Monday, October 7, 2013


It is eight o’clock at night. Pitch black outside. I am sitting at the dining room table, on one of four chairs in our new house on a mountain ridge in Grecia, Costa Rica. The only other piece of furniture in our possession is a queen-size bed where Marilyn has conked out with the dogs.

It has been raining since two this afternoon; no wind, just a heavy, tropical downpour beating on the tin roof. Little wonder Costa Rica is so green. It is drunk on pure water.

We arrived just before the rain started from Miami with our two dogs, Lily and Charlie, both somewhat crazed from being caged in the cargo bay for the two and a half hour flight to San Jose. But they made it along with four suitcases, two giant duffle bags and my guitar, all of it passing easily through customs. When asked how long we planned to stay in Costa Rica, we said three months.  We thought it best not to reveal that we were moving here permanently, for fear that we had overlooked some immigration requirement that would stop us in our tracks.  I did not want to end up in a rat infested jail in rags raking my tin cup over the bars of my cell.  

None of that happened. Our Costa Rican contact, Barry, met us outside and arranged for a van to take us to Grecia, forty five minutes northwest of the capital, San Jose. Our driver, Rodrigo, was nice enough to stop off at a supermarket on the way so Marilyn could buy some food and get cash from the bank to pay our first month’s rent. Rodrigo and I chatted about a variety of topics including who had the best beer. I told him I liked Imperial, “la Cerveza de Costa Rica”, which pleased him.

The door was locked, so we unloaded quickly onto the covered patio, and Rodrigo was off to the airport again. We left everything on the patio, including the groceries, while we hiked a short distance up the hill to our landlord’s house. Jenny is a Tica, the nationally accepted term for the people of Costa Rica. She and her Canadian husband are leaving for Canada today with their son, Nathan, so she quickly ran though the essentials of life in our new rental house- circuit breakers, water shut off, keys and phone numbers. She added that it was dangerous to walk barefoot on the tile floor when there was lightening and that the computer should be unplugged from the wall, even with a surge protector.

Marilyn made a simple chicken dish which, despite the fact that we had so salt, was delicious. In Phoenix, I would have run a few blocks to the store and picked up salt. But here, we have no car. In fact, we have only what we carried with us on the plane.  We shipped the Subaru out of Ft Lauderdale yesterday and don’t expect to see it for two weeks. Our eighty five cartons of household stuff arrived in the port of Limon today. We think we might get them delivered in a week.

The house is a bit smaller than I remembered, but still well-made by Costa Rican standards with vertical walls, level floors, big windows, a water-tight roof, electricity and hot and cold water. Centered in the ceiling of each room is a single lighting fixture which casts sharp shadows on the blank walls. Only when darkness came did we admit how much we care about indirect lighting. It is not a Tico priority. However it is great for making shadow puppets on the walls.

It is getting late. The drumming on the tin roof shows no sign of ending, so I will go with the flow and let it drum me to sleep. My great joy is that we are here. Somehow, nothing else matters. The things we left behind, gave away and sold for pennies to the auction house. No esta importante ahora. Our new life has begun. We have a bed big enough for me, Marilyn, Lily and Charlie to cuddle together.

A Day in the Life

We awoke at 5:30 this morning. All that remains of the heavy rain of yesterday are mounds of cumulous clouds obscuring the mountain tops. The rising sun frosts the highest of these clouds with blazing glory, as if Michelangelo’s God were about to pop into view. We are sitting out on the patio on our dining room chairs enjoying the first coffee of our new life, too overwhelmed to speak a word.

The view is as spectacular as we both remember from our scouting trip in June. At 4600 feet, we overlook a broad valley with orderly rows of coffee plants on steep slopes, farmer’s fields fitted together like puzzle pieces and clusters of houses here and there along the winding roads. In the distance we can see the town of Grecia and the twin steeples of its famous red church, Iglesia de la Nuestra SeƱora de las Mercedes. Two neighborhood chickens wander the lawn in search of worms. A friendly Chihuahua approaches with wagging tail and lets us pet it. Lily and Charlie can’t figure it out. They watch. Lily relaxes quickly and begins to sniff. Charlie, our younger dog remains nervous and nippy. Leashed and muzzled, he watches confused.  

Later, I ask Marilyn what time it is, a hilarious question that gets us both doubled up in laughter. Finally, she tells me it is 6:15. We are so accustomed to thinking that coffee is what you drink in the morning before you tackle the day’s tasks. What tasks? We watch the dogs play. A hawk soars overhead. A little girl in her school uniform walks up the hill by our house with her mom. “Buenos” we call to each other. Marilyn and I tune into our new lives, retired and living in Costa Rica. The adjustments to be made will be profound and subtle; not so much about finding the right roads or keeping track of money, but about relearning, as Adam and Eve must have, what the possibilities of a day are.