Paradise, I've discovered, dwells in the borderlands. It makes sense: being in the center can be pleasant and safe, but it is rarely glorious. The house where Mr. Ben and I are now staying in Costa Rica sits at the top of a mountain, next to the rain forest, and at the edge of a cliff, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. A string of bushes beaded with coral-orange flowers separates us from everything below. In the distance and far beneath us, the Pacific Ocean foams at the mouth. Howler monkeys scream at the sun for coming up in the morning and frogs make mellow sounds at twilight.
Otherwise, insects make virtually the only noise. I knew, when I arrived, that I would have to be less jumpy about critters than I usually am. I try and I fail and I continue to try. Our first morning, in a bed-and-breakfast in Alajuela, Mr. Ben and I opened the door to the shower and something large and black flew at us from the darkness. Of course it was only a moth, but *you* try not to scream when something with wings comes at you first thing in the morning.
Our flight over Friday night had been exhausting. Half of Holland had been emptied out onto our plane for some reason. The looming, affable Dutch stood for the most of the ride, leaning over each others' seats, laughing, talking, and even breaking out into song. They ignored us completely and we in turn felt like we were flying 2,000 miles in a bar in the Hague. Of course, the flight was late, and of course there were no movies, and of course by the time the stewardess made it to the very back row with the food cart, where we sat trapped between the Nords and the bathroom, she had given away everything except little hamburgers that get microwaved in plastic bags. The vegetarian meals we had ordered had long since been handed over to someone else.
But who cares? The hunger and the inconvenience were a small price to pay to get here. Our little adventures -- finding the door of the B&B shower broken and ourselves locked in; arriving for our 9:00 AM local flight to Palmar Del Sur on time but at the wrong airport -- seemed funny as soon as they were over.
We have shopped and swum and cooked and marveled at the landscaping here at the top of Mel's mountain. Mel is the family friend whose hospitality we're enjoying. He bought his house five years ago and has transformed it into a private tropical getaway. Last night we played poker until almost midnight on the porch with a crowd of his ex-pat friends. Today we're going to go fishing for our lunch. I am supremely blissful, even while I am on the watch for scorpions. And tomorrow we head into the rain forest! With any luck, we will make it out again.
The Big Idea: Bill McKibben
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