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Happy Birthday, Blog!

 A year ago, I started out on this little adventure. Who would read? I thought… and I’m kind of still thinking that.

 Kidding!

It’s been a fun year of putting my thoughts out there, forcing me to be more disciplined about writing, the only thing that matters in life (Aside from travel. And cheese).

I don’t want to go all mushy and lovey dovey and all butterflies and baby kittens and all that, for fear it may ruin my surly and cynical reputation (What? You thought I was nice? You’re so silly!! Oh, wait, I want you to read my blog… ok, I am nice! Butterflies, kittens, yaay!!)

So, I’ll make it a quick little shout out.

Thank you to all my new friends who have said so many wonderfully kind, encouraging words as the days slipped off the calendar.  You really can’t imagine my joy at the positive feedback that you, my handful of readers, has given me (and seriously, the word “joy” and I don’t normally make appearances together, so really, thank you!)

 I enjoy your visits, your comments and your blogs, as I have been lucky enough to connect with some brilliant writers and artists.  Thank you!

Next post—travel back to Costa Rica with me for part 2 of my adventure!

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Costa Rica, te amo (part 1)

The meandering road from San Jose to Manuel Antonio stretched before me like a dream—its curves enticing and mysterious, so different from my world. Indescribably bright flowers greeted me with silent “hellos” as we climbed through wavy hills and long stretches of green so bright that it seems a disservice to just call it “green.”  My body yawned, an involuntary response to the dry air hanging in the plane, but my mind was exhilarated, my eyes being assigned the impossible task of trying to take everything in.  The colors were jubilant; the traffic sparse, the roadside fruit stands plentiful.  A smile crossed my face as I settled further into my seat, and felt the everyday world sliding off my back.  I knew in that instant that the rules of life didn’t apply here—sometimes the fantasy does live up to the reality.

The days unfolded in an array of colors, heat and rain. The beaches, the colors, the mysterious allure of the jungle, the seamless integration of humans and nature—they all delighted my eager eyes.  The mysteriousness of the rainforest, with its secret medicines disguised as leaves unfolded around me, enchanting every last one of my senses.  Even spiders, with their ominous legs and ever expanding webs seemed relevant when in their element.  Sloths cradled themselves in trees, relaxing in the shade, and hiding from the midday sun coloring skin on the earth below.

Costa Rica is a land that seduces all of the senses—assaulting each and every sense individually. From tiny houses suspended on mountain roads to flowers so bright you think they’ve been photo shopped; Costa Rica is probably the model they based “high definition” on—vivid, intricate, colorful, alive. The nose will tingle as it discovers scents like no other it has encountered before—the lingering smell of night jasmine and fresh rain, a scent of pure romance that would fly off the shelves if someone figured out how to stuff it into fancy glass bottles.  The scented air intoxicates, romantically lulls me into relaxation so deep; I forget what day it is, throw away my watch. The humidity is a gentle touch on the skin, wrapping itself around my body only to be relieved by the chilly, crisp water enveloping me as I glide under waves—a hideout from the sun’s intense rays.  Lounging in a hammock, the eyes close automatically, leaving the ears to act in their place.  Spanish fills the air as I drift into a restful slumber, the words like a dance, filled with emotion, filled with life.  Awaking from a short nap, there is hunger, the last sense begging to be fulfilled.  On this one, Costa Rica delivers big time. An explosion of flavor awaits– luscious pineapple, pink watermelon so juicy your arm becomes sticky from the dripping juice, but you care not.  A steaming mug of coffee from fresh beans awaits– dark, nutty and bold, the taste unsullied by storage and transport.  Fresh fish, never frozen, playfully sit among cilantro, limes, onions and tomatoes in tangy cerviche, waiting to be piled on crackers and enjoyed.  Plantains, smashed and refried decorated the side of the plate, a delightful detour from the standard American side of French fries. Next to them, red meat so delicate, so tenderly, melt in your mouth delicious, it’s almost a crime.  Where on earth has this meat been all my life? The flavor is so smooth and buttery, an explosion of pure, simple beef flavor, not ruined by preservatives, cheap feed, or sadness.

I cannot go back, it is not possible after all I have seen, heard, tasted.  I will keep repeating this sentence over and over, until I am forced to face reality.

 

Costa Rica, You and I Have a Long Awaited Date.

I developed a fascination with all things foreign, exotic and travel related when I was just a young teenager.  While other girls were thinking about prom and cheerleading, I found myself thinking about backpacking through ancient Europe, Caribbean palm trees and making my way through the primitive ruins and jungles of Central America. Of course, this didn’t serve my social life well, and I ended up with more hardcover friends then human friends (which resulted in the previous post, naturally).  It was also during this time that I developed an unbridled obsession with a little country called Costa Rica.  At that time, it was a still undiscovered explorer’s paradise. It was a place where ultra cool hipsters went, fell in love with the lifestyle, never went home and became ultra cool expats who ran surf shacks and coffee bars. This was probably the first time I also fell in love with the romantic idea of shrugging your shoulders at the known world and giving it all up in search of new adventures. I was sure Costa Rica had it all.  I needed to be there.  

