Monday, June 7, 2010

A Note About Being...

Dear Friends,
    In the days since my return to the States I have been asked many times "what did you "do" in Costa Rica?" In order to have a response to that question, I have tried to fix in my mind what we actually "did" in Costa Rica.  We moved to Costa Rica to work a 40 acre farm, to spend some time as a family after my husband had a rude awakening to a serious brain issue, and to enjoy the lovely sights and high elevation freshness of the rainforest.We did all of that. We worked very hard every workday out on the farm. We spent lots of really quality time together as a family, and it was hard to miss the was everywhere. But that isn't really what we "did" there.

Yesterday, as my husband and I were chatting on this subject we enumerated our many adventures, talked about the highs and lows, but I really didn't come to an answer until a few minutes ago as I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast. As I contemplated our life here in the states and remembered what life was like on our mountain in Costa Rica, I realized it wasn't that what we were doing there was so different, but how we did it was very different....

Life on the mountaintop started before daybreak, much like our life here does. We were out on the farm early to have the heavy work done before the sun got very high in the sky. I would cut up fresh fruit for everyone to eat and then we would head out, care for the animals, water the seedlings, tend to other barn yard tasks, then Daniel and Erin would suit up and head out to cut the pastures or strip sod for new garden beds.  I would walk back up the lane to the house to start breakfast. Gallo Pinto (a Costa Rican dish of rice black beans and a special sauce), eggs, toast or home made bagels, fruit, tea and of course, good fresh ground Costa Rican coffee.

The guys would come in at 8:30 or 9:00 and we would eat and chat and linger over hot beverages, while looking out the north facing windows. The view out that way was verdant pastures dotted with cattle and beyond that the misty cloud covered rain forest. There was no hurry to get back outside, since it most certainly would pour rain for an hour or so at this time of day. So we would get the scriptures out and read and discuss what we read, then my son would play his guitar, my husband would work on his newest blog entry and  I would sit with a second cup of coffee and look out the window and marvel at the beauty beyond the glass. When the rain stopped everyone would boot up again and return to the farm. Thus life went, we worked and played, in an ebb and flow dictated by the rainforest. We sat in the evenings playing cards or backgammon by a 5 watt light bulb, or stood out in the darkest dark you can imagine and viewed the sweeping arm of the Milky Way in 3-D. Instead of falling into bed stressed out at the end of a work day as we did in the States, we would lay in the dark and listen to the Tilawa winds as they ruffle the window curtains (and the bed sheets if you didn't hold on to them...) and drift into peaceful slumber. We never set an alarm, there was no need, the rooster (wretched beast) and the parrots and toucans would make sure we were up. If it was raining while we were working, that was okay, we were sure to get wet sometime today... There was no reason to hurry, there was nowhere to go, and what we didn't finish today would still be there tomorrow.

 So much of our life Stateside was spent "doing" stuff... running errands, checking off things on our to do lists, working on our homestead, going from one thing to another hour after hour, day after day. At the end of each day we would all drop our exhausted bodies into bed to get a few hours of sleep before it all started over again. There was no time for lingering over coffee, no daytime hours available for guitar music or blog entries. Life was spend "doing".... It was during breakfast this morning when I decided to have a second cup of coffee that the answer came to me. As I enjoyed watching the blue birds fly in and out of their nest on the trellis outside the dining room window, it occurred to me that we weren't "doing" anything on our mountian in Costa Rica, we were in a constant state of "being". In Costa Rica this is called "Tranquilo".

So, with this revelation I am going to strive to "be" more and "do" less. I hope that I can hold on to the lessons learned in the rhythms of a simple life lived on top of a mountian in view of a very large volcano, and apply them to each day lived out in a small cottage homestead in the piedmont of North Carolina.
                                              Until next time, I'll see you in the mail!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

To write or not to write...

The house is full of unpacked boxes, we are sitting in camp chairs and limping along with three forks and a spatula as cooking /eating impliments. I have no idea where the rest of the cooking utensils are. This state of flux should be pretty normal to me, I grew up an army brat. I have lived my whole life out of boxes, why should now be any different?

 The real problem isn't living out of boxes, it is having so much of life out of sorts. The house has to be painted before we can place furniture in the rooms, the plumbing must be repaired before the lake under the house will dry out, and I just can't imagine how we are going to "fix' our newest problem... My lovely Shiro plum tree, full to the tips of its braches with ripening plums, has fallen over. I believe that the broken pipe that has been pouring water under the house for who knows how long, has saturated the ground around the tree and the weight of the fruit caused the tree to pull up from the roots and fall over. I am inconsolable...we planted that 18 years ago as a whip (a three foot terminal seedling) and since then it has been the joy of the garden from early spring blossom to the lush and juicy yellow fruits that come ripe in June. What a loss.

