Upon arrival we moved
from our rental house, which is a small, Tico style three-bedroom house in the little
pueblo of San Salvador. We pay rent of $200 per month. A couple trips in our
Toyota 4Runner and redeeming a favor from a friend with a truck, we moved most
of our belongings from the house to our open air casita at our farm, which is
five minutes down the hill. Right away, the sense of being here permanently
felt much different than visits in the past. Knowing that there are many
projects to get done but all the time to do them, slowly and allowing things to
take their time, to listen to the nonlinear way of being here, and to flow with
it has been an exceptional gift and insight into living with spontaneity. I
truly have no idea what's going to happen each day.
We own a farm, which is
about 125 acres. Seven years ago, when we bought the property, we paid to build
a road to get here. It was barely
passable before we made the road.
It seems now that the
road does not belong to us and people are telling us what to do with it and what
not to do with it. It is quite interesting. It used to be a public horse trail used
by the people who own property down here and now they all have cars and can get
to their farms by car all year long. Being on good terms with the neighbors is
of utmost important out here in the rural areas so we are mindful of the
sometimes irrational emotions we encounter from people who are faced with a
changing world that seems unfair.
Half of our farm contains
27,000 trees planted about 15 to 20 years ago as a monoculture crop. Another
failed program encouraged by the government that led to further degradation of
the soil. The trees were supposed to
make good lumber but now nobody wants to use this wood because it dries
The past four years we've
been looking at how to remove these trees so we can create living space for us
and re-plant the indigenous forest to support the monkeys and other animals (as
well as the birds and insects) who have had a shrinking territory for too long.
We have a long term plan to help the eco system here stay as intact as
Finally, we found a company
that buys the trees and uses the lumber to make pallets. They started logging this
past year. Their trucks damaged the road, which caused a huge upheaval in the
neighborhood. Their team of people on the farm was difficult to manage and finally
they quit. Only a fraction of the job has been done now and wherever they have
taken the trees it's a huge mess that will take some years to recover from. The
price we are getting from them will barely cover repairing the road and taking
care of the mess they left behind. Nonetheless, when they quit it was sudden
and without notice and we realized we need them to continue. After some
deliberation between them, our road builder, Tacho, and our neighbors, we have
agreed they will continue next dry season. Ahh… It feels good to have a break
from the continuous chain saws and trucks.
During this same time
Tacho, came to start work on the road that will lead up to the middle of the
property. We will start building structures so my mom can live here with us
living nearby in a temporary dwelling. We have to sell the chocolate farm
before we can build our permanent house.
A few clients have come
to see the Chocolate Farm. Each time we have gone to meet them at the Farm, it
has been a big effort to have someone stay here in our open casita to protect
it from theft. We needed to go to the chocolate farm to take care of (what
seems like unlimited) areas that need maintenance, meet the potential client
and spend an entire day or two giving tours of the farm. I do love going there - it's wonderful to have our solar power so I
can do laundry, use the blender without turning the generator on and, of course,
I have my wonderful yoga studio which is so dear to me.
Our relationships with our
neighbors, Anna and Deaney, and their kids as well as our workers, are
beautiful. I love them all dearly. If there were two of me I would keep the
farm and live there just to give Anna a friend.She needs more support and I wish I could give her more. She has been
such a support and light in my life. I often think of as her my teacher.She wakes up at three in the morning and is
the last to go to bed. Her parents are in their last years and struggling to
survive. They live a few hours walk away so she cannot visit them easily. She
has four kids at home, which in my opinion look a bit malnourished due to it
being more and more difficult to farm the land.They grow all their own food, which is mostly rice, beans, corn and
pig.She also has a demanding partner.
Yet she is always there to help us and she is always smiling, always happy and
making the best of things. I have learned a great deal from her about how to
Back in San Salvador, the
road is now finished and we are preparing trees for the structures we will build.
Preparing the trees means checking the tide tables to figure out the absolute
best time of the month to cut them down, then hauling them to a huge pit where
they will be smoked as an experimental, chemical free termite treatment and
then finding a good sawyer to cut them into lumber – quite a difference from
calling up Home Depot for a next day delivery!
During the past three
months my friendships have deepened and I have made some wonderful new friends.
The down-to-earthness and
authenticity is as stable here as overconsumption is in the US.
My work at Finca De Vida,
has been nothing short of amazing. The team there and the environment they have
created set the stage for healing and realization at every level of being. I
have immense gratitude for the way my work takes flight there. I see between
three and nine clients a week and with this income I have been supporting us, one
worker full-time, and one worker part-time. The money that I made before coming
to Costa Rica ran out about a month ago and now we are making decisions about
whether or not to drive somewhere, what food to buy and so on, very, very carefully.
We are living close to the bone and it's fine.
I have to say a few words
about Olivier, our full time employee.Here in CR on a big farm you cannot survive without a local to do the
hard work that we are not accustomed to.Jim can give a Tico a run for his money but he cannot do it all day long
in the hot sun.Jim has gotten heat
stroke a few times and now has to be careful not to get overheated.
