I have been working on this digital post card since the night of the first fire. I am now no longer in Costa Rica but felt like I needed to finish what I started and tell a story of the surreal events of the weekend before I returned to the States.
This is dry season in Costa Rica. All the lush grass and vegetation turns to tinder. Unfortunately, this fire and the one that followed 48 hours later were not the result of dry grass, they were intentionally set. It was pitch dark and quiet on the southern slopes of our farm when we saw flames shooting high in the sky. Any other night we would never have seen the fire until it hit the rain forest, since the farmhouse sits back on the north side of the farm. We just happened to be having our beginning of Sabbath dinner out at the cabina on the farm with friends. So we were facing the southern slopes and saw the fires right after they were started. The first night there were three fires set some distance apart. High in the mountains out on the pastures there would be no way for water or other fire fighting equipment to be brought to our aid. My husband had run to the bodega to get tools like shovels and rakes to try to control the blaze. Samuel, a dear friend, grew up in these mountains, and knew exactly what to do...he ran to through the pasture, broke off a branch from a wild orange tree and began beating out the flames. The fires were out in pretty short order and we all returned to our dinner, very thankful to God for being able to control the direction of the fire and get it put out.
The next fire was also set after dark. We were at the farm house so we didn't see it. A neighbor told us our fields were on fire. Daniel and I grabbed our knee high rubber boots, shovels and rakes and jumped into the 4x4. The ride out to the south face felt like Mr. Toad's wild ride, as we bumped and jolted over the deeply cut tracks of the lane, the palm branches and ornamental ginger slapping at us through the open windows. We ran out into the waist high grass and began beating at the flames. This fire was much larger and closer to the elderly neighbors who lived at the bottom of our slopes near the river. We beat furiously at the edge of the fire closest to the tiny house. This left us with our backs turned to the body of the fire... Daniel beat the flames out with a rake and I went behind him covering the coals with dirt so they wouldn't start up again. The smoke was so thick that I couldn't breathe and I worried that the wind would shift and we would find ourselves surrounded by the fire. I was tiring and Daniel was concealed by the smoke and flames. I felt all alone. The rubber soles of my boots were melting and the heat was uncomfortable to the bottoms of my feet, but I knew, as did Daniel, that if we gave up and left the fire to itself, our neighbors would lose their home to the fire. Possibly it would continue across the dirt road to the Pueblo of Sabalito, where the rest of the families on this mountain have their homes. So we fought to gain control, sweating and choking, our eyes stingng and tearing with the smoke. Just when I thought I could go no further, I felt someone's hand on my arm and turned to see our friends from Sabalito. Two families had come to help us, others were standing ready at the road to keep the flames from spreading to Sabalito. My tears turned to sobs... I handed Samuel my shovel and stumbled out of thick of the smoke to get some air.
I don't know who started the fires or why...we have lived very peacefully and happily up here and as far as I know we have no one who would want to do us harm (it was probably done by those who have issues with the owner of the land we are leasing) . The reasons remain a mystery, but we were comforted by the fact that the people of Sabilto were there to help us and that they were very grateful that we did what we could to keep the fires from taking the Pueblo. I return to the US with the conviction in my heart that we belonged to the Pueblo, we weren't "gringos" that lived up on top of the mountain, we were part of an extended family that lived and worked and fellowshipped in simplicity and joy. The fires just annealed and tempered the relationships that we had already forged. My heart is heavy that I had to leave the place I now think of as home, and all the precious people who have been so dear to my heart... People who in some cases, can't read, don't know the first thing about sending or receiving mail, will never see this post, since the internet is not available to them. People who unless I return to the mountain, I will never see or hear from again.