Monday, January 28, 2008

Lunch in Eden

This weekend Nancy and I visited an organic farm near Arenal Volcano. It supplies herbs for the New Chapter product line. Our friend Beverly, an herbalist in New Mexico, is planning a field trip for her students this spring, and she wanted to check out the operation.

Nueva Luna, tucked back off the main road, is an Eden. Everything from the landscaping to the open air dining room exudes tranquility. For lunch we ate delicious organic greens picked that morning, with an organic chicken and yucca casserole plus the Costa Rica staple, rice and beans. We could hear and see a toucan (the big-billed Fruit-Loop bird) calling in a nearby tree.

It is amazing what one person with a vision can do. Steven, the manager of Nueva Luna, has been farming organically for 30 years. New Chapter used him as a source for their herbs and eventually had him buy a farm and run the operation. The demand for organic products has grown so much that Steven, who used to supply 100% of New Chapter's turmeric and ginger, now provides only 4%, as other farms worldwide join the list of suppliers.

We will be returning to Nueva Luna in March for a 4-night stay. I’m sure I’ll have more to report then. Meanwhile, Nancy and I will continue to search out organic produce—not always the easiest thing to do in Costa Rica even at the marvelous local farmers’ markets.

As the medical intuitive Jamie Champion once told us, “Fresh trumps organic.” And fresh is what we have in abundance here-- mangoes, pineapples, papayas, bananas, and many other fruits and vegetables. We eat with gratitude for the earth that provides and for the many farmers like Steven of Nueva Luna, Karen & Jacqueline of the Women’s Environmental Institute in Minnesota, and our brother-in-law, Steve Anderson, whose passion brings us nature’s best.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

From the Arctic to the Tropics

For Nancy & me, part of what makes our life so enjoyable is being physically comfortable. Luckily we have similar comfort zones—temperatures in the 80s are perfect during the day and temperatures in the 70s are ideal at night.

Minnesota is currently in a deep freeze. We left Minneapolis January 19, when the thermometer huddled at a bone-chilling minus 13 degrees. The pilot announced that it was 80 degrees in Costa Rica. By the time we landed, the evening had cooled down to a balmy 72.

We don’t think of our preference for the tropics as escaping winter as much as it is choosing comfort. While we enjoy winter, especially when a fresh blanket of snow covers the earth, month after month of it is too much for us—and stressful for Nancy’s lungs. We also love the simplicity of warm weather—light-weight clothes, no heating (and, for us, no air conditioning), and local fresh fruits & vegetables. Having our first juicy mango, papaya, and cantaloupe felt like a sacrament!

We are in the ear-to-ear-grin-stage, barely able to believe we are back in Costa Rica—for our sixth winter. Our eyes are feasting on the orange, pink, and magenta bougainvillea. After weeks of long underwear, wool socks, down jackets, stocking hats, and heavy boots, we walk out the front door of our apartment in shorts and a T-shirt. Nothing else.

Life is simple and full here. We love it!!!


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Paco's World: Outstanding!

“The Sea and Nature,” Paco said, his weathered face beaming joy. “That’s what I love. The Sea and Nature. And everyday I get to be on this boat. It’s what I was meant to do.”

We were snorkeling off Monkey Island in Puerto Rico over New Year’s with friends. We had run into Paco a few days earlier along the harbor in Naguabo. The old salt pointed to his blue and red wooden boat anchored nearby and encouraged us to join him on a tour.

“The weather Wednesday morning should be outstanding!”

Wednesday we drove through a rain storm to the harbor. By the time Paco strolled up with snorkeling equipment in hand, the rain had receded. Motoring us across the bay, Pace waved his arm toward the horizon roiling with dark clouds. “It’s a beautiful day to be out!” he exclaimed. “Look how calm the water is. And just past those clouds it’s clearing up.”

We snorkeled over the wreck of a sugar cane barge that went down in 1948. The years had turned it into a reef where hundreds of parrot fish, blue tangs, porcupine fish, and black and yellow sergeant majors congregated. Back on board, we watched rhesus monkeys cavorting on land.

“Oh, man, look at them monkeys monkeying around!” Paco laughed.

As he steered us back to the mainland, Paco waxed philosophical. “Do you know what’s the most important thing in the world to learn about?”

We waited.

“Yourself! You got to know who you really are!”

He thumped his chest. “You got to be true to what’s here. If you’re doing what pleases others instead of yourself, you got nothing.”

He tapped his heart again. “You can’t be afraid. Age doesn’t matter. Do what you love!”

Paco’s eyes crinkled at the rolling waters of the Atlantic as he seemed to drink in the energy that nourishes him.

“What a beautiful day! Isn’t Nature outstanding?”

Although Paco steers his boat over the same nautical mile toward the off-shore monkey reserve every day, the trip is a joy for him. He showed us a vivid example of living fully—loving what you do and doing what you love.