So Many Magic Moments

Costa Rica keeps lavishing gifts upon us as fast and furiously as the lava flows that often race down the slopes of Arenal Volcano. Last night after dinner at the Arenal Observatory Lodge where we’re staying, we retreated to the balcony of our tree-level, rainforest view room, doused all lights and surrendered to the sounds of the night. For forty five minutes we sat in the inky blackness without speaking and listened to the chorus of voices chanting and singing around us — the wind sweeping forcefully through the canopy and rustling it like the softest of chimes, the raindrops plinking and splatting down on leaves, the chirring and whirring of insects and the intermittent calls of individual birds.  The insistent rhythms of the rainforest night have to be some of the oldest on Earth, and they touched some deep, primal chord in the three of us, for even after we came in afterwards, not a single word passed between us — human language somehow seemed so unnecessary….

Because our room faced the forest, we had the luxury of sleeping with the drapes open and then awakening at dawn’s first light.  There was a stillness that revealed the rain had finally stopped falling, which seemed like a miracle since the weather forecast had suggested that the deluge wouldn’t let up until Wednesday, the day before we return home. Eager to take advantage of this unexpected blessing, we jumped in the shower and were on the observation deck by 7:00, which is when escapees from some secret aviary must have been released, because the trees were suddenly teeming with the most exquisite and extravagantly colored birds I’ve ever seen.  Emerald greens, neon blues, bright oranges, shocking oranges and outrageously bold yellows — hummingbirds, songbirds, parrots, toucans, oropendolas and all other species of feathered creatures both large and small flitted around and flashed their florid color.  The draw for the fruit-eating birds, of course, were the huge chunks of papaya and watermelon that the lodge’s employees placed on raised platforms.  Perhaps this isn’t the most natural way to spot birds, but the two dozen birdwatchers in attendance didn’t seem to mind. There were excited gasps every minute or so as some new species arrived, and animated comments in German, Japanese, Hindi, English, Hebrew and Spanish.  It was one of those instances where I didn’t know what was being said yet I knew exactly what was being expressed — sheer amazement and delight!

A woman called William over to show him a brilliantly hued blue and green hummingbird that had flown into a window of the lodge and was lying motionless on the ground. William gently cupped the creature in the palm of his hands to warm him up for about a minute and then carried him over to the observation deck’s railing.  The hummingbird’s wings fluttered furiously and he was off, fully restored to health.  Watching him flit away was a precious moment.

As if the birds weren’t magic enough, the perpetual fog shrouding the top of Arenal Volcano suddenly lifted and we were gifted with a full view of this imposing, smoke-belching behemoth.  A woman from Albuquerque who has visited the region several times cried out, “This NEVER happens!”   William, Starr and I just grinned at each other when we heard this,  At this point in our journey, it really wouldn’t surprise any of us if an elephant or giraffe came lumbering down the road….Which is why we certainly weren’t shocked when, shortly afterwards, a troop of twelve coati mundis came scampering up the lawn, their babies impossibly adorable as they tailed after their parents.

After a few hours on the deck, we reluctantly pried ourselves away to drive into town.  A Sunday afternoon seemed an ideal time for another TWB score.  On the way, we stopped by the river where we had spotted several birds yesterday.  This time, there was a faciated tiger heron hunting along its banks.  We pulled over and watched him for about a half hour but he didn’t make a strike.  We did, however.  Driving the outskirts of town, we encountered a family walking down the road with a soccer ball. They directed us to the field a block away.  When they arrived they started playing.  On the sidelines was a solitary boy, watching the action. From his body language it was obvious he was itching to play, but no invitation was forthcoming from the family.  For us, it was a no-brainer.  After a few minutes Starr approached him asked his name and age (Bernardo, 12) and whether he liked soccer.  Of course he answered in the affirmative so Starr invited him for a kick-around.  Bernardo happily accepted and the four of us showed off our moves. (Bernardo’s were the best, of course…)  After a bit more spirited play and a couple of nice goals by Bernardo, Starr gifted him with the ball.  A huge grin on his face, he raced off to tell his parents and by the time William, Starr and I reached our car Bernardo, his mom and dad were standing in a doorway across the street, smiling and shyly waving their thanks as we drove away.  Again, the gifts just keep on coming.

Peace & Blessings,