West of the Fields

A tropical ecologist reporting from the field. Musings on life and art, botfly extractions, tropical plant identification, beer, parrots, machetes. Etc.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ida y vuelta

So I find myself in Costa Rica again. Leaving Costa Rica again, actually, on my way to Suriname for the ABTC conference for two weeks, and then I’m back here until the end of August. I’m typing this at the airport in Alajuela, with ominous clouds gathering all around. I’ve been here for two weeks, setting up for the REU program, redecorating the house, and trying to get over the idea of being single again. I’ve had a lot of free time—when I made the reservations, back in February, I’d planned to spend a week at the beach with Franklin. Mostly I can manage not to think about it; it’s just on certain nights when the rain lets up and the air gets cold and I turn over in bed, reaching for somebody who’s not there and who never will be again. Or I catch myself listening for footsteps on the stairs outside, or listening for the sound of his motorcycle engine, or remembering—but I don’t want to dwell on this; it’s over.

I am thinking of a novel I read in high school, Huasipungo, about land reforms in Ecuador. The plot is convoluted and tragic, and I don’t remember anything now except the last scene, where a yellow bird flies over the field where the peasants died in their revolt and sings “ya’cabó... ya’cabó...” Ya se acabó, it’s over now. When I think of being single it is mostly a profound weariness that overtakes me. I don’t have the energy for dates and bars and that whole scene; I don’t have the courage right now to risk anything, and I feel old, abandoned. I feel like that yellow bird, a survivor, a voice from the past. I need to start belonging to the present and future again, but I’m not there yet.

I had wanted to wait until I had something good to report before posting to this blog again. I was hoping something large and wonderful would happen, something to offset this horrible betrayal. Of course the world doesn’t work that way. I’m trying to be grateful for little things: the rainy season has started, after a week so dry that the earth was cracking in places; my paper that was recently rejected from Ecology Letters was at least rejected with an invitation to resubmit, though when I’ll find time to rewrite it god only knows. I am in good health. The plague of winged termite queens that infested the house last week seems to have diminished.

Really, there is one major thing that I am thankful for: the kindness of my friends. The people I know at La Selva have been so kind and understanding. Alex took me into town for groceries a few days back, when I was upset about the paper rejection, and the upset-ness of everything else was threatening to spill over. We got back to her house about 9 am, and the rain was pissing down so hard that we had to shout over the din from the tin roof. We sat at her kitchen table drinking tea.

“Alex,” I shouted, “I don’t want to go to the station with this rain. I want to sit here all day, baking fatty, sugary things and eating them.” And that was more or less what we did. The rain kept up all day and into the evening, while we baked banana cake and ginger snaps and made a giant batch of roasted vegetables for dinner. Meanwhile, Alex comforted me and told me crazy stories from her days of working in the mountains of Braulio Carillo. Felix came home from work, dripping wet—he’d been up in the mountains all day, and he reported that the rain was even worse up there—and polished off about a quarter of a banana cake. I don’t know where it goes on his lean frame. Around suppertime, Steven and Marilyn came out from the station (the rain had let up) bringing a bottle of wine, some good bread, and corn chips. Alex invited everybody for supper, making a delicious dish of roasted vegetables, pasta, and cheese sauce. We sat around the table talking and laughing and reminiscing, all these old friends. There was nowhere else on earth I would rather have been at that moment, and at such a time, to think of what (or who) I was missing made as little sense as dreaming of snow in the humid tropics.

And now I’m flying off to Suriname, to present a talk based on the paper that was just rejected. Hopefully the audience will be more accepting (so to speak) than the reviewers. I wish I was more excited about this trip. Part of what is dampening my enthusiasm is my flight schedule: I leave San José at 7:15 tonight, and I get to Paramaribo at midnight tomorrow, after an eight-hour layover in Miami and six hours in Trinidad. Not quite enough, in Miami, to justify shelling out the $200 for an airport hotel room, so I’m hoping for a comfortable corner of the floor.


At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hang in there. It will get better over time and we are rooting for you. Don't let the foibles of others drag you down. You are too good for that. Keep on plugging on your paper and you will get it right (write). I have confidence in you and you should too.


At 10:44 AM, Blogger Susan said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Roger! I'll get it back one of these days. It's good to know people are rooting for me.


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