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Me and the moon August 13, 2017

Posted by stinawp in Uncategorized.
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It feels like my Saturday began and ended with the moon. Really, it began with howler monkeys and ended with my mom’s cat, but the moon still bookended my trip home. After a completely unnecessary 4 AM howler monkey wake-up call, I decided I might as well do something I’ve always wanted to do: hike up to La Roca to watch the sun rise. When I started off at 4:50, the three-quarter moon was still bright in the sky, which meant that I could do almost the whole walk without my headlamp.

Once I got up on the ridge leading to the overlook, I could see the first glimmer of sunrise,

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but it took until I reached the base of the rock for me to see leaves as green, rather than the odd blueish gray you know must be green because the only things that color are the plants. I think this means I saw my vision transition from rod to cones cells between one moment and the next, but I’m hardly an expert.

On the rock, sunrise was glorious:

The light and rising mist quickly hid the setting moon, and I didn’t see it again until 11:30 that night, when it was rising, huge and yellow, over the airport in St. Louis.

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A menagerie of monsters August 12, 2017

Posted by newsthatstaysnews in Uncategorized.
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IMG_20170701_140950One of the things everyone loves about old maps is the monsters they filled into the undiscovered corners.  One of mine is that I’m not a very good guest correspondent.  It turns out I’m quite bad at sitting down to write down my memories.

I think it’s not surprising that the world outside was beautiful.  For a layman, the variety of crazy caterpillars.  The howler monkeys walking across three trees just to smack someone upside the head before falling asleep (I would do that if I were a howler monkey, I’m afraid).  Nor the feel of the human company.  All wonderful, open people, but a sort of agatha christie setting, in which there’s nowhere to go and no one to come visit, and so the same people just are themselves in scene after unaccompanied scene.

But, I think everyone’s favorite part of travelling is the unexpected.  Like this guy, who won’t move for thirty minutes (as I expect of an iguana), and then launches himself off the dock, flying off into the marshland to eat every hyacinth in sight.  And then, nap again.

But another wonderful part of traveling, at least as a young man, is just having to let go.  Take this guy: pretty cute, but then his owner caught my eye, and said “hey kid, what are you doing?”  And when I told him some humbug about going on a guided tour of Monteverde, he told me to drop absolutely everything and drive four hours north to climb an inactive volcano.

This is my language.  The form of my imagination.  Inquisitive dogs, importunate strangers, big lakes, volcanoes.  Total failure to foresee what the next day will bring.

So I drove off, of course.  Gave a ride to a passing hitchhiker, a butterfly-trinket salesman and an evangelical preacher.  We talked about the imported chinese butterflies (“costa ricans”, he informed me with devout charity, “are lazy, and never make anything”), and how he got along with Catholics (right idea, wrong execution).  I asked him how to make sense of the Hindu woman I live with, with her paintings of animal-headed gods.  He smiled, and explained to me that understood that “some of those hindu women are damned fine.”

“My middle aged landlady, thank you.”

He got quiet and, far from his stated destination, asked me to leave him by the side of the road.

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There were of course, also, the obligatory giants, their grey cloaks loose about their shoulders.

But, it seems somehow insincere to leave out a couple of more straightforward monsters.  A nighttime stroll in Monteverde showed these guys.  Somehow, I’d taken “plants are photosynthetic” and “leafcutter ants eat plants”, put two and two together, and decided the ants must cease their business in the dark.  Something captures my imagination about these guys, ceaselessly going about their business, while I grow weary and rest.

And so they bore off a smattering of my cares.  Sins of the world I can nor pardon, nor carry, nor lift.  Parochial concerns, and the kind of status transactions Keith Johnstone would love.IMG_20170705_202354

Of course, no wayfarer’s aide would be complete without its monsters.IMG_20170706_165437

But, the far reach of this journey was, as the poet said, to continue new adventures at home.IMG_20170711_195125

Almost there August 10, 2017

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It’s my second-to-last night here, and it feels like things are under control. **cross my fingers, knock on wood, and all the rest** But I have a sincere expectation that I’m not going to be up until midnight tomorrow night packing everything up. And a couple of days ago, I even had the time to hike all the way up the longest trail in the park and take in the view:

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The egg is in the nest! August 6, 2017

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A pair of tiger herons, possibly the same ones as last year, have again built a nest in the big tree right next to the lab. Despite the proximity, it’s hard to keep an eye on what’s happening, both because you can’t look down into the nest and because it’s usually backlit against the sky. But when I stood directly underneath the nest this afternoon, I could see an egg inside. (Think about that for a moment.) I can’t really say that tiger herons are crummy nest builders, because this works for them, but they seem to like brutalist architecture.

Or arrivals August 3, 2017

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Almost every prediction I made on Sunday turned out to be wrong, which is exceptional even for me. Right after the undergrads left on Monday, two women from Belgium arrived and stayed the night before moving on to another national park. Tuesday, a PhD student planning to study epiphytic bromeliads showed up to scout Palo Verde for potential research subjects. On the weather front, it’s gone back to being dry. The mud did get packed down, but the mosquitoes seem to have decided that the remaining water has become suitably stagnant and are out in force.

Equally unexpected were the two chicks that the female curassow brought by the comedor at breakfast on Tuesday…I didn’t even know that curassows had chicks at this time of year. I didn’t have my camera, and the chicks looked unremarkable—like brown goslings without the webbed feet and pointier beaks—but it was the most exciting animal sighting I’ve had this week.