for nine cold, almost wintery days and nights. The action was part of several months of non-violent protest to prevent the continued construction of a logging road through one of the last remaining old growth pine forests, which was also indigenous territory, of Ontario. We were successful in stopping the road, and for the most part saved the forest, but weren’t able to stop the chopping of that stately old tree.

In true Quaker fashion, this tree sitting exercise in Monteverde is neither illegal nor in protest, but a joyful display of a community working together, communing with nature, bringing attention to their school and hoping to raise funds from their many supporters around the world through the use of the internet. I doubt that there is a school in North America who would condone such an adventurous fundraising plan – it wouldn’t make it past the discussion of liability at the board meeting. Just the fact that the Monteverde Friends School and the Monteverde community are taking part in this month long tree sit is an expression of the kind of freedom and originality that is very much a part of life at MFS.

I’m neither a Quaker nor a teacher nor a parent, but I was raised to live carefully on the earth and I have enough love of life and love for this precious planet to hope that we will continue to survive here. The only way I truly see that happening is for children to be taught to walk softly on the earth, to respect all the living creatures as well as the inanimate ones , to make decisions based on sustainable and ecological reasoning, to learn how to solve conflicts in a peaceful non-violent way, and to be cooperative and kind. The Monteverde Friends School is a place where all these values and many more are not only taught, but expressed in a myriad of ways by both young and old, teachers and students, past and present. I am happy to support their efforts in any way that I can, but the truth is that coming up this tree and spending the night, surrounded by the treasures of the cloud forest, with my friend Mary, under a blanket of stars – well, I would do it for no reason at all.

As I write, dark feathery clouds are gathering above the eastern ridge. As they shift and move in the wind, a brilliant light peeks through, the size of five of the night time stars joined together – it must be Venus, that planet of rising love. It reminds me of last November when we were caring for our ailing friend Wolf on the Guindon farm. We would awaken in the very early morning hours to that love light shining down on the family home. It doesn’t surprise me that we are seeing that messenger of love glowing over Monteverde again this morning, perched here in our nest. For Mary, who can see her home just across the valley, where her husband and sons are probably still asleep, the light of love is very clearly rising over the eastern ridge and shining down on the house that Elias built.

Now that the sky has lightened into blue and Venus is almost faded away, it is time to close this, have some breakfast, and await the moment the sun comes over the ridge. (As it turned out, we couldn’t get ourselves out of that tree till 10:30 a.m. and even then, we went reluctantly.) I sincerely thank everyone for the opportunity to spend these seventeen hours up this tree, especially the Joyce/Van Dusen household who are our “hosts”. Thanks to the MFS fundraising committee who facilitated the opportunities for each of us to climb various trees and continue to keep us all connected and inspired through their website.

Mary told me that it was Jude Gladstone, a dedicated woman who has worked hard on many committees helping the community, who brought the idea to the table. Searching for an effective way to raise much needed money for the scholarship fund that assists students at the school as well as those who go on to higher education, Jude suggested they create an event, something that people can join in whether here in Monteverde, or from afar via the internet. She suggested that it needed to be something exciting that would catch people’s imaginations, like Julia Butterfly Hill living high up in that redwood. Katy Van Dusen, thinking about her family’s platform in this tree on the ridge, took the idea and climbed higher. Good thinking Katy! Great idea Jude! And thanks Mary – too bad we have to go down.

Please follow the link below and donate whatever is possible to this wonderful school so that more children will be taught the values necessary to continue the good work for our earth and our mutual peaceful co-existence:

http://www.Monteverde60th.org

One last word on a very successful initiative by Fish and his team who held the first Ecofest in Monteverde. On May 1st, hundreds of community members participated in a day that blended displays, demonstrations, art, music, poetry and information in a seamless and spectacular manner. The things that happen in this small rural mountain community are truly stupendous, smart and sustainable! I applaud you Ecofest – we are all ready for next year!

PS It has taken a couple of days to get this writing to my blog and the weather has changed. Mary and I may have spent one of the last nights in the tree with clear weather as the rainy season in Monteverde begins. Hopefully others will still have the opportunity for a beautiful dry starry night during the last two weeks of the campaign, but we were definitely blessed.

CHINESE BUILT NEW SOCCER STADIUM

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

 

So it goes on….

Up and down like a roller coaster. Each day of the week, as Wolf’s caregivers exchange our impressions in the visiting area as we change shifts, we realize that we have witnessed a wide array of emotions coming from Wolf. We also get a variety of stories from the nurses and doctors, so confusion reigns.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching Wolf sleep this week. With luck, he is snug in his bed, curled up, comfortable. These days they’ve been putting him in the wheelchair for as many hours – and more – than he can handle. We know it is a good thing to not just be lying in bed (after a month of it) but it is painful to watch him support himself for hours in that uncomfortable chair. I know that I can’t sit happily in a chair for two hours, that alone seven as happens with Wolf. He is already weak and tired, and the energy it takes to stay upright with no head support is more than he can muster. He has no choice, and so his head flops forward, his back hurts and even his stomach is sore from the effort. We must wait for a nurse to come and rescue him and get him back in his bed. At least we can wheel him outside for fresh air, a bit of sunshine, and to hear the birds singing.

