Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Laundry with a View...

Dear Friends,

  This is our fourth day in Costa Rica and things have been very busy. We have been buying groceries, getting our transportation arranged, and making preparations for the arrival on Saturday, of a hiking group we are hosting for a week. There really hasn't been much time to absorb where we are, but this morning I had a real "Costa Rica" moment. I was hanging out some laundry to dry. A fine mist was being blown up from the trees below the house by a strong wind. The sun was shining, but the temperature was slightly chilly if you weren't standing in the sun. The mist wet my face and arms as I hung out the clothes. I was muttering to myself that the clothes would probably never dry if the forest insisted on breathing out mist all day. I looked up from the line and saw a sight that reminded me of why I love this place so much... there in front of me, stretching from horizon to horizon was a rainbow.

  This is "rainbow season". The heavy downpours of the rainy reason are past, the sun is out and the thick mist expired by the rain forest hangs in the air against a blue sky dotted with clouds, it is the perfect recipe for a rainbow! I dropped the clothes pins I was holding and ran for my camera. It is a good thing I did since seconds after I took this photo the winds blew the mist away towards the lake taking the rainbow with it.
  After breakfast, we went with friends to Liberia, a small city 1 1/2 hours from where we are staying. We needed supplies that we can't get in locally so we all piled into the car and made our way down the mountain. The road from Tilaran to Canas, (a town at the foot of the mountain), is steep and serpentine. It affords a lovely view of Volcan Tenorio and Volcan Miravalles off to the west. Huge boulders of volcanic rock lay nestled in the deep grass on the mountain side that faces Tenorio... a stark contrast of black rock against the verdant green grass is a reminder that the now sleeping volcano, was not always so quiet.
 Once down the mountain we made our way through the busy, narrow streets of Canas and pulled onto the Pan American Highway, which stretches from Alaska to the southern tip of South America, (according to Guinness Book of World records the Pan American Highway is the worlds longest motorable highway). The temperatures are hot and the air is dry on the flat lands due to the aggressive deforestation of this part of Costa Rica in the past. Now laws have been passed in Costa Rica to prevent further damage to the rainforests, but here the landscape has been forever altered. Even in it's altered state the landscape is a sight to see. Pasture lands stretch from the highway to the base of the mountains to the north. Mango groves and commercial teak wood forests lay to the south. Horses and Brahma cattle graze unfettered along the highway, bicycles and pedestrians appear at intervals along the way, indicating a small pueblo resides behind a curtain of tropical foliage along the road. It is a straight shot from Canas to Liberia and the time and miles click by quickly.
The veranda at sunset.
  We stopped at Pippo's Italian Restaurant Supply near the Liberia International Airport to purchase good imported cheddar cheese, polenta, wine and amaretti cookies. The locally made "Tico cheese", (uncultured milk curds pressed into cakes and then cut into slices), is inedible in my opinion. I must pack lunches for 13 people that can sit in the vehicle at ambient temperatures for hours while we are out hiking to volcanos and waterfalls, so I swallow deep and pay $35 for a kilo of cheddar cheese...Yikes! After a few other stops for supplies we went to an open air restaurant for lunch and a cafe con leche made with rich mellow Costa Rican coffee, then we headed for home.  The sun was low in the sky when we returned home, but I got back in time get a photo or two of the sunset to share with you. Day is done, the deep dark of the rainforest has overtaken the veranda, the wind whistles across the top of my wine glass as I bring this missive to a close. I miss you all and hope that this finds you well. Until next we meet, Pura Vida

