Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Costa Rica—lessons from a journey south

Paul toasting our good fortune to be at Cabinas Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica in December 2010. 
Note to readers: This post includes numerous links, which, if followed, could direct you toward journeys far deeper than my little excursion to Costa Rica leads you. I travel where I can, when I'm able, and in comfort. But my son's journeys are wider and deeper and challenging in every way. If you have time to follow only one link, choose the Great White Explorer. It can transport you to explorations you may not know exist in this day and age.

When I started this post long after returning from our Costa Rican respite, it was raining like hell here in Southern Oregon. February 14 shattered the 1904 rainfall  record in the Rogue Valley and interrupted weeks of balmy days when winter plantings vibrated with springness, and when we uppity Northwesterners looked toward the hideous Eastern blizzards with curiosity and said, "Oh, poor things!" But. Here's winter again.  And now I'm looking back to Costa Rica, where PK and I escaped for most of December 2010. Ahh. It was glorious. But.

We had been there only two days when our son, Chris, emailed us to say that his African kayaking expedition leader. Hendri Coetzee, had been killed by huge crocodile on an African river. Chris was two feet away, and another kayaker, Ben Stookesberry, was close by. A lengthy piece about this tragedy is the cover story in the March 2011 edition of Outside Magazine. (This is a 9-page piece profiling the amazing Hendri. It is well well worth your time. Hendri was charismatic and an outrageous adventurer. His is a riveting story, despite the tragic ending. It's almost as if he saw it coming.)
If you lose your child by a crocodile snatching, it's no more grief-making than by any other means. Car accidents. Diving mishaps. Bicycle crashes. But to us, this news was disturbing beyond belief, perhaps because we'd gotten to know Hendri though his writing on his Great White Explorer blog. The guy was an incredible writer and an extraordinary person. And partly because we felt guilty.

Hendri was taken. Chris lived, and we were grateful he did. Nearly three months later, we're still in wonder and so incredibly thankful that our son is alive and has moved on to his next adventure. Because what else could he do?

Hendri, rest in peace. Please accept the profound regrets of your companion's mother, and I know I speak for his father as well. We're grateful that Chris knew you, and know he loved you and will never forget. He takes many lessons from you. And so do we.

And so we moved on, as parents of survivors can do. (Had Chris been the crocodile's meal, we would still be muddling in a corner.) The next few weeks were a wonder of sights and sensations taking our minds off the tragedy. Two things stand out. One was our stay at a B and B called the Erupciones Inn at the base of the Arenal Volcano. The other was a lesson in letting go with good friends Catherine and Michael Wood, our Southern Oregon pals who live several months a year near Mal Pais on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula.
The story: This Costa Rican dad raises Arabians. His wife runs the Erupciones Inn, a bed and breakfast at the base of Arenal Volcano. I took this photo (and more) from the patio of our modest accommodation. The little guy is two years old, and on his first "round-up-the-horses" mission with his father. Seeing this strong yet gentle parenting was somehow comforting to us, fortunate to be the parents of two incredible young men. 
The story:Here's Catherine Wood napping in her hammock on a lazy Costa Rican afternoon.  In her non Costa Rican life, she's a whirlwind. She works tirelessly for the non profit she founded, Bright Futures Foundation. But CR time is laid back. She reads. She refreshes. She and Michael play dominoes and entertain friends. They get plenty of hammock time. She's younger than me, and I have NEVER achieved the level of relaxation that she demonstrated.
There's no reason not to enjoy some down time, and so I am going to learn to do it!
Thank you, Woods, for the life lesson, and for being such good friends.
More photos from Costa Rica. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February's promise- signs of spring

The broccoli was a surprise after removing the remay cloth that's been protecting the winter plantings for several months. Then we have rosemary, oregano, and thyme to season frozen plain tomatoes for the marinara sauce,
and baby kale and chard for the salad.
Feb 1. I went for  my first bike ride in 2011. It was brilliant sunny, about 50 degrees, and endorphin-making. Last night, Feb. 2, we enjoyed our first mostly garden salad: baby chard, broccoli, and kale, devoured with a luscious eggplant Parmesan constructed from last season's harvest. This is reason enough to rejoice for living in Southern Oregon in the State of Jefferson. But tonight, Feb. 3, was a red sunset after a warm afternoon with day lilies and  peonies edging toward the sun. I was edging toward feeling uncommonly good. A few pics below.

Kale, broccoli, and cabbage plants liberated from remay
Let the 2011 growing season begin!

Volunteer chard in the cold frame.

Winter sun slanting into the living room.

The evening sky above the garden.
Reflection looking into the house.