Thursday, October 28, 2010

Costa Rica...¿Por dónde empezar

I left North America for the first time last October when Corey and I spent 9 days in Italy.  It was a watershed experience for me.  Much to my chagrin and the dissappointment of my sister in law, Maren,who kindly inquired diligently about my report, I still haven't written about that trip.   I have started to blog about it a dozen times, always unsuccessful, feeling as if I am desperately attempting to dislodge something stuck in my mind and way too large to fit into the funnel of my writing.   Traveling to a new country and culture was a spiritual jolt.  In general, I have found spiritual experiences difficult to verbalize and relate to others.    I can't properly express what the smells, the people, the architecture, and the landscape did to me.  It is one year later and we recently took the family down to Costa Rica.   This journey was no less life-altering and I desperately want  to interpret this experience; but again, I struggle.  Why?  

This little boy is why.  

I remember seeing him with his white school shirt tucked into his high water pants, hair neatly combed, ambling down the Central American Highway, which is basically a mass of rocks with a little dirt thrown in here and there.  He was, I assumed, on his way to the town school, nestled in proximity to the town church, and I doubt that he even regarded my presence in our generic tourist vehicle.   In the space of a few seconds,  our lives interconnected for the first and last time,  and I instantly felt love for him.

 Most of my photos of what inspired me most about Costa Rica were snapped with a shutter speed of rocky "roads", an ISO of timid embarrassment at at worrying that they might think I was trying to steal something sacred,  and an aperature of not wanting to have a camera in front of my face, limiting my field of vision.  Plus, my lens had some crappy gunk on it.   All of these factors resulted in out of focus photos akin to the one very dissapointing from what I really saw.  Similarly, the ideas that I try to write seem underwhelming,  grainy, noisy, and out of focus.

There is something about the way that people live outside of the U.S. that fascinates me.  I loved the adventures, but I was enthralled by watching the people.  It is in these brief, but abounding periods of time where I can completely lose the backbone of my culture that often inveterates my soul and leads me to stiffen my paradigm, allowing me to become elastic and bendable; to witness with pure veneration, another way of life.  In the wake of these moments of self-unwareness, all of my anxieties, worries, over-complicated and frenzied thoughts have about my own narrow-minded life are muted with a deafening, "Who CARES?  

I love the simplicity of living here.  The unadulterated act of a man walking with a clump of carrots in one hand and a chicken in the other, the  brightly skirted woman positioned at an odd hillside angle  thrusting a machete as unflappingly as if she was taking a cake out of the oven.  Kids in blue and white uniforms, sitting in small circles outside their blue doorless schoolhouses, thin books spread over their bent laps.  Helmetless motorcycle drivers  recklessly weaving between us and delivery trucks, a seeming declaration that it would be just fine and dandy if they died today.   A dilapidated box that at first glance appears to have been abandoned years ago, only at closer view, is the venue of a party, a  beaming birthday girl batting a pinata while her family cheers, filling the small space which is their home.   Scattered people kneeling reverently inside flamingo pink churches, backdropped by a massive volcano.

And the sight of well-worn clothing hanging outside to dry more than once brings me to tears.  Not because I wish these people could have the luxuries of dryers, the convenience of box stores, or the instant entertainment that Netflix provides.  On the contrary,  it is an emotional lurch of envy for those needing little more than a place to sit and a friend or two to talk with.   Pura Vida  (Pure Life)  is Costa Rica's mantra.  It is marketed on the soaps, the t-shirts, the hats, and is often interjected somewhere in conversation.  Not a bad thing to strive for or wish one another.  With all the gratitude I can muster for everything that I have in my life, I still cannot deny that I more than once considered melting ourselves into this place forever.

But alas, we returned late Sunday night.  Unpacking the next morning, I stuffed one of the shirts I wore our last day in Costa Rica practically up my nose.  It still smelled of earth, salt, and equator (yes, the equator has a smell.) 