He is now without feeding tube – a nasty little situation he took care of himself one night. After a week of being told, “Eat, Wolf, eat, and they will take out the tube” – and eating even though he had no great desire for it – they came and changed the feeding tube because it was clogged. That night, I imagine in protest over the continuation of the intrusive contraption despite our assurances, he pulled it out. Fortunately they won’t replace it as long as he keeps eating, nor did they tie his hands up again to punish him (protect him?)

So now he is eating. Yesterday he moved on from purees and soups to “real food”. Due to the problem of being in the chair for hours zapping his energy (and apparently a bad night’s sleep) he could barely stay awake to eat the food. The other people in the room – a funny confused little man and a woman with Alzheimer’s whose son spends the day with her – had a lesson in English as I repeated, loudly, “Wake up, Wolf. Chew. Swallow. Can you take some more?” trying to get as much of the food into him as possible so that they will not replace the feeding tube or switch back to the purees that he is now thoroughly tired of. The woman’s son kept repeating “Wake! Chew! Swallow!” The man and the woman just seemed more confused…

Wolf’s daughter Melody took some cantaloupe in yesterday since this has been his biggest request these days. I got in a lot of trouble a couple weeks ago when I brought some fruit and gave it to him without asking. But Melody did it right and asked the nurses and was able to give him some. Once again, he was sleeping so soundly it was hard to get the food into him, but they managed.

So some days he is very cheerful, positive, loving and talkative – actually perhaps a little too talkative. Others, like yesterday, he is cranky and angry and restless to get out of there. We don’t know day for day, hour for hour, how we will find Wolf. There are many emotions that come out of him. We recognize that he is entitled to be frustrated and angry and it is often hard to understand what has set him off.

Melody told me that when the nurse came in and took his blood sugar last night, that it was dangerously low. They hooked up the IV and gave him glucose. That may explain the heavy sleeping and the wide swing of emotions. They did start him this week on a new anti-depressant, and we are already concerned that it is showing signs of leading him back to a manic state.

Ai yi yi. As you can read, the path we are on is as convoluted as the trail between Monteverde and Poco Sol (I think I just stole a line out of our book). He is in good hands at the hospital, but we are hoping that we can take him back to Monteverde real soon. To borrow another line out of the book, all trails lead to home.

I can tell by the statistics that WordPress gives its bloggers that people are coming on my blog pretty steadily and I’m sure that is, more than anything, for updates on Wolf. So I will try to post as regularly as possible to keep you informed. Of course, I no doubt will wander to other subjects, but they are just a backdrop to our mutual concern about our good friend Wolf.

Bueno, two days ago, they moved Wolf to the Intensive Care Unit at Blanco Cervantes Hospital. They finally gave him a feeding tube last Saturday morning. However, each time they gave him food through the tube, he vomited. After a couple of days of this, and recognizing that he was now dehydrated, they took a number of steps to help him.

 The feeding tube is hooked to a machine that can dispense small regular amounts of food, rather than manually giving him large doses that his stomach obviously can’t take. They said that he had some bleeding in his stomach and did a test (endoscopy-ish?) to see what is happening there. We haven’t heard the results yet.

They also did a test of his lung fluids and found that he has a serious lung infection or pneumonia. They put in an IV and are feeding him antibiotics.

In the middle of all this, I went to Cahuita for a couple of days. I’m still waiting on the land survey to be registered and available for the land I have bought there. Roberto took good care of me for the short time I was there.

It poured almost the whole time. The pictures show the stream in its more natural state and how it had risen the day I was there. It poured when we were in town, which was like a huge pond. It was a soggy break that I took, but a nice one.

 It was when I returned that they had moved Wolf to the ICU.  He is now a human octopus, with wire and tube tentacles linking him to monitors and machines.

 Wolf’s daughter Melody, his son Ricky, and I met with the doctor who gave us an update. Basically, they are treating the lung infection and should have results, one way or another, within a couple more days. They had been worried about his kidneys, which were very dry, but by giving him regular small doses of nutrition and liquid, they have shown signs of improvement. So we are in a wait and see mode.

Maritza, Lucky, Naomi, Melody, and Stefany waiting...

A very sad part of Wolf being in the ICU is that the visiting is very restricted. We can only go in one at a time, and only between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.  The first afternoon, Wolf was sound asleep through the whole visiting period which was sad for us, but I’m sure he would be more upset knowing that he had missed his visitors. However, yesterday, Lucky and I entered and got great shorts visits with a very alert Wolf. We can’t understand his speech at all – he is now sporting an oxygen mask at times that is delivering medicine to keep the phlegm build-up under control – but we all understand each other through our mutual love. He was very happy to see Lucky, and rolled his eyes at me (which is a personalized greeting that he has been giving me for years followed by a big smile). Stefany also managed to see him before he started to drift off to sleep. I’m not sure in Melody got to him before he was soundly snoozing.