Monday, November 28, 2011

Apartel Christina

Good Morning!
  We are staying at the Apartel Cristina, a hotel that is owned by the family of one of our friends down here. It is located right up the street from Parque Sabana, ( San Jose's Central Park). We don't usually stay in the city. Normally we hit the ground and make a bee line for the mountains, but since our friend is expecting to deliver her baby any day now, she is staying in the city near the hospital. We wanted to see her before the baby came so we made an overnight to have a visit.
  It is a lovely hotel, full of angles and nooks, contemporary, but not chrome and glass. Tropical plants soften the edges of the stucco walls and the crisp blue sky makes a perfect backdrop for Cristina's profile. We had breakfast out near the pool and enjoyed the early morning's cool breezes. It was a nice way to start our day.
  Later, one of our Tico friends, Rachin, will come to pick us up and take us toTilaran. He will be accompanied by his wife Vanessa,  his three daughters, (ages 7,5, and 4) and his 2 year old son. The ride back to Tilaran will be like riding with a bus load of gregarious Howler Monkeys for 4 hours.We love this family and will try to remember that while we careen up and down the mountainous curvy roads with all the little angels chattering away at top speed in Spanish.... it will be a fun but lo-ong trip home... 
  It is time to repack the totes and talk to the cell phone company about renting a cell for for our stay. It costs about $1.20 a day plus 6 cents a minute to rent the phone. Which I think is pretty reasonable! It is important to be able to stay in contact with home base, (friends in Tilaran), while traveling, in case car trouble or other issues arise. We will be in some pretty remote locations, but 3G phones work everywhere in Costa Rica, so even when we are deep in the rain forest we can stay in contact.  Until next time I will leave you with a few quick shots of  Apartel Christina, and a promise of many more photos and stories as we go along!

Tropical plants are nestled in every available niche.

A view from the walkway to our room.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We´re Here!

Hi, Just a quck note to tell you that we made it to Costa Rica safely. We are staying in a hotel in San Jose so that we can visit a friend who is having a baby any time now. Tomorrow we will head to Tilaran in the mountains region of Guanacaste. The Tilaran area is our home away from home and will be our base of operations. It is nice to be in the fresh moist air again... I have really missed it! I hope this finds you all well and having a good mail day. Until tomorrow, Pura Vida!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that this finds you all well and for those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it was a day filled with the joy of family, friends and feasting! We kept it very simple this year...our youngest son met us at the Hibachi Grille for lunch, then we all went on to see The Muppets at the theater. No muss no fuss! Well the muss and the fuss were actually waiting for us when we returned home... we spent the evening packing for our trip to Costa Rica. I think most everything is packed; we will just need to add a few things the morning we are leaving. Tomorrow is another busy day, there are so many things still to do and Sunday is right around the corner. I will post at least once more before we leave on Sunday, but for now I bid you a good night. Sweet dreams!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I am Having a Problem...

As I have checked my blog reader feed today I have been bombarded with spam in the reader feed. I check it and there are 10 different entries for things for sale, fashion jewelry, tennis shoes, etc. when I start searching where they are coming from and return to the feed to try and eliminate them they are not there anymore. The blog they originate from isn't even on my blog list, so I can't unfollow. I have checked Help for a solution, but Blogger "help" really isn't very helpful. Is anyone else having this problem?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

  When I started this blog in the spring of 2010, I did so to connect with others who like me, love letters and mail art. I was in Costa Rica, living on a farm with the rain forest at my back door. I spent the majority of daylight hours working on the farm or preparing meals for my hard working family. But the evening hours were very quiet...the darkness of the rain forest was as palpable as it's vibrancy was during the day. It seemed to absorb light and sound. In the thick dark it is easy to feel a little isolated and lonely.
  I would have written letters and participated in mail art calls and other postal activities to alleviate the feelings of isolation, but I was living in a place where the postal system was practically non-existent. My physical address was: 600 meters north of the Plaza, Sabalito Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The Plaza as it is called there, is the soccer field...  Actually our house was 600 meters from the soccer field, up a dirt road that wended it's way to the top of the mountain, the road terminated at the gate to our farm, but how on earth anyone would know it was 600 meters north from the plaza up the mountain, I'll never know. It seems to me that the mountain top farm near the rain forest in Sabalito, might have been a better description... But it really didn't matter anyway since we had no mailbox, or mail delivery for that matter.
  But I digress... I used the Internet to connect with other like minded people and created digital postcards and posted them to this blog.
I made this digital postcard shortly after I started the blog.
The toucan in the photo is a resident on the farm where we lived.
The postage is of course an artistamp but on digital/virtual
mail it is legal to use artistamps as postage!

