Though I of course have a million stories about Costa Rica, I will wrap up this series with these three, which helped me to see even more of the beauty and totally fall in love with the people of Costa Rica.
The yellow bird
We ventured into the sweet nearby town, which consisted of two grocery stores and two bakeries – gotta wonder about that business model, but it seems to work for them.
We checked out one of the grocery stores.
After buying some treats, we headed back to our inn.
On the dirt road, we passed occasional hostels and small homes but didn’t see many people at all. At one point, the road split and my husband veered to one side while our son and I (our other son opted out of the walk) veered to the other.
Suddenly, a grandmotherly woman appeared on our left, pointing ahead of us and speaking in very fast, stage-whispered Spanish. I understood only that she wanted us to stop and be quiet. Once we did, she continued to share more information in an urgent tone.
“No habla Espanol,” I told her. Obviously, since that is the wrong conjugation, meaning “You don’t speak Spanish.”
She looked at me kindly, slowed her speech and used Spanish words that I was able to understand. She was trying to show us a beautiful yellow bird, giving us directions on where to look.
My son saw it first; it took me a little longer. But she patiently pointed and slowly described until I finally could see it too. As we watched the bird together, she exhaled deeply and smiled to herself in that deep contented way, clearly happy with it all – to her, sharing the beauty seemed to be as important as seeing the bird itself.
The blue-jeans frog
Gliding down the river in our raft, our guide suddenly looked up.
“Shhh,” he said urgently, and then steered the raft to the side of the river. He jumped out and ran barefoot into the brush, looking around for something.
He was gone long enough that we stopped being quiet and started talking in whispers.
Then he ran back to the boat with his prize.
“I knew I heard it!” he exclaimed. “This is the blue-jeans frog.”
He held out a tiny frog for us to behold. Our son (who may watch way too much Discovery Channel but honestly knows so much about these things) knew that it was poisonous, but it was also beautiful.
When we finished marveling at the frog, our guide ran off with it, returning it to its original hiding place. How humane.
I could not believe that he could identify the sound AND find that tiny thing in all the brambles. Not to mention that he did it all barefoot, all so we could enjoy it too.
Our adventures included guided hikes, ziplines, Tarzan ropes, and rappelling. We walked over hanging bridges and paddled on a river raft ride. In each case, the guide would point out the wildlife and describe where we could see it. I often had trouble seeing wildlife when they were still, but it would catch my eye when it moved. For example, the shaking trees indicated where monkeys were swinging. Birds take flight in their bright colors. Lizards look like a branch then suddenly stand out when they run.
The sloth is an essentially sedentary animal who primarily lives in the trees. During the day, the two-toed sloth sleeps and the three-toed sloth moves slowly if at all. Even when the guide had his telescope fixed on one, I could not distinguish it from a termite nest. After trying a few times on a few different tours, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort of craning my neck or hogging time at the telescope.
On the last day of our trip, we took a river raft tour. Our guide pointed out a variety of lizards and birds, called to howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys and even spotted a coati / anteater, all of which I was thrilled to see.
But when he pointed to the sloth in a tree above us, I looked up politely, not even trying to find it.
He glanced at me and said, “You don’t see it, do you?”
“I don’t, but that’s okay. I always have trouble seeing sloths.”
We were next to the shore, so he reached out of the raft and grabbed some tree roots to turn the boat so I could look from a different angle. I still couldn’t see it. He moved us all a little downriver in case that helped. He pointed to the tree trunk and had me visually follow branches to find it. He described the location of each body part of the sloth so that maybe I could see it that way.
Each time, I looked but it didn’t stand out. I kept telling him that it was fine if I couldn’t make it out. I thought to myself that I wouldn’t see it unless it made a big move (highly unlikely) and that I don’t really care if I see a sloth.
But the guide didn’t give up and suddenly, I saw it! The sloth, clear as day, was eating and moving slowly along the branch. Though I didn’t think I cared, it was kind of cool to see it. I thought that the guide would be relieved, but he was only happy that I could share in the joy.
In each of these cases, I appreciated that someone could see something that I could not. I loved that their pace of life allowed them to observe and relish the beauty.
I especially appreciated that someone took the time to patiently help me to see something special, something they saw but I could not, to differentiate it from the surroundings, to help me to see what was hiding in plain sight.
And once I saw, I could not un-see. What a gift.
Sometimes my life is like the rainforest. It feels beautiful all around, with hints of danger, looking slightly different as I move through it.
But then, there is more that I don’t see, that exists among the growth and the brambles.
Thank you for taking the time to help me to see the things that are so clear to you but perhaps not so clear to me, to differentiate the special from its surroundings, to see what is often right in front of me. Your sharing what you see expands my world, whether I am stuck inside my home or traveling to some new place.
I love how we can help each other to see from different angles, especially when we go at a pace that allows us to share and to listen.
I hope you feel content and happy with the beauty that you take the time to share. It generates good in the world, makes all our lives richer, and helps to make sure that we don’t walk right by the beauty in our days.