I can always count on Terry Tempest Williams to more accurately summarize my thoughts:  
"Is this the curse of modernity, to live in a world without judgment, without perspective, no context for understanding or distinguishing what is real and what is imagined, what is manipulated and what is by chance beautiful, what is shadow and what is flesh?.....What is real to me is the power of our awareness when we are focused on something beyond ourselves. It is a shaft of light shining in a dark corner. Our ability to shift our perceptions and seek creative alternatives to the conondrums of modernity is in direct proportion to our empathy. Can we imagine, witness, and ultimately feel the suffering of another?" 
— Terry Tempest Williams (Finding Beauty in a Broken World)

Now that I got all of my emoting out of the way, the rest of my Costa Rica blog posts will be

Friday, October 8, 2010

If only this worked for me.

Ansel:  "Whenever I'm grumpy, I just reach up and tickle my armpits."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My kids are brats and I take stupid pictures

In a recent conversation with my mother, we were somehow directed to the topic of getting angry at our children.  She nonchalantly added, "I was never angry with you guys.  I don't remember ever losing my temper." 

WHAT?!  WHAT?! WHAT!?  'Holy Mother of Senile Sassafras!'  I was screaming in my head.  She was either flat out lying,  had launched a multitude of occasions completely out of the atmosphere of her recollections, or is experiencing the onset of senescence.  My mother is not capable of lying and so it is surely one of the latter two scenarios.   Initially, I wanted to send her a tidal wave of remembers....."remember  the day you threw the plastic cup at my head, remember when you called my brother a peckerhead and threw him out of the house for a few weeks, remember the late afternoon that you impetuosly coughed my other brother onto a New Jersey road...when we lived in New York and Dad had to wander miles in the dark, searching for his lanky plodding body."    I am not saying that we didn't deserve any of this.  We positively absolutely deserved to be put in a box and left at the front door of a sweat shop in bratganistan.  

But.  But..  But.   I chomped down on my tongue as my own mother guilt hit me with tsunamic force.   For some reason my mother doesn't remember losing her temper.   What a gift.  I had already stolen a sizable amount of her peace as a dependent.  I couldn't take this away.  And the hope that I may someday receive this same genetic strand of forgetfulness felt like forgiveness to me.  

Let me explain: 

Extended periods of time with my kids exponentially increases my likelihood of substandard parenting.  I hit a new sub sub standard this summer.  It certainly appears to me that I fail most miserably when I am trying so fervently to do things right.  There are days when I feel that my children would suffer less harm if I put a trough of cheerios on the table and left for the day.  

Our summer began with a few too many murdered afternoons.  The weather was bad.  We weren't traveling anywhere for a few weeks.  Friends were out of town and the kids didn't seem to want to do anything but read, play wii, and throw things out their bedroom windows .

 I feel hot and sticky and gross when I remember the summer days from my youth when I would torture one hour of chores by stretching them into 12 hours ......lacerating my ears with music that wasn't worth listening to (We built this City of Rock and Roll by Jefferson Starship still makes me want to puke every time I hear it.) , eating too many slices of bread slabbed with peanut butter, and basically putting a pillow over the mouth of my summer freedom. 

 So I am now particularly anxious about hemorraging time.  I needed a plan.  We made bucket lists.  I felt good and checked a few things off the list such as eating raspberries and smashing pennies on the railroad track.  I was feeling like a good mother (shhh.  I didn't know flattening pennies was illegal).  Enthralled by a stunning field of yellow flowers on a recent bike ride,  I thought it would be bucket list worthy  to throw a ball, play hide and seek, and of course, take pictures in aforementioned field.  I also wanted to double my mother points by taking advantage of the driving time and bought an instructional cd on learning Espanol.  We are going to Costa Rica in October and because the kids will be missing a week of school, I want to make it a semi-educational experience.  

We got in the car and I popped in the cd.  A very slow speaking woman instructed us to repeat phrases.  You know, "Estoy Muy Bien, y tu?"   I repeated it......alone.   
"Come on, you guys?  Can't you just repeat it?  It's pretty simple,"  I pleaded
"I don't think I'm asking that much.  It's just words."  I am getting the teensiest bit annoyed.  
"You guys are brats."  
"Mom, I'm sick of you and your stupid pictures," Ansel strikes back.  I deserve it and am a little grateful for the retaliation. 

I've thought these words before.  I may have said, "You guys are Being Bratty".....but I have never made it such a definitive statement before.  I feel sick.  