I wrote about letter writing and mused about other letter writers of the past, I wrote letters and posted them to my blog for anyone who came to visit to read. It helped me to stay connected and eased the pain of our sudden need to return to the states. I am really glad that I had this blog and my blog friends to keep me company.
  The 27th of November my husband and I will be leaving for a 6 week stay in Costa Rica. We will be staying with friends part of time. My husband's hiking group is traveling down to do a week of hiking and sight seeing and then we will spend the remaining time resting and traveling around Cost Rica. I will attempt to send some mail to the states while we are down there, but for the most part I think I will be writing virtual letters and making digital postcards. I will not have connectivity all the time but there are Internet cafes and I do have friends with Internet so I should be able to send "letters" fairly regularly. I will miss hearing from all my pen friends and blog friends while we are gone and would love it if you would post a comment on the blog occasionally or send me an e-mail to let me know how things are going. My e-mail is:  I will be checking my blog and e-mail often so that I can have virtual "good mail days"!

Pretty Paper Source stationery and specialty papers.
I love the plum blossoms!
  But for today I will show you some goodies I found at a stationery store in Charlotte. Due to my postal budget and my desire to mail out to as many people as I can, I usually  chose to spend my postal allowance on postage rather than on "boxed" stationery. Not that I don't adore all the beautiful stationery I see in the stores, but I try and squeeze as much mileage as I can from my allotted funds, so I usually pass on store bought stationery and make my own. I made an exception the other day since we are leaving shortly and I want to post as many letters as I can before we go. The stationery store I went to had a large selection of solid colored note cards and envelopes, as well as an amazing array of handmade and specialty papers. The specialty papers were hanging on dowels to display them and were sold in 24x36 inch sheets. I was in love... I spent hours trying to decide what papers I wanted. It was better than dessert! I decided on some teal envelopes and note cards and also some pink ones, then I chose some specialty papers that could be used with both envelope colors. The cash register total made my head spin, but I rationalized that I was going to be spending less on postage in the near future, clutched my new purchases greedily and left the store. I assuaged my guilty conscience and reasserted my postal spending controls by going to Goodwill and finding some album covers that I will turn into post cards... I can get 14 post cards from the 3 album covers I found for 49cents each. That comes to a little more than 10 cents per post card! There! Now I feel better... I am not sure that there is any logic in buying more stuff to feel better about spending more than I should have to start with... but it somehow it sounded good in my head so I'm happy! I am babbling aren't I.... sorry.
  I will leave you with a glimpse of my outgoing mail pile and get back to work using up my recent purchases and getting letters off in the mail to all my dear pen friends!

An album cover postcard and a couple of envies decorated
with my hand carved rubber cuts. The walking stick figures
are actually drawn by a different artist... my youngest son, when
he was 4 years old. I transferred it to the rubber carving material
and carved it to add some cheer to my mail art and  to remind me 
to keep things simple!

I used my new purchases to make some of these letters.

A promise too long overdue. I said I would
send out a post card with sand from one of my trips, to those who
wanted one and left me a comment. It took me a long time to figure out
how I wanted to send the sand. The sand on the back of this
postcard comes from a beach in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  

I ended up putting the sand in a Dayquil capsule pack. I hope
 it still contains sand when it reaches its destination... We shall see!

                                                            See you in the mail!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Staring at an Empty Page

  Well the chaos at my house is beginning to settle down as my husband and son finish up the post election clean-up. It was a pretty wild ride for a couple of months for both my husband and son since they have been totally consumed with getting their customers ready for the November general elections. It has meant many long days away from home and hearth for them and many long days of being alone for me...  You would think that I would be glad for the time alone to play at my art table, but I found myself feeling empty and a little lost. I have always been the creative/artistic sort, but I have discovered that my creativity is catalyzed by the joy I find in the company of those I love. I am able to take the energy that I feel from the company of my family and translate that into art, letters, landscaping, cooking, whatever I turn my hand to. But when the house is empty and everyone is busy with their own lives, I am left to run on my own energy.  In solitude I find that I have very little spark and much less fuel for generating creativity. I used to joke that I run on solar power since I love being outside, and rainy days used to make me feel thick and sluggish, (that is until I lived in Costa Rica where we received 200 inches of rain a year.  I overcame my issues with rain in self defense!), but now I see that I am really family powered....
 Since early in my marriage I have been a stay at home mom. I separated from the Air Force right before our first child was born in 1982 and I have been at home ever since. I very much enjoyed my time with the kids when they were small. I "ran" on the constant inspiration that I received from seeing the world through their eyes. Later, when our first born was school age, I took on the role of homeschool mom.