Olivier built the casita that
we are living in about five years ago with a man in the village named William
who died last year in a car accident. The two of them, with Jim, built this in
about three months.
The original shack
Olivier and Thomas working on the casita
Since then, Olivier has been working for us on and off and
I was biding my time until the moment I could hire him full-time. Everybody in
the neighborhood all loves him and sometimes have hired him not just for
ourselves but to help him since he is supporting his whole family
single-handedly making three dollars an hour. Which is par for the course for
He has worked for us
full-time for three months and we have become close friends. His stories about
how he grew up and the work he has had to endure in order to survive is both
heartbreaking and heart warming. He is like family now. I have not met a more
honest, hard-working and versatile worker in Costa Rica. His sons also work
here periodically and one of his sons Damian is working here three days a week.
Damian pays attention to detail in a way his father does not, he is actually a full-blooded
artist, temperament and all. I'm doing my best to have him working on things
that feel fulfilling to him and nurture his creativity. Olivier also has some
dreams and hopefully in the future we can help him realize those.
So now I come to the last
24 hours. The day before yesterday, we loaded up the car with things necessary
to make chocolate which included taking apart the kitchen so we could bring a
worktable up to the rental house. Jim dropped me off at work and spent the rest
of the day melting chocolate in the sun and getting everything in the grinder
to make chocolate. We brought camping pads, food, camping stove, etc. to stay
the night. We arranged one of the rooms in the house with a small
air-conditioner and worktable that we need to make the chocolate (without an
air conditioner, the climate is too hot and humid to successfully temper
chocolate – even at 4 am!) So we set the alarm for 4 o'clock in the morning and
figured that at that time in the morning it will be cool enough to do the
tempering. We did two batches, pouring small amounts into a bowl, bringing it
into the air-conditioned room, tempering it, pouring it into the molds, putting
it into the refrigerator, taking out the molds and doing it all over again. In
the end it was a grand failure. It seems in this climate it's impossible to get
a good tempering. Without a much more secure environment, with less humidity
and cooler temperatures, the chocolate all bloomed (a technical term for
chocolate that gets white and chalky as the cacao fat comes to the surface.)
None of the chocolate
came out in a sellable condition and I will have to tell my retreat attendees
that are about to arrive that we have no chocolate for them. We took a couple
of hours to clean up but we felt uneasy that we left our casita with all our
belongings alone for this amount of time so we left. Jim will have to return
later for the final clean up.
We knew we were coming
back to a situation that needed attention. The propane tank for our gas refrigerator
ran out yesterday. Jim was able to get a new tank just as the truck was leaving
San Salvador but when he got back we were missing a gasket necessary for the
connection. Some of you who are reading this may not remember what it is like
to have a fridge full of food that's going to go bad. Especially when you
cannot go to the corner store and buy more.
On top of this, the water
had stopped working for what seemed like the 20th time in a two-week period.
Upon arrival in the morning, Jim headed straight up the mountain without food
and was gone for about three hours. He came back with very bad news - the water
table here has gone down even more and there was very little water coming out
of the spring. Fortunately our casita is close to a Creek and since yesterday
Jim and Olivier have been carrying water up from the creek. Needless to say, I
am using the water very conscientiously. In my opinion, we should all be
treating water this way and I'm happy I am getting an even deeper lesson in
conserving the natural resources that we have available to us. (Rain catchment
is in our future). The creek down below still has water and affords me the most
beautiful washing environment with clean, pure water.We are blessed with pure water, which though
it is low right now, is still providing everything necessary for us to live.
Due to the situation with
the fridge, I called Olivier and talked to his wife, Tericita, to see if she
could make some extra food for Jim and me. Olivier arrived this morning with
rice and beans, squash and coffee in a coke bottle, bless his soul.
He arrived with some bad
news. Damian, his son, had been in a car accident. Down near the coast, he was driving around a
curve too fast.The car rolled several
times and was totaled. It's a miracle Damian is okay.
This is especially bad news because the whole
family depends on that truck.
Now their family is
without a car. Olivier bought this car and spent a lot of money repairing it to
make it run.They need this car for
basic necessities here.Damian is the
only one in the family with a license to drive so he gets the use of the
There is, of course, more
going on here then I have mentioned. The work on the farm has many layers.
Other parts of my life have taken turns profoundly Divine. My appreciation and
love for Jim is ever deepening. My heart continues to expand and everyone I
have ever met and all the people I'm meeting now remain present with me.
Living in Nature
Over the past year, I
have been preparing for a retreat. I was very fortunate to receive a space in
the Finca De Vida schedule so that I can share this incredible place with
others. The retreat starts on April 1, about one week from now. I am looking
forward to sharing and learning with and from the people who are coming. Many
of the participants are dear friends.
With all that's going on
here, I know that living in the society of the United States can be even more
difficult and I am hoping to offer healing and regeneration so that each person
may bring back the clarity and vitality this place offers.
There is a saying here in
Costa Rica: Pura Vida, which is literally translated as Pure Life. You don't
get to know the meaning of this word until you have lived here. And I believe
I'm getting to know the meaning of this saying.