We truly do live in a different country here in Costa Rica. I know – this sounds a bit obvious. But sometimes the place can seem just like another “state”. We can forget, when our focus is on the price of land, how to build a house, residency, how to open a bank account or any number of other tasks, the mundanity of which can cause one to forget – “hey, I’m doing stuff in a foreign land”.
I LOVE talking with the old-time Ticos (Costa Ricans) about earth matters. My buddy Chan has his gardener, Gilbert of many years. Gilbert knows everything about the earth. Trees, plants and heliconias in particular. If you are in doubt as to what a heliconia is, the Bird of Paradise is one of the best known of that particular family. It is one VERY exotic family of tropical flowers.
Gilbert has a small business of cultivating heliconias. When he has some new plants he can be seen at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in Uvita selling his varieties for something like $10.00 apiece.
I had the opportunity to walk in the jungle with Gilbert one time. What an experience! (By the way, Gilbert is in his sixties and I’ll bet he don’t read so good.) I am truly enamoured with the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. To have the opportunity to talk with, walk with, and in general, spend time with a man such as Gilbert out in the jungle, was for me a wonderful thing.
When you are in a different land, there aren’t just different versions of plant and animal names, there is an entire other language that pertains to trees and plants. A dictionary doesn’t help.
On this day, Gilbert detected that he had a listening ear and so off he went – describing all the trees and plants and insects of the jungle. He reaches out with his machete and taps the bark of a rather large tree while saying it’s name – well, what the earthy Ticos call it. Then, where he tapped it there comes a drip of blood red. He wanted to show me how the sap of this particular tree looked exactly like blood.
Another one oozed a milky substance. Gilbert lapped up the milky substance with his finger and licked it, relishing the apparent good taste, but I think that there was some sentimentality at play here. Gilbert told me that in the old days, when he and his buds would work in the jungle, they would bring or make coffee on break. They didn’t have to bring cream, thanks to this tree.
We have just passed through a very hot dry season here in Uvita – well, Costa Rica in general. What is it being called now? Global warming? Climate change? I’m sure there is a politically correct expression for what the weather is doing – everywhere. (I find it interesting the we humans can’t agree on what the weather is doing.)
Interesting how here in Costa Rica the warmer weather has resulted in more rain. I was talking with my neighbor the other day. He is of the same ilk as Gilbert. He said this is the first actual “summer” we’ve had in 5 years. My memory says that this is very close to correct. All of us “foreigners” living here in Costa Rica have been complaining up a storm about the heat.
Well, it all changed a few days ago. There is a palpable feeling of “AHHHHHHH!” amongst everyone. The skies cloud up, and it rains, lightly for the moment, and the ground drinks it up, and the air is cooler – ahhhhhhh!
I don’t really understand why the “dry season” is the “on” season from Costa Rica. For most of the expats living here (is that redundant?), the rainy season is the better time to be here. I wonder if it is going to end up being like my experience in Aspen Colorado. When I moved there in ’79, there was only one season: the ski season. Then, little by little, the world discovered the amazing summer season in Aspen and I think that the summer went on to either equal, or surpass, the winter.
I am seeing word start to seep out that rainy season here in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone, is really quite delightful, and in some cases, is to be preferred over dry season.
Returning to plants and earthy Ticos.
My Abuelo (adopted grandfather) in San Isidro was truly made up of Earth. He knew it like the back of his hand. He is in his 80’s now and is unable to work. I think that this will eventually get the best of him. He said that the earth needs to get warm and that when it unseasonably rains during dry season, it messes things up because the earth cools down.
Interesting perspective. I think more about the water falling from the sky and he is thinking about the temperature of the ground. In time, it turns out, I find out that the jungle flora benefits from stress. That the trees and heliconias and fruits are all much more productive when they have been given a good stress by dry season, the stress of being dry and warm.
Stress is a good thing? Well, it appears that when it comes to plants, perhaps so. One very knowledgeable long time expat tells me that if you have an orange tree, or a avocado tree, or some fruit tree, and it is not bearing fruit, to give it some good whacks with a baseball bat. It will then start to produce fruit.
So, we have weathered the first true “summer” in 5 years. We are now heading into one of me favorite times of the year, when our world tuns back to its verdant, saturated green, the streams and waterfalls all get fuller, and the temperature is… well… perfect, 24 hours a day, in typical Costa Rica fashion.