The boys rebuild an engine
 as part of science class.

We delved into the sciences and history, math, reading and language with joy and anticipation of what would be discovered in our quest for knowledge. I was inspired by exposing young minds to their potential and found many creative ways to open doors of understanding for them. In return my creative well was filled by seeing the lights come on in my children's minds.

My youngest son was interested in animal husbandry so as part of his high school exit project he managed a herd of Alpine and Nubian dairy goats. He designed and built the milking stand. We built the barn as a family project.

A fountain and shade garden one of
my sons made as a school project

   Of course much of my personal creative time was consumed with raising and educating my kids and providing a home environment that nurtured our whole family. But my creative mind was alive and well and I found ways to vent my creative energy that didn't take time or attention away from my family. Sometimes though, I would long for time of my own. Occasionally while folding laundry or processing produce from the garden, I would entertain myself with thoughts of what I would do with my time when more of it belonged to me. Be careful what you wish for...
   Aside from the craziness of "Election Season", I am now facing life as an "Empty-nester". My youngest son recently moved out on his own which left a void in my daily life and routine. For the the first time since 1982 I don't have the company of one of my kids at home. I have no reason to rise at any particular time, no lunches to pack, no big meal to fix to fill the stomachs of my growing boys (and often their friends as well...). I have little demand on my time or attention during the day, (except for an occasional nudge from the dog for some private time outside or a tummy rub). I anticipated that this would be a golden time of life for me, a time to grow creatively and take advantage of all the freedom I have. Much to my surprise the reverse has been true. I must say I really didn't see this coming. But right now I feel a might bewildered, I am trying to figure where to go from here. I guess I am experiencing a " creative block" of sorts,  I am staring at the empty page of my new life and I don't know what to do with it. Coming to grips with the fact that life as I have known it is now over, is probably a good first step. I know that time will erode my sense of being cut adrift, and that I will come to accept and embrace this new juncture in my life. I will find new purpose and a new muse will emerge, it will just take time.  
  I don't mean to complain or to sound ungrateful. There are a many things I find comfort in and that I am very grateful for : I have a great husband who loves me. He is very patient with me and my sometimes maddening neurosis. I have two sons who have grown to become men I can be very proud of, who love me and still take time to let me be "mom", and I have a whole family of people who I correspond with, who share their lives and stories with me and make me feel like I belong to a larger world. The letters, cards and art I receive from my penfriends have done much to lift my heart. The care and concern these people have shown me has helped me to realize that the life ahead will be much like the life behind, full of the inspiration and joy that flows from loving and being loved.  
  What are your muses? What do you use to spark your creativity? Drop me a line or post a comment, I would love to hear about the things that inspire you...

Now on to some of my most recent incoming mail....

Hester sent me these wonderful windows into Boston in the fall! What a lovely surprise to find this in my mailbox. She has packaged the fall leaves in security envelopes with a window, only the whole business is turned inside out. What an original and nifty idea! Thanks Hester!

One more thought before I close for today. I am leaving at the end of the month for 6 weeks in Costa Rica. I will be writing letters while I am down there, but the postal system is slow and undependable so I can't be sure what I mail will even reach people...  Also I won't be home to check my mail so if a letter comes to my POB after I have gone, it will be sitting for six weeks "on hold" at the post office waiting for me to return home. As much as I hate to say it,  probably the best thing to do at this point is to wait to write me until I return to the States on January 9, 2012. I will be trying to answer any mail I receive between now and the 27th of November when we leave for C.R., but if a letter comes after I leave it will be January before I can answer it. If your letter misses me and is stuck in the post office for a month, I apologize. I will be sure to get a letter back to you as soon as I get home!
  I will continue writing on my blog while I am in Costa Rica. I will not always have connectivity, but I can compose my blog entries on my computer and then when we are able to get to an internet cafe or otherwise have access to the internet, I can post what I have written. I am hoping that during my time outside the USA, those who write to me regularly will for a short time, contact me by an occasional comment at Art of a Letter or by e-mailing me to let me know how things are going. I will be glad to hear from you all!
                             Until next time, I'll see you in the mail!