In the meantime, we are all hunkered down in San Jose. The Guindons are staying at the Casa Ridgeway (the Peace Center) and I’m staying with my good friends Edin Solis and Lorena Rodriguez and their pride of five cats – a lovely household to return to each evening.  Edin is producing a CD for Martin Adebesi, a singer from England, so there is singing and music being made nightly. Lorena, an interior design consultant, and I discuss life and its many colors and patterns. I’ve been inspired to cook – I think it is stress relief. For a few hours, the world is gentle.

We are going day by day, hoping for the best, knowing that Wolf can only take so much – although he continues to show us just how strong he is! He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, at least not of the physical type. He isn’t taking any anti-depressants, something they can’t deal with until he is stronger. I think that just not taking the wrong medicine is allowing him to be much calmer and clearer. Hopefully he will be out of the ICU and we will be able to spend more time with him very soon. It will be wonderful to hear him CO-CO-RI-CO again!

At this point, love is what is keeping everyone safe.

This last week, in the early morning hours, I’ve awoken to an amazingly intense light in the eastern sky. The first time was about 3:30 a.m., a couple of days after our return from the Puntarenas hospital when we brought Wolf home. My eyes were teased open by this light piercing the darkness like a streetlight outside my window. Rising slowly over the black silhouette of the tree line into what was left of the night sky, the light shone so brightly I had to get up out of bed to figure out what it was.

Wolf’s son, Antonio, on night duty keeping watch over his father, was sitting in the darkened house. I went to him and asked, “Tonio, what is that light out there?” He answered, “It’s Venus. I’ve been watching her rising over the last couple of nights.” We both watched her in silence for a few minutes in the stillness of the sleeping house.

Satisfied, I returned to my room which was lit up by her brilliance, thinking I’d crawl back into bed to escape the chill that had settled around us. I watched as fleeting clouds, backlit like hovering white angels, passed over the planet of love. Sleep was now impossible.

In this house, nestled amongst the trees, surrounded by cow pastures, capped with clouds, and tickled by rainbows, love has been on the rise all week, just like her matriarchal planet, Venus. The Guindons have come home.

It’s been seventeen years since Wolf and Lucky had all eight of their children together at the same time. The last picture of the family, taken in 1994, is featured in Walking with Wolf, next to a picture from the late sixties of the kids as children, lined up in Von Trapp family style. Fortunately, we’ve had many opportunities in the last week to take family pictures.  

The love of family and the comfort of home has been the best medicine for Wolf. The views from the house over the treetops to the Gulf of Nicoya have brought joy to him daily. Along with the family members who live close by – Benito, Melody, Ricky and Alberto – I’ve been helping take care of Wolf with those who have come home from the US, Tomas, Helena, Carlos and Tonio. Friends from near and far have come to visit, often with food in hand. Wolf’s spirits have risen daily, following Venus on her path to the heavens. 

From his first night back home, Wolf began sleeping sounder than he ever did in the hospital. Bit by bit, he started imbibing a variety of liquids – Beni’s kefir, fresh fruit juices, homemade soup broths, and Monteverde’s pure sweet water – which have made him stronger. He’s now advanced to soft foods, taken in small amounts, enough to keep his physical strength up just like his spirit.

Wolf never lost his sense of humor, but for awhile there we couldn’t understand him at all. People who know Wolf are aware that he mumbles and talks in circles, but those of us with experience can usually follow him, though keeping up to him could be as hard as keeping up to him on the trail. In the last couple of months, his mind has wandered and it’s been harder to stay on his path. This is probably from Lithium poisoning, a result of twenty-five years of taking Lithium for manic depression, as well as confusion caused by dehydration and the infections that have plagued him.

In those last two weeks in the hospital, he had a feeding tube. Along with too much time spent lying in bed with too little activity, he collected water on his lungs. The problem grew each day – Wolf coughed and tried to expel what seemed like phlegm in his throat – and with each passing day we understood less of what he was trying to say. He became more frustrated as we tried, with less and less success, to understand him. The problem grew to the point that he appeared to be a man drowning, fighting for whatever little breath he could get.

A respirologist came in the last night in the hospital and finally suctioned out what was blocking his breathing. Melody, Tomas and I held him for the few seconds it took that seemed like an eternity. It was a frightful moment for him and for us, but one that ended in instant relief and immediate understanding when he said, “Is it over?”

And I would say that was the beginning of his return to the land of the living.

This week in Monteverde has been filled with special moments and wonderful surprises. Last Sunday, with Wolf still very weak and his future not at all certain, the family decided to hold Sunday meeting in the house (Quaker silent meeting as it is held on Sunday mornings at the Friends house here in Monteverde). After an hour of silence, each of us took turns expressing our thoughts, our thanks, and our hopes. I thanked this wonderful family for allowing me to be part of what is a very special yet difficult time for them.

