Tuesday, January 29, 2019

January Trip to Costa Rica: 

What to Remember. 

Costa Rica is sometimes perceived by wanna-be birders as simply a small Central American region of jungle, poverty and birds.  The opposite is the reality—not that birds and birders aren’t flitting here and there, and everywhere there is a tangle of vegetation and vines—but the rich cultural generosity toward humanity and the environment sets it apart and puts most of the outer world to shame.   

Yes, mostly unpaved, stony roads, yes, small farms and rutted landscapes, yes, hard-working people, often poorly paid. And still, I found civility and joy on every street corner and along every nature trail.  A smile and shoulder bump is the native greeting.  And structurally, the Costa Rican military-free and immigrant welcoming government is one to be admired and honored.

This region of Monteverde with its cloud forest and steep farm lands never failed to bring a deep emotional response for me. Wind-howls and horizontal rains, motorbikes and the local’s whistles, artisan wood carvings and hand-made tortillas, milking a cow, holding a newborn goat, turning and tasting the sugar cane juice, the fruits and vegetables, the jazz in large and small restaurants.  These were only a few of the rich tastes of the region. 

Our guides, Will, and Jason and all the people at Calla Lodge and Mike and Kathy’s, Hotel Belmar, couldn’t do enough to make us feel like honest members of the larger community.  Not a bit of irritation at our ignorance and sense of entitlement.

Surprisingly, birds turned out to be the least important thing for me. The culture and the people blew me away with every encounter. 

I am a bird watcher and was thrilled to have been entertained and startled and amazed by Costa Rica’s multitudes: the three Motmots on the first morning who treated us to their antics and startling beauty while we enjoyed a tasty organic breakfast in a windy outdoor porch of our hotel, the drowsy huddled birds we disturbed on our guided night walk with flashlight and scope, the sloth curled against the wind, the pit viper high in the canopy, and a hundred more sightings of bright feathered color and song. 

Who could ever forget the family of spider monkeys and mating iguanas and leaf-cutter ants on our road stop on the airport route going home.  Each sighting and exchange, equally important in a too-short, life-changing Costa Rican experience.

I wrote a quick poem while sitting on the porch watching the birds.  Serious birders are called tickers by the locals.  Though I didn’t fall into that category, the poem felt like my own experience.

Costa Rica

Crest, crown, wing 
flick and flitter
one after another
through mud ditch
and cloud forest. 

Drone spinners
blue, yellow, red
over under beneath
banana leaf
and palm cover.

An overladen hunter,
I squat in the mist,
old ticker
of eye rings
and tail feathers,

stalker of shadow
and song, in hope
of listing the glorious
quick passings
for my future journey.

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