Apparently the combination of Big Birthday and trees makes me want to wax contemplative. I kind of hate the idea that “40” is some milestone – especially one that divides the country of youthful hijinks from a land of sobriety, wrinkles and restorative yoga – but it’s far too ingrained in our collective brains to treat as “just another birthday”. When my dad turned 40, we began to count backwards…. (it was a joke, people – but now he’s 8.)
So, okay, just a few life reflections. It’s better than buying a sportscar. (BTW I did just buy a car! a mildewy RAV4 from 2001! how’s that for a half-assed midlife crisis?) The epic birthday week in Osa (see part 1 of this post) left me thinking about a few durable lessons I’ve wrung from 40 years.
You get out of things what you put into them
In grad school I was elected to the Forestry Club, a small group of folks charged with the carrying the legendary torch of FUN (and let’s be honest, drinking) at Yale F&ES. It fell to us to organize the TGIF happy hours and big school-wide social events each semester – a great honor, to be sure, one only questioned when you were picking up half-full red Solo cups from Bowers auditorium floor at 3am after everyone else had already left the Halloween Party. From FC, from Burning Man, from my beautifully creative community of party-throwers in DC and the professional event-planners in my life, I’ve learned that the effort you put into an event is always more than recouped. (Even if nobody consciously notices those menu details you slaved over, right Emily?) It gave me such an absurd amount of pleasure to show off the Osa to friends who had never been to Costa Rica before, and any amount of planning was worth it.
lesson corrollary: getting up early sucks but is almost always worth it. snorkeling at Isla del Caño.
okay some things you can’t plan but you can still learn from….
I take no credit for this gorgeous detail from the Rancho Raices party…but I sure did appreciate it.
Have I mentioned yet that flowing chocolate tower?
I’m pretty sure that’s the same with most things in life. My most rewarding professional experience thus far has been those years at EIA, into which I put my blood, sweat, tears, weekends and dating life, but I am proud every day of what we achieved and grateful for the career options it’s given me. And so it will be with this finca. I have no doubt whatsoever that I will waste gobs of money and effort over the next decade because I don’t really know what I’m doing…but that process is itself much of the payback. (Also back to the parties…there will be more FincaFests to come! Team 2016 did a great scoping job.)
The world is so not what I want it to be, but it is possible to make change
I wrestle deeply with an environmentalist’s particular strain of indulgent defeatism. Climate change, rising oceans, disappearing species, poisoned ecosystems, attendant social paroxysms, etc. The planet feels like a grim place to bring children into. Aging seems to make it easier to slip into facile cynicism than tap into righteous rage.
How to flex your sense of agency, not simply turn and turn in the widening gyre? Perhaps restoring this small corner of the world to forest is simply my own fantasy of control over uncontrollable change, but it feels more like spiritual engagement. Confronted with the contemporary physical, social and psychological landscape, willing one’s positive visions into reality is a practice of hope.
This WILL be forest, this WILL be forest
Imagine all the people, killing off all the non-native pasture grass
Sharing things and working together makes the heart grow bigger
Yeah I know, this is straight out of “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” I’m increasingly okay with a hokey factor. This past week I had friends with me from childhood, from college, from grad school, from DC, from Costa Rica, all hanging out and working together… it was kind of like a wedding party, except we were all gross and sweaty and wearing this freaking awesome commemorative t-shirt designed by Yuki.
I haven’t gotten married, I don’t have that nuclear family thing going on, but damn if I haven’t managed to build a fabulous web of people around me. And we planted 150 trees together in two hours! It took even El Presidente two days to do the same number on his own. Now everyone feels invested in the outcome of these trees and this place.
Even more: the circle we’ve created goes beyond the May 18th crew and into the community of Dos Brazos, now beginning to build a nursery with funds raised by my friends and family. A nursery that will contribute to our forest restoration work and to Dos Brazos’ local economy and community pride (please read more and give here). That my finca can be a wellspring for this nascent web of community and friendship and support…I love that so much.
Corollary: Asking for help is really hard and really powerful. Note to self: do it more.
so much cooler than a white dress, right?
At the entrance to Dos Brazos’s ecotourism trail
“Real” versus “beautiful” – the Velveteen Rabbit and my yoga teacher got it right
I have caused myself so suffering in this life by obsessing over physical appearances. I not infrequently wish I could teleport back to 1989 and tell poor 13-year old Andrea staring naked into the mirror, please, please don’t go down that rabbit hole. If I could, I would show her the pictures from this week. Of course you want to feel like you “look good for 40” or whatever…but actually, we were all quite busy laughing, eating and drinking well and doing beach yoga with no mirrors around, playing in dirt and telling stories and being really real people, and who cares that we all look kinda shiny and red and bug-bitten and are wearing socks up over our pants legs in most pictures? We also look real pleased with life. It’s the Osa Look.
i could critique the heck out of how look in this picture… but instead i’m going to remember i was laughing
on the runways for 2017…
I’ve probably never looked happier
Trees are awesome….but okay, sloths are cuter
Hi! My name is Chewbaca the baby sloth. My little buddy Anakin is napping in this basket next to me.
Oh did I mention that I eat flowers for breakfast? Now what were you saying about that tree? (Thanks to Eli Black for the photos and obsession. Photos taken at KSTR in Quepos..)
And finally, one last lesson that I’m still working to internalize (thanks Brett for breaking this down to me as the essential 40s attitude): Call it the honey badger principle. Stop giving such a shit. Life is far, far too short to spend it ruminating over what others think of you and your actions, or what you think of yourself compared to others, or how things could have been more perfect, how you should have done the party on a different day from the planting, should have read more reviews of the Lodge before renting, should have ensured everyone saw monkeys and ocelots, should have tested your music systems beforehand, should have helped Becky more with her lost luggage, should have spent more time with each and every one of the beloved people who showed up…. Yeah, okay, all of those things are true. But “shoulds” are toxic. Everything’s always imperfect; what can you do beyond acknowledge the loss and accept the learning that it brings? And celebrate the hell out of what time we do have together in the gorgeous green corners of this crazy planet.
(But PS, Team Siembra…. I’m still not calling it Finca El Despiche!)
Please consider contributing to my project with Osa Birds and the community of Dos Brazos to build a native plants nursery and bird garden on the Peninsula. Gratefully, Andrea