The rest of the day was a big feast of food and affection, followed by singing Christmas carols, and visits from friends. Wolf went to sleep that night exhausted but happy and secure in the care of his family.

Two days later, we joined together to go walking with Wolf on his trail that he has cut and maintained around the Guindon farm. His great friends and hiking buddies, Frank Joyce, Eladio Cruz and Jim Richards joined his children and grandchildren on an amazing trek to the mirador, the lookout across the valley towards the forested ridges of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

We planned on doing this on Monday, a very windy, rainy, chilly day, but we had to wait for a visit from a nurse that delayed us until we had to give up the idea for that day. Wolf didn’t care that the weather was miserable. “Vamanos,” he said, as he would have said all his life. The worse the conditions, the keener Wolf would be. The rest of us may have thought it wasn’t a great day for the hike, but Wolf just said, “We have raincoats!”

As fate would have it, the delay brought us a gorgeous Monteverde day – brilliant blue sky, warm sunshine kept fresh by mountain winds.  Antonio designed a Cacique-throne that Wolf could be carried in by attaching two long strong sticks to the base of a leather rocking chair, the kind famously made in the artisans’ town of Sarchi, Costa Rica.

Wolf was strapped securely in the chair. We all bundled up and headed up the trail. The men – his sons, son-in-law, and friends – took turns carrying Wolf, one in front, one behind (I took a very short turn, just for the honor of it, enough for a little gender quality, but without pushing it till someone got hurt!) The trail winds through the forest away from the house, up towards the famous Bullpen, and past the big oak trees to the cliff edge. Every few minutes, we stopped for a rest, to see the views, to look at birds, to adjust the position of the Cacique, and to change the sherpas.

When we reached the mirador, we were greeted by the clearest view possible, a gift seldom given in the cloud forest. We could see the shadowy layers of ridges, the individual trees across the valley, and even people standing on the platform at La Ventana, about two kilometers away as the toucan flies, the destination of many hikers in the Monteverde Reserve. There is no doubt that Wolf suffered a little in the chair – he has a catheter that can get very uncomfortable – but for Wolf, and the rest of us, it was a couple hours of sheer Monteverde splendor and a magical morning spent following the leader of the pack.

After this successful expedition, with Wolf seeming stronger each day, the family asked him what his “bucket list” was. Perhaps a desire to go to South America may not be met (tho’ never say never), his wish for strawberry ice cream was very doable. However, his wish to return to the base of Arenal Volcano was something that the family saw as a challenge, but one that could be met.

Wolf and Lucky’s children had promised them a couple of nights in the stunning Arenal Observatory Lodge for their 60th Anniversary that they celebrated this October. At that time, Wolf was recovering from his eye cataract surgery and Lucky was weak from the bronchitis. They had to make do with a lovely evening out at a local restaurant. It was questionable if they would ever get to fulfill the bigger dream.

The Observatory Lodge helped make this a very special event. When Benito contacted them, they said that they would provide the beautiful White Hawk House for the whole family – compliments of the Lodge! So with all eight Guindon children, Tomas’ wife Gretchen and his children Julian and Olivia (who flew down from California for a few days), Melody’s daughter Naomi, and your intrepid reporter-PAPArazzi-personal assistant-to-the-Guindon clan, Kay – we took a twenty-four hour trip to Arenal.

There is a very convenient “jeep-boat-jeep” trip that tourists take advantage of between Monteverde and Arenal Volcano. It is actually van-boat-van, but the other sounds more rugged I guess. The bunch of us piled into the vans on Thursday morning, bumped our ways along the backroads to Rio Chiquito, where we got into the flat-bottomed tour boat that was commissioned privately for the trip. Wolf traveled in a lounge chair provided by Phebe and Jim Richards, something that proved invaluable for easing transferring and Wolf’s comfort.

Don Miguel Hernandez, who owns the boats and lives over in La Fortuna, personally met us on the other side of the lake to drive us that last bit to the Lodge. Wolf has met up with Miguel many times over the years and they were joking and telling stories together. Wolf is well known near and far for his adventures and his friendly, funny manner.  Everywhere you travel with Wolf, you realize how many people know him and have great affection and respect for him.

We were received by Henry, the manager of the Arenal Observatory Lodge and a former employee at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. From the moment of arrival, Wolf was treated as the king he is in these parts, and we were all treated royally.

We spent a wonderful night at the base of the volcano, but it remained shrouded as the clouds never totally lifted to reveal her complete glory. Fortunately all of us have seen the volcano before, except Tomas’ young children.

It didn’t matter. There were beautiful birds – the crimson-collared tanager and the green honeycreepers – a collared anteater, and a beautiful margay, romping around like a domestic cat with wild tendencies.

Our friend Zulay Martinez and her husband Keith Maves brought a homemade dinner so we could stay together at the house. Once again, Wolf enjoyed it all, even though he started having problems with his catheter again, not a surprise after the jostling he took on the way there. Each member of the family basked in the joy of being together, soaking up the spectacular views, birding off the balcony, playing their family-favorite double solitaire at night, drinking coffee and laughing at every possible moment.