Sadly, it was hardly in my 15 year old budget to get myself there, but I never forgot my first love, as is usually the case. I kept Costa Rica close as the years past, letting her hold onto that special place in my heart, reserved for all first loves.  Her name stayed in my head for years, letting off tiny whispers in my ear every now and again, but I had to keep turning her down year after year.  Thankfully, relentless is a word some have used to describe me, and after so much anticipation, this year, I finally hopped a plane headed for the rich coast. I was nervous. What if I built this up too much? What if my little Costa Rica disappointed me? Would it change the way I thought about things forever?  Would my obsession deliver? Or would this be like most other things in life that we obsess over, but in the end fails to deliver? Would the grass really be greener on the other side? Could Costa Rica be the anomaly in this crazy thing we called life, subject to all stupid “rules?” Would Costa Rica break the rules?

 Stay tuned…!

Hopelessly Addicted To… Books!

I have a problem with books. A serious one. To call me a “bibliophile” would be a dramatic understatement.  I have piles upon piles of books. I buy them, I rent them from the library, I steal them (mainly from others, not the store, which makes it ok, ok?).  I have names of books scribbled in all my notebooks, on random pieces of paper, on my phone. I have books on shelves, in piles, packed in boxes. They live in my car, my house, they are with me, in some form or another, wherever I go.  I read fiction, non-fiction, research, history, poems– pretty much anything that I can get my hands on, anything that will charm me with smooth writing and beautiful prose. I read them 2, 3, sometimes even 4 at a time. Oh, please, you say, you couldn’t possibly pay full attention to each of them when you read that many at once! Not true! Not true at all. I love them all, I love every minute of each one, devoting my mind wholeheartedly to whatever title makes its way into my hands, whether or not it’s my one and only or a fling among many. I love them all, truly, possibly more than anything (ok, slight exaggeration).  I love their beautiful covers, the way they smell, the thought of what secrets they hold, the thought of what they might teach me.  I love their ability to whisk me away at a moment’s notice.  Open one and I am in India, with the heat, the noise, the impossibly bright saris lying against dark skin scented with spices and mystery. Open another and I feel the cool breeze off a New England shore, the smell of melted butter and boiling lobster in the air.  The next one reveals life advice from a Grandmother I never had, the next –a heart retching account of woman’s struggle with multiple loves, the next– a vivid picture of the bleak suffering of Depression Era America, the next –a peek at the intricacies of another country, the next—love poems… it goes on and on and on, and endless stream of information, stories, happiness, pain, advice, and so much more–all of which I cannot get enough.    

 

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours.” — J. D. Salinger

I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.” — Thomas B. Macaulay

Brake Tapping Is Not A Sport… (and other summer rules)

Oh, summer. We meet yet again for a few joyous months of drenching humidity, scorching sun, bugs, grilled meat, and traffic, traffic, traffic.  Ah, yes, all kinds traffic. Out- of- Towner traffic.  ‘I don’t recognize that license plate’ traffic.  ‘I can’t seem to travel on my own roads’ traffic. So lovely, so welcoming. So, this post is for you, you “from elsewhere visitors”, and also for those of you who plan to be elsewhere this summer. I will be the friendliest local, and I promise locals will be nice to you if you merely heed my advice.

Number One: Brake tapping is not a sport. I don’t know if it is where you come from, but here, it’s frowned upon.  We like the accelerator here, especially if you’ve positioned yourself in the left lane… which brings me to my second point…

Number Two: The left lane is for people who like to drive, not ‘brake tap.’  Contraire to what the “signs” say, the left lane is not for “passing only,” it’s for those of us who like to drive. Fast. Now move.

Number Three: You don’t live here, so don’t act like you own the place! That means no harassing locals, no cursing at those of us who know where we are going, no being loud and obnoxious at the beach (okay, so that’s a lost cause, but it was a valiant effort on my part, no?)

Number Four: No need to bring your entire life to the beach.  That includes, but is not limited to: coolers with wheels, multiple coolers with wheels, whole watermelons, foot long heroes, two radios, two umbrellas,   your entire extended family and a full size tent.   Please also don’t talk “business” on your cell phone while you are shirtless in a beach chair. This does not make you look powerful or important. No one cares about you, your money or your job.  We care about relaxing on our beach.  Now shut it.

Adapt to the environment you are in, not the other way around. That’s the whole point of travel—getting out of your comfort zone… not bringing it with you.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

In Search of Inspiration, I Wander.

 

Sometimes it’s tough to be a writer. Never mind the steep competition and the lack of pay and the undying urge to put words on paper, those are just minor idiosyncrasies.  We suffer from an endless stream of words swirling through our minds, our brains working overtime to try and string them together in a way that makes them stand out, in a way that takes other people to the moment, gives them a connection. We are emotional, guarded and always thinking. We are constantly in search of new inspiration to keep our thoughts fresh and original.  It is sometimes a love/hate thing, I must admit, as being an office drone sometimes impedes my thoughts, stomps on the inspiration.  I know you’re thinking, what, those beige walls don’t inspire you? Impossible! But yes, friends, it’s true—I need more than beige walls and ugly carpet to get the creative juices brewing.  So, when even my favorite muse can’t come through for me, I go searching. I wander to old places, new places. I explore, and lately, I capture it on film. The still shot of a moment etched in a photograph enchants me. I love the simplicity, the way time is frozen on film. There are no detailed words, only images, feeding our imagination, letting our mind feast on the unknown.  An endless array of thoughts and questions come to mind. Was it loud there? What time of day was it? What aromas filled the air? Who walked by? Did anyone walk by? What did the air feel like? Was the sidewalk silent? Busy? Were there snippets of conversation floating around your ears? The questions go on and on and on….

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You’re So Pretty in the Spring, New York.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to wander to find inspiration. This week, I chose early morning in New York City, sort of by accident. It delivered.

Wrought iron guards with elegant, antique beauty.