I apologize.  
Too late.  Damage done. 
We arrive at the flowers.  
Savanna, with tears blossoming from her puffy red eyes, beelines it somewhere amongst the thousands of bright yellow blooms.  
Decide to give her a little space.
It seems like a long time and too much space.
Can't find her.  
Emmy starts crying.  
I'm getting mad and/or a little scared.  
I imagine her being lured into an underground room carved out by a mastermind pedophile, who is counting on a despicable mother such as I to spur her daughter into this exact location.  (Thank you, for the literary images, Lovely Bones.)
She finally appears.
I apologize again. 
We dry our eyes.
We take pictures.
We are a happy, happy family.  
Sometimes Pictures are worth a thousand fascades.  At first glance, one might think we had a lovely day frolicing in the flowers and tossing large taffy hued balls to one another, giggling with delight.    What lurks in the undergrowth of this June day is pure ugliness.  

So kids, in 30 years, when I tell you that I never lost my temper as a mother, please don't remind me of what I have hopefully forgotten.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moor at home

My blog posts tend to be anchored on excursions in which we have pulled anchor from our home port.     Finding a nice pocket of wind and gale of time in which to discover what the world has to offer is sublime bordering on addictive.  I often neglect those thousands of minutes of doldrum days when there is no wind to lend to our wandering.  The word 'routine' is often given a bad rap for being a pirate of creativity, a plunderer of pleasure.  On the contrary, this routine day to day existence is the hull of our family, and what we choose to do with this time is our manifesto of craftsmanship, the defining moments when we are choosing our shape and refining those parts of ourselves that we will offer to the world.    Suggesting that routine sounds like rooting, and as fervently as I love blowing where the wind blows me, I know that we must root ourselves in the routine.   

       There are two things necessary to Emmy's happy existence.  Books and Food.  In that order.  A book-kaneer demanding Emmy to give up her book would elicit the same response as a buccaneer demanding she walk the plank.  

Ansel is still at the age when his eating endeavors are combat attacks, almost exclusively championed by the morsels who somehow manage to resist actually being ingested by smearing themselves up his nose, in the crooks of his fingers, under his eyebrows, and in his hair.  Washing the carnage from his snack-off often requires full baths.  

Ansel is also at the age where tubs are still an adventure at high seas, teaming with hungry sharks, fierce dinosaurs, and other duckivores who prey on various rubber underducks to gain their unjust deserts.   Some days he insists on his water looking more "real".  I am not patient enough to be stagnant long enough to refute  his explanation of why adding an artificial color to something will make it "more real."  I don't know why my timbers continue to be shivered when he disembarks from the tub grubbier than when he took his maiden plunge.

This is the post-it note treasure of a sequencing game that Ansel invents, only after I wisely ignore his 500 or more exclamations of boredom.  Sometimes kids need to be ignored in order for them to rescue their creativity from the locker of Davy Jones.   

Corey never stops shaking his booty.....creating some booty panels to adorn our walls.  
Emmy started playing the trumpet this summer.....and yo ho! ho! and a bottle of ear plugs....we all sighed with relief when she switched to the clarinet.   She is really quite good at playing by ear.  

To soften the blow of the careening trauma of Middle School,  we offered not just one, but two, furry and cuddly kittens to Savanna.    Our way of apologizing for feeding her to those awful juvenile fishes day after day is to at least offer her a soft place to land after she has been chewed up and spit out.  I have fathoms of feelings on this particular subject and will bury them for now.

I always thought it was "land lover."  Apparently, it is landlubber.   Anyway, I am a bike lubber.  

 Corey didn't make it to Bumbershoot with me this year and missed the experience of listening to Hutch Harris of "The Thermals" have a uniquely intense relationship with the last syllable of each of his sentences.  A few weeks later, Hutch came to Spokane and we were able to witness this relationship in a more personal and voyeuristic atmosphere.    I am infatuated with the way that he shing (sing +shout) the word "SICK".
When we leave town, we tend to miss local opportunites to manage and clean our own corners of the world.    This year we attended the annual Spokane River Clean-up.  I really didn't care about cleaning the river.  I just wanted to meet Recycle Man.  My dreams came true.  The memories of getting my picture taken with Recycle-Man should fuel my giddiness for the next year.   And if I was confident enough to not feel the need of alerting my reader to my sarcasm, I would probably not be the type of person who needed validation by meeting superheroes face to face.  

My worthy shipmates and I uncovered vast treasures of garbage.