Now we are back home. Carlos and Antonio have already left , Tomas and Gretchen are soon on their way. The house is getting quieter, but the memories created in this special week are still ringing as loud as the bells of Christmas that are taking over the season.

Love is a powerful drug, a restorative tonic, a magical medicine. Thanks from everyone here, to all who have come and continue to be here in spirit. The Guindons are truly an amazing clan. The light of Venus continues to shine down on the Guindon farm and Monteverde and love continues to rise and swirl in the Monteverde mist.

I am writing this at 2 a.m. on Friday December 4th, while doing my duty as Wolf’s night nurse. I am very happy to report that we are back in Monteverde, following what was thirteen days for Wolf – and varying numbers of days for the rest of us – in the Puntarenas hospital. A day ago, much to our surprise but according to Wolf’s wishes, he got his walking papers from the doctor and we brought him home.

We are all happy to be in Monteverde, no one more than Wolf. Family members who were here borrowed a hospital bed, wheelchair and commode and had the front room of Wolf and Lucky’s house set up so that Wolf is comfortable and close to the action. Two cars filled with family followed the ambulance carrying our friend back to the mountain. We were all so excited, busy talking and watching the flashing lights of the ambulance, that none of us noticed that the whole community was completely dark as we drove through San Luis and up the trucha to the Guindon farm. Carlos, Helena and I walked into the house and realized the lights weren’t coming on (we found out later that the power was out throughout much of the area), but we managed to get candles lit and a fire started before the rest brought Wolf in the door. It was a twinkling room he entered, with that warm smell of wood smoke and a comfortable quilt-laden bed awaiting him. Home sweet home.

We all appreciated the five-star views out of his hospital window – southwest over the Pacific Ocean with both the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula as well as the shoreline near Caldera and Jaco Beach visible, floating cruise ships lit up at night, clouds of expectant birds hovering above small fishing boats in the bay, palm trees lining the beach below us – and to the northwest where the windows across the corridor faced the Tilarán Mountains and Monteverde, constantly smothered in clouds and awaiting Wolf’s return.

But the views out the windows next to Wolf’s bed, looking back toward where we have just come from, get more stars than I can see in the sky right now. When Wolf is sitting up he can watch the trees blowing in December’s increasing winds, the ever-changing light on the forest and the play of clouds over the Nicoya. He can hear the goats bleating and the cows lowing in the farmyard below. Wolf, with his freshly shorn head and his now tiny body, reminds me of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger – as Christmas approaches, he is our precious babe we are guarding as nature takes over and, one way or another, brings him peace.

Lucky's Christmas Eggs

 

Wolf made it very clear that he wanted to go home while he was in the hospital. He had an infection – in the end, it cleared up, but his health remains complicated. There are signs that his kidneys are damaged, something that has been discussed by doctors in the past few months. After about twenty-five years of taking lithium for manic depression, he is finally off it. This medication may be largely responsible for the toxicity that has been found in his kidneys. Unfortunately, the amount of medication Wolf has taken for his various health concerns – diabetes, prostrate, pain – along with the lithium, may have helped him but probably, ultimately, hurt him.

Naomi, Helena & Lucky

 

When all was said and done, we made the best of our time in Puntarenas. Lucky had a bit of a health scare but with antibiotics, she kept a new bout of bronchitis at bay and is definitely feeling better. Alberto and his wife Angelina, Ricky and his wife Maritza and their daughter Hazel, and Melody and her husband Rodrigo and their daughter Naomi took turns coming from Monteverde. Tomas, Helena, Carlos and Antonio all arrived from the States. Benito, Lucky and I stayed down there throughout the last week. Lots of friends came to visit from Monteverde, including many from the Reserve who still consider Wolf their fearless, and beloved, leader.

Reserve folks

 

In Puntarenas, we spent a few nights in Doña Maria’s pension. Although she treated us well and made the best coffee in town, it was just a little too far from the hospital which complicated things. So the last three nights we moved to Cabinas Daniel, just 100 meters from the hospital. I stayed there a year ago while visiting Wolf in the hospital. We were all happy to have a kitchen to cook in and could easily walk back and forth while taking turns staying with Wolf. It’s a very nice little place and we felt the warmth and good service of the people there. One hopes never to return to the hospital, but would happily go back to that little hotel.

We made the best of our time there. Being with Wolf at the hospital and caring for Lucky at the hotel was our daily inspiration. We broke almost all the rules for visiting, but within a couple days the hospital guards were aware of what we were doing and didn’t bother us, in fact supported us. We got to know much of the staff by name and for the most part appreciated their kindness. We became friends with the other men in the ward as they came and went – a lone gringo with a serious blood clot, new in the country, who didn’t speak Spanish and was happy for our English-speaking company and went home with a copy of Walking with Wolf; a friendly young Tico from the family of an old beau of mine in Montezuma; an older gentleman, whose leg they amputated, from down the Monteverde road. He’s known Wolf since the Quakers came up the mountain sixty years ago and was telling us stories of Wolf stopping in for coffee and then setting out on foot at night to continue walking the thirty kilometers home – the irony of this man with his freshly wrapped stump talking about Wolf’s walking was not lost on us or him.