But all of this is not what I really wanted to talk about. I think that I would feel much better if I could just write some letters and make some postcards to send out. The problem is that other things take priority, cleaning and painting, getting the weeds out of our garden beds and reclaiming the blackberry and blueberry patches as well as starting seedlings to go in the garden beds. All these things are worthy of my full attention and I am happy to have my good ground to dig into, but I yearn to sit with paper and pen, paints and glue sticks and make a grand sticky mess.I think about writing letters and then I am stopped by the fact that I have nothing to write on except the backs of grocery receipts or the occasional brown paper wine bag. I know it is silly to be embarrassed to send letters on such humble stationery, but it has caused me to feel reluctant to write or send out mailart with so few resources to work with. Will people look at my missives with a jaded eye because I am writing on recycled materials with a boring bic pen? So the question remains, to write or not to write... The answer to that question probably lies with whether or not I can find that boring Bic pen....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Internet, Finally!

Well, I left Costa Rica more than a month ago...we have been living "pillar to post" for more than three weeks. Last Monday we were able to move into our house, and this afternoon we finally got the Internet. It feels good to be able to curl up on the bed and read my favorite blogs and e-mail. I have really felt out of touch. I have had some access when I can go and sit at our local Chick-fil-a and use their wireless, but with all the tasks involved with getting settled back in the States, there hasn't been much time for that.

Now if I can only find my art supplies and writing stuff, I will be able to start sending some mailart and postcards to those who have been following my blog. I have hopes of unearthing my stuff from the pile of boxes in the next day or so. If you are reading this blog and would like to get something in your mailbox from me, please leave me an e-mail at I will look forward to hearing from you!

Letters of Love to Costa Rica

Being without consistent access to the internet during my move back to the States has made me feel disconnected from all my friends and loved ones back in Costa Rica. It was a little strange that we had internet at all where we lived on top of our mountain over looking Volcan Arenal and the lake. I always kind of chuckled to my friends and family that I was sitting amidst the sloths, monkeys, and toucans tapping out "love letters" to my dear ones in the States. It is quite a juxtaposition when you think about it... we had line of sight microwave internet that was very expensive, but worth its weight in gold in the rain forest and no internet access in a place over run with technology...go figure.

I am sitting in the air conditioned Chick-fil-a dining room with piped in music and smiling "helpful" Chick-fil-a employees offering to "refresh my beverage" for the umpteenth time...(gotta love them, they really try to please). But in my mind's eye I am sitting on the front veranda of the cabina with my laptop balanced on my knees in the open air, with the strong Tilawa breeze blowing my hair into knots, the sound of hundreds of birds singing in the rainforest. While holding on to that image, I am trying to compose letters of love and gratefulness to those I left behind on the mountain top. I just don't have the words to speak what is in my heart. Everything is muddy, I feel distracted and sad. Really, I can't write to them anyway, since there is no postal delivery to speak of in the pueblo and no one has internet. But it is my desire to send out into the "ether", my thoughts and hopes for them so that at least I have voiced my heart.

   Thank you for being a pillar of strength to your family, the pueblo and each of us in the Binford household. You're courage to face each day and find new ways to provide for your family in a severely depressed economy, enduring the pain of injuries left untended for too many years, has helped me to see my own struggles with a different perspective. The memory of your integrity, staunch devotion and loyalty are a benchmark that I use daily.
   I am so grateful for the quiet, unassuming council you were to our son and for being the best friend and hiking partner that my husband has ever had. Their time in Costa Rica was the joyful and enriching time that it was, largely because of you. I can't thank you enough.

    I smile every time I think of you. Your optomism and humor made my days bright and when I felt low I knew that there was always a kiss on the cheek and a hug waiting for me. Your family is so blessed to have you there to lighten their hearts and carry their burdens on your strong shoulders and I am so blessed that you called me your friend.

    I have tried again and again to put into words what you mean to me... to call you a friend would fall short, to call you a daughter wouldn't hit the mark either. You came into my life as someone to help me around the house and our relationship grew into a precious gem that I hold close to my heart. Hours of sharing thoughts and stories, aided heavily by the Spanish to English/Einglish to Spanish dictionary and a healthy dose of laughter, are some of my favorite memories from our life on the mountain. I think about you daily and miss your sweet smile. When I think of all the people in Costa Rica I hold dear, you are the one it pains me most to live life without. I pray for God to multiply and send back to you, all the kindness and love that you have showered on others. I also hope that someday, we will be able to laugh and share our days together again.

I know that none of these words will reach the people they are meant for, but in speaking them "out loud", I hope the essence of my thoughts may somehow reach them and that the blessing I ask for them will be from my mouth to God's ears.