As I type and glance out the window at the white, grays and browns, our emerald green escape seems about as improbable as OZ. Two whole weeks in Costa Rica. The thought of it makes me sigh a big, deep, relaxed, blissful sigh – still, these many days later. It was good, friends. It was what I needed to knit myself back together – to tuck in all the frayed nerves, to smooth over the shards of anger. With the help of my little family and that gracious country, I feel whole. My faith in us – and myself – is restored. At least for a little while.
What did I love about our trip to Costa Rica? Let me count the ways . . .
1. Sunsets. Sunsets are a fact of life and almost a cliche – they happen every day, like clockwork. Mundane, unnoticed, ignored. That is, until you go on vacation. Suddenly, sunsets are elevated to their rightful position – that of a small miracle worthy of our attention. We enjoyed wave crashing sunsets, sunsets on the tops of hills, sunsets with umbrella drinks, sunsets in hammocks, sunsets on dirt roads, sunsets on sandy beaches. But we watched them, together, allowing ourselves to be bathed in gold and suspended in magic for a few minutes.
2. Patience. It turns out we are the kind of people who will stand in the rain for half an hour after a three hour hike to try to get a better glimpse of a Resplendent Quetzal perched on a branch. Also the kind of people who will hang out on a beach for hours at night to make sure a few hatchling turtles made it to the sea. Even though the baby turtles have managed just fine for centuries before our arrival, it felt important. It felt like we helped. This trip rewarded quiet watchfulness, which is a rarity in our lives.
3. Los caballos. It’s actually a great way to cover a lot of terrain if there are small tired legs in the family. And the Ticos make it so easy – no helmets, no waivers, no fuss – just hop on and go. We went on two epic horseback trecks – one through town, jungle and beach, one through jungle and cloud forest. I have always loved horses and it made me puff chested proud to see my entire family on horseback. Doctor Dash’s horse decided to take a dip when we forged a river, drenching him from head to toe and I have never laughed so hard in my life. I quite literally could not breathe. Poor Dash. I’m a terrible wife. A couple hours later, I would find myself galloping faster than I ever have while my horse strained to catch up with Supergirl’s. Again, breathless.
4. Art where you’d least expect. Toward the end of our trip, we decided to spend the day beach hopping among some hidden beaches that we had read about. We had an awesome day – treacherous dirt roads, incredible vistas, three beautiful beaches in six hours – each as unique as a fingerprint. On the way back we stopped in a little town called Punta Islita, where there was supposed to be a fantastic art collaboration between the town and the hotel near the town. Intrigued, we stopped to take a look and sure enough, right in the middle of paradise, was this tiny colony of working artists.
Dash and I have a long tradition of rationalizing purchases in Costa Rica – beginning on our honeymoon when we would let ourselves splurge on cool and fancy hotels we stumbled upon because Hey! You only honeymoon once, right? This time, we bought a painting by artist Joseph Kaknes. He dedicated it to us on the back, scribbling that he hoped it would bring us much joy. It already has. I love this painting because I love the whole day leading up to it and how we found it and the salty Gloucester artist who charmed us in his studio. I love that my kids ran around and played with his dogs while we chatted with Joseph, slowly becoming enchanted by his work. It’s for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. And Christmas.
5. New Years on the beach. Basically we camped out in the sand with our friends in front of a bar called La Vela Latina and drank beer under the stars while our kids ran around. The entire span of Playa Samara was dotted with bonfires and at midnight it was fireworks, all up and down the beach as far as the eye could see. I have never experienced anything like it. It was just magic. Warm, loud, rowdy, frolicky and uniquely Latin. What a way to start 2013.
6. Futbol is a language. Watching Saint James take a deep breath and muster up every last iota of his guts to jump into his first pick-up game on the beach squeezed my heart. He never would have found the courage if he didn’t want to play SO BAD. After that first time, it was a piece of cake. He’d scan the beach, narrow his eyes, assess the level of play, shrug and jog on over. I noticed he’d juggle the ball a few times or do a fancy trick right off the bat as a way of introducing himself. Boys, teens, men, the occasional girl, and the occasional Supergirl, he managed to play almost every day that we were on or near a beach. Good stuff.
7. The view from still. The best thing about traveling is that point when you remember there is another way to do things, another way to live. Costa Ricans can sit like no one else. It’s like an Olympic sport. Every where you go, Ticos are simply sitting, chatting, watching the world go by. They’ll sit on the beach, in front of vegetable stands, in the yard with the chickens, at restaurants, on front porches, at gas stations, in bars, on fences. They are so good at it, that I found it quite inspiring.
This was by no means a sedentary vacation, but we did try to balance out all our adrenaline excursions with a bit of leisure and some long beach days. When I wasn’t body surfing with the kids or swimming out past everyone else or peering into tidal pools, I sat with Dash. I watched the Ticos and I copied them as best I could, and to tell you the truth, the view is beautiful from a point of stillness. You watch your family play and you really see them. You look at your feet. You look up. You breathe, you drink a beer, you make small talk with your hubby. It’s quite simple, really. And I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep up this newly acquire skill. There are other ways to do things and I’m keeping this piece.
8. Us. It didn’t really dawn on me until someone asked us if we had been to Costa Rica before, that we were returning fifteen years after our honeymoon with three kids in tow. Even though we went different places on our honeymoon, it turns out we kind of travel the same way. We like our independence, we like to be spontaneous, we like to go off the beaten path and we like to be where the Ticos are. Even though it wasn’t intentional, I love the symmetry of returning 15 years later with our babes.
It was actually really romantic – so much has changed and yet so much is the same. Dash and I are essentially the same. But now we’ve got 3 cool little people who are game for adventure, curious, brave and completely fun and funny to be around. We had a blast – just the five of us. Getting away has a way of letting us see the us more clearly, right? That’s what I loved the most.