And then there was Pedro, an quiet indigenous man, suffering from a bacterial infection and allergic reaction that caused the skin all over his body to turn red and then peel. He kept an eye on Wolf, let us use his bed pass for an extra visitor, and kept the continuity between all the rotating patients in the six-bed room and filled us in on their stories.

Every one of those beds told a story, many very sad. The story from Wolf’s bed (where his little bedmate Pickaninny – who had a remarkable resemblance to my sweetie Roberto and is named with love, not racism – kept him company) at times was heartbreaking but was often jovial, and always was filled with love. There were some very hard days and difficult decisions to be made but now that we are back in Monteverde and Wolf is home they are forgotten. There will be more difficult decisions to be made in the near future I’m sure. At least they will be made from the comfort of Wolf and Lucky’s loving home. 

It has been a week of very sad, strange events on both sides of Costa Rica.

Up in Monteverde, with that beautiful view west over the Nicoya Peninsula and Pacific Ocean, Wolf Guindon returned home (along with his sons Berto and Benito) after forty-eight hours in the Calderon Guardia Hospital emergency room in San José. It was finally determined that he had a blocked catheter, causing a serious urinary tract infection, along with dehydration. They didn’t keep him (except waiting in the waiting room) or do much besides giving him the antibiotics that he needed along with some sleeping pills. It was a most frustrating hospital visit, the family hoping he would be interned and helped on a more sustained level.
They all came back to Monteverde exhausted, Berto now sick with pneumonia, something he is susceptible to. Lucky and I had been pretty relaxed for the few days they were all gone, yet her own bronchial/possible heart issues didn’t really subside. She was still feeling punk when the house filled up and Wolf’s necessities took over again.

From his return on Wednesday, poor Wolf continued to have a hard time eating, always followed by vomiting, and everything tasted metallic, including the water he needs for the several pills he has to swallow. Even though he was trying to follow doctor’s orders, it was a challenge for him to keep anything down and he was beginning to give up on eating altogether. It was hard to know what pills had a chance to be absorbed in his system by the time he was throwing the rest of his stomach contents into a bowl. He had a number of visitors, all received warmly, as friends and family are more appreciated as the days get harder. One of the highlights early in the week was a visit from Wolf’s cousin Sue Roth, her daughter Brenda, her son Dennis and his wife, Adele. I met Sue on other occasions in the US and it was wonderful to spend time with her and her fun family. Fortunately they managed to catch Wolf on a pretty good day before things changed. By Friday afternoon, Wolf’s family decided to take him to the local clinic and insist he get some IV fluids or he was going to become dehydrated again. His inability to eat was very worrisome, particularly when you gave him a hug and felt his bones.

Ricky Guindon and brenda, Sue, Adele, Dennis Roth

Melody and I took Wolf to the clinic where he received an IV bag laced with Gravol. It was a different man that walked (well, kinda stumbled along on Melody’s arm) out of the clinic a couple of hours later. When we got home he was able to eat and keep things down, the metallic flavor was gone and he even sat up and played dominoes for awhile with Lucky and me. He spent Saturday in fine form, eating, joking, telling tales, and we all went for a short shopping excursion to Santa Elena. We thought that he was going to have some good days.

I had to leave on Sunday morning and am now back in Cahuita. Roberto and I have a trip to Panama coming up for my visa requirement of 75 hours outside of Costa Rica every 90 days. I left the family all recovering, even Lucky feeling a little better. My final night in Monteverde was spent at the Friends House dancing the stately yet somehow slightly provocative English dances. Led by Jonathan and Heather, two very talented teachers at the Friends School, we stepped and swirled to their instructions and their taped music library that covers several centuries of traditional (and recently written but sounding old) music for English dances. It’s always a pleasure to tickle my bit of British blood and join with a mixed crowd of Monteverdians, young and old, community founders and visitors, and dance like a character in a Jane Austen book, without the hoop skirt. Doing the dances, you appreciate the moments when the young sons and daughters of a proper class, normally expected to maintain a decent social posture, could have found a chance to flirt, gossip and make illicit plans while sashaying past each other.

It is now Monday and I phoned Lucky to see how things are. Unfortunately the stabilizing effect of the Gravol seemed to wear off right in the middle of Sunday Quaker meeting’s hour of silence. Within a few hours of my leaving, Wolf was unable to eat again, burping up the metallic taste and raising the flag of concern once more. I guess they took him back to the clinic but since he didn’t respond to the IV as well this time, the family is considering the next step, probably involving a trip back to San José.  Poor Wolf and Lucky that alone all the Guindons.

In a week or so, I’ll go back to Monteverde to stay with them and do whatever I can, specifically while Benito goes to a conference of traditional peace churches in the Dominican Republic. Central America could use as much peaceful influence and conflict resolution as possible while relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica break down and the rhetoric gets nastier. I’m curious about how much the rest of the world is watching what has recently blown up from a relatively simple breach of border etiquette into what is now considered an invasion by Nicaragua on Costa Rican soil.

This conflict began two weeks ago with the dredging of the San Juan River by the Nicaraguans in the extreme northeast corner of Costa Rica to make river navigation possible. There is a piece of land known as Isla Calero, 150 square kilometers sitting between the mouths of the mostly-Nicaraguan controlled San Juan River and Costa Rica’s Rio Colorado. Until recently it was a neglected zone, home to poor fishermen and their families living a peaceful, if subsistence life.  As the story of the illegal dumping of the bottom sludge onto Tico territory, along with tree cutting and subsequent environmental damage, played out in the media, it seemed like both the government and the press were sensationalizing the seriousness of the situation in a war of words. It appeared to be the kind of distraction used to take minds off of more serious issues and to get patriotic blood boiling on both sides of the border.

Now the radio, newspapers and no doubt television is filled with the language of war and images of military and police movement. Politically, the countries that are aligned with Nicaragua share anti-American leaders as well as much deeper interests – Venezuela and Iran are both involved with Nicaragua in a long-held dream to construct a canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean, along the San Juan River basin, to rival the Panama Canal. On the other hand, the Organization of American States (OAS), with minimum exceptions amongst its members, has backed Costa Rica’s ownership of Isla Calero which is ground zero for the conflict. Swords are sharpening in all camps while diplomacy and negotiations struggle along to avoid military action.

As tensions build, you have to wonder what the larger interests are here, besides that of the canal-builders from oil-rich countries. Daniel Ortega, once a Sandinista savior of the campesinos against the powerful interests of the corrupt Somoza regime, is now considered by most as an equally corrupt, power-hungry despot. He is coming up to an election and somehow starting a war, they say, is good for vote-getting. As the country has been embracing tourism and foreign investment, quite successfully, it is hard to imagine how turning it back into an unstable region of military conflict is going to win him votes although raising nationalistic ire always seems to be considered politically astute. Here in Costa Rica we aren’t hearing many of the voices of the people of Nicaragua, only the politicians and military.

Peace LilyRecently Ortega charged Costa Rica and the countries (Columbia, Panama, Mexico, US, etc.) that support her with being corrupted by the interests of the Narco-traffickers – particularly Columbia, where much of the cocaine trade originates before it makes its way to the drug-thirsty US of A. Although I don’t understand what this has to do with anything on tiny Isla Calero, he has touched a nerve. Costa Rica has certainly been affected in negative ways by the movement of international drug cartels (I would add they have been affected by the movement of international pharmaceutical companies too, but that is a different drug and a different story.) There are few here who wouldn’t agree that there has been a significant increase in crime within her borders, much of that related to heavy-handed, serious business drug running (as well as increasing poverty and the gap between the rich and poor, but once again, a different story….) I doubt that any of these governments are innocent of profiting from the spoils of the drug and, subsequent, arms trade.

Columbia herself can’t say much about such a charge, but their interest perhaps lies more deeply in a continuing struggle with Nicaragua over San Andres Island. Like most islands throughout the Caribbean, San Andres changed hands at different times between England and Spain but it was Nicaraguan territory when, in a treaty written in 1922, it was passed to Columbia. Nicaragua wants it to be returned, and Ortega has raised patriotic fervor while talking about the desire to regain San Andres along with some other islands in the area. Columbia wants the OAS to support them in the case of a more militant demand by Ortega. And it is because of their own lack of an army that Costa Rica is turning to other nations to help them if Ortega refuses to back off and military action is deemed necessary.

Here in Costa Rica, there has been a steady influx of Nicaraguans for decades. The migrants from the north do much of the low paying and hard labor here. There is no denying the negative opinion that many Ticos hold towards the “Nicas”. While the Ticos have been justifiably, but almost arrogantly, proud of the fact they abolished their army in 1948, their neighbors were engaged in civil war and struggles that has produced at least two generations with both a more aggressive nature and a more politically-engaged mind. As long as I’ve been coming to Costa Rica – twenty years – I’ve heard Ticos say that any particularly nasty crime “must have been committed by a Nica.” Sometimes they are, but, of course, not always.

Now, in 2010, Costa Rica is filled with Nicaraguans, too often considered a lower class and barbarian, and as the tensions rise, there are increasing reports of racist and xenophobic behavior on the part of Costa Ricans against Nicaraguans in their communities. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Nicaraguan Embassy in the city. A soccer player, originally from Nicaragua but with years of playing and living here in Costa Rica, was verbally abused by spectators, in a very hateful manner, when he made a poor play in a futbol game. It’s amazing how quickly human nature plummets to a pack mentality when given the opportunity.

As Roberto says, the media here is using a language that provokes these kinds of tensions, speaking disrespectfully of Nicaraguans. Costa Ricans listen to these verbal attacks and those with their own tendencies for violence and stupidity are reacting in the streets – and thus acting no better than the brutish behavior that they so quickly accuse the Nicaraguans of.

 It is very hard to imagine that armed conflict is going to break out just a couple of hundred kilometers north of here, but as the days pass, it feels like it may be a reality. It is hard not to get caught up in the rhetoric that screams from the daily headlines of the newspapers and believe that these two small countries are going to come to serious blows. It is hard to imagine that a war could begin that could involve any number of nations with their own agendas and affiliations to protect. As we head down to Panama, I’m very grateful we are going south, not north, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about what is happening to this beautiful area of the world that has managed to stay out of serious military conflict for many years. 

It is equally hard these days to know what my great friend Wolf is going to have to endure. I feel that his main problem now isn’t strictly with organic physical issues but rather is drug-induced, and the combination of meds is wreaking havoc with him. Drugs may be close to the heart of both of these conflicts, but the struggle of greed and power versus the struggle of one man to survive is distinct. Please join me in holding Wolf in the light, and let’s collectively work and pray for peace.

It’s an overcast morning in Cahuita. While torrential rains saturate the rest of Costa Rica, and perhaps most of Central America, it remains relatively dry here. We can hear the thunder rumbling up in the mountains behind us but that doesn’t mean we are going to get wet down here close to the sea. Dry on the Caribbean still means humid, drippy and lush but we are always warm and if we pay attention to the sky as we plan our day, we won’t get caught in the sparse rain showers as we walk to town or collect wood. If we take the umbrella, it’ll probably be used to shield us from the sun more than the rain.

the rancho from a crocodile's viewpoint

Roberto just saw our occasional neighbor, the spectacled cayman, who comes to hang out in the stream several meters from the rancho from time to time. We now are keeping an eye on the shady wet refuge where it hides. I’ve only seen its eye at night, a big green diamond glaring at us out of the darkness, no doubt annoyed by the flashlight. We found some caca on the edge of the water along with the marks that some animal dug around while depositing it. Now we are more curious than ever, as we can’t imagine that a cayman’s droppings look like that of creatures such as racoons, yet we don’t know what animal would have got that close to the water with a cayman lurking close by. Unless it was the cayman itself who pooped there.

when girlfriends mess with ya

I’m used to being able to google questions such as “what does a cayman’s poop look like?” instantly while online. It feels prehistoric to not have the cyber-gods at my beck and call…alas, you can’t have it all.

with my great friends Bob and Kathryn

Although I didn’t write much on this blog while I was in Ontario in July and August, I did have a lot of fantastic times with friends, heard great music, danced a lot and swam as often as possible in the clear cool waters of both Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario. I took lots of pictures and thought I’d sprinkle them throughout this and the following posts with as little comment as possible. After all, I know people like the pretty pictures as much as anything and it’s a shame to take nice photos and not share them.

the divine Ms Cocky

To report on Mr. Wolf, the news is good. According to his son Benito, who I talked to by phone the other day, Wolf is getting stronger, with more oxygen filling his brain and body, and now the problem will be keeping him from overdoing things. He is, as Benito said, getting cranky with his limitations. He will have to get busy or his caretakers will grow less inclined to listen to him. Wolf is definitely not used to having to sit for too long and it has been several weeks now. You know the man is starting to feel much better when he wants to get out and swing his machete again.

With Cocky and the Trickey clan

There was a great response by people to the Monteverde Friends Monthly meeting request for donations to help Wolf take care of his medical needs. The final bill for the pacemaker operation was well over $12,000 (which doesn’t seem like much by North American standards) and they have collected over $15,000. Wolf will have to continue to return for checkups with the cardiologist and these are expensive, so the money collected will continue to be used for his ongoing care, including the cataract operation that is coming up next. Katy Van Dusen, the clerk of the meeting, sent an update and thank you letter. I expect that some of the readers of this blog may have donated money – if you wish to, you still can by reading the letter on my post “Happy 80th Birthday Wolf” which has the details – and I want to also extend my gratitude to those of you who have been so kind as to help the Guindons with these life-saving expenses. May Wolf walk many more miles with the help of that new pacemaker and a better quality of medical attention.

Lori Yates and her gang

 

The sun has poked through the cloud cover and things are heating up. One of my favorite neighbors here is the kingfisher family – I’ve seen five species on our stream from the tiniest American Pygmy to the large Ringed Kingfisher. One of these big noisy beauties just came by, chatting away about who knows what. That is something about life in the tropical forest – there are a lot of outspoken creatures who live here creating an almost constant cacophony of chatter (like a bunch of almost teenage kids), but it is hard to understand what they are trying to say. If I did, then maybe I wouldn’t miss that google thing so much. I bet one of them would be able to tell us who shit in the woods.

September 2017
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