Farewell to a Writer, with a capital W

Barking Mad & Cailean November 2008I met Ross Eldridge through my online writing critique group, The Internet Writing Workshop (IWW). As a mark of his writing ability, I felt I knew him personally even though we had never met.

His prolific works were always filled with life, wit, charm, and British intellect at its very best. I loved his long and looping essays that started in one place, and like any good, long story, encompassed many subjects before returning to wrap up at the end.

We corresponded outside the workshop and I came to know him and his little dog, Cailean, through his blog and irregular letters several of us continued long after he left the critique group. So when I heard this week he recently died of cancer, I felt as though I had lost a good friend. One of his last Tweets: “Well, if this is cancer, I don’t think much of it.”

Rest in peace, Ross.  Wherever you are, I hope they have plenty of paper and pens available (or computers, I know you’d love that!), and an ample supply of small Dachshunds for you pleasure. Maybe just one; I know that would make you happy. I would love to hear from you about the people you see on the other side and how things work over there. Write me a letter because I miss your voice.

God speed, my friend.

You can find his essays at Barking Mad in Amble by the Sea and there is an extensive set of essays at the Camroc Press Review/ Ross Eldridge.


Letting Go

let goI’m back to my blog, finally. It’s taken me a bit after the death of my father (here is a nice obit). I am better now, more rested, and more at ease with my emotions.

It took two things.

Over the past month I have journaled extensively about the experience, and, lo, a short prose poem that poured out of me one morning was accepted last Friday for publication in June. More about that later when I get formal notification, but I’m very excited this one got picked up.

Also, I went to see my chiropractor and acupuncturist last week. I’ve written about Daniel before; for me he is a miracle worker. Anyway, I told him about my dad’s death and he agreed that losing parents is a hard marker in life. We feel older and more mortal, the new gatekeepers of death. I expressed my anguish over the experience and he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you want to let go?”

God, yes!

Then he touched a finger into outer aspect of my lower bicep, about four inches above my elbow, and said, “This is the point of letting go.” I lay on his chiropractic table, and after he finished adjusting my neck and shoulder, he needled me in that very spot (along with several other sites).  I rested there for maybe 45 minutes with those fine needles wobbling with any movement, but I felt at ease for the first time in months.

The relief was almost instantaneous. When I got up I was aware that I could think about the issues surrounding my father’s death and no longer become overwhelmed by emotions, and I can now let feelings come and go like we breathe, effortlessly and without clinging to good feelings or bad. I needed so badly to let go, but I was grateful that he asked if I was ready.

I have been fortunate to have Daniel in my life, but as my daughter said, “Don’t you think those people appear in your life when and where you need them?” Could be. I used to have a wonderful massage therapist back in Oregon when I was going through a lot of stress about 25 years ago.

To augment the acupuncture I have continued to put finger pressure on those points above my elbow, and they are tender to touch. How interesting is our body and our reactions to stress. How amazing that we can heal ourselves without drugs or psychotherapy. Our bodies want to be well; we just have to give them a chance.

I have also been listening to a wonderful meditation from Meditation Oasis podcasts called, not surprisingly, letting go. Those tapes are wonderful and very restorative. They also have ones for stimulating creativity, grounding, and many others. Love them.

L is for Leaving A to Z Challenge, or How I was Unable to Continue

Just a note to visitors from the A to Z blogging challenge, I have to drop out due to a family emergency. I have enjoyed this month’s challenge and will definitely  look at doing it next year. Please feel free to stay on my subscription list, I will be posting after this crisis has passed, and I will keep your writing and look forward to reading them at some later date. Blog on, people.

C is for calenton de cabeza.

Costarican idioms from A to Z (loosely interpreted)

The verb calentar means “to heat,” so this expression means “to get angry” (hot headed).

Do I have a problem with this?


This has probably been my single highest hurdle living in Costa Rica. When I first arrived twenty years ago (can it have been that long?) any little thing would have me venting my spleen. Their insane driving habits, long lines in banks, multiple locations where we had to pay bills, nothing I wanted in grocery stores, no Internet, no PHONE, all had me in a constant tizzy.

Poooor Sarita.

“Why can’t they do things in an orderly manner?” I bitched to my long-suffering partner.

His response, “If you want it done like they do it in the USA, why don’t you go home?”  That always shut me up, because what I really I wanted was to be with him.

A couple of things changed the way I approached all these brain-combusting situations. One was a comment by my Australian son-in-law. He said once in casual conversation—and he is right—  “The First World is an anomaly; the way things happen in the rest of the world is the norm.” Well. I had to think about that.

Why should there be staid and starchy traffic patterns? Why did I assume there should be quick and efficient access to a teller? In almost all non-westernized countries there is a general chaos (loose anarchy?) and what I have come to call “informal payments.” But there is also also personal freedom of a kind I was unaccustomed to in the USA. No police will stop you when you are trying to kill yourself on a motorcycle without a helmet, there are no federal safety regulations (to speak of), and if you stand under a guy on a ladder and he drops a hammer and it hits you on the head, well… you have the fault. People in the Third World assume you have common sense and will take care of yourself.

The other thing that happened to change my outlook relates to yesterday’s post: the propensity of Costaricans to pick a legal fight. Once involved in one of those, all other irritants seem minor by comparision.I have learned to pick my battles.

Now, I always take a book to the bank and can sit for long periods of time until they are ready to wait on me (love my Kindle). The Internet has cleared up my time paying bills, so those multiple locations and days to pay bills are no longer and issue (that really was annoying, I have to admit). There are now often more choices in our grocery stores on this Caribbean coast than in San José, and I have an iPhone (I believe everyone is calmer when operating an iPhone).

There are still irritating things that happen, but just drop by the Department of Motor Vehicles in almost any state in America and it will prove that Costa Rica is not unique in exasperating chores.

So (mostly) I don’t sweat the small stuff, even when all of it piled together could create a bonfire for the brain.

And I remeber to breathe.


B is for Bochinche

Costarican idioms from A to Z

In Costa Rica, bochinche means “to mix it up” or “to fight.” But, curiously, it is also a Costarican national dish.

When ordering the almuerzo, or lunch, one can order a casado or a bochinche. The only difference is the way they are presented. The casado is a combination plate of rice, beans, a stewed meat, a salad, and, if you are lucky, a crispy, sweet fried plantain. The bochinche has all the same ingredients but is served in individual small bowls. As my friend Lidia, who owns Lidia’s Place, a small soda (cafe) in Puerto Viejo, says, “You get’s to mix it up.”And actually it is not surprising to me that the bochinche would be a national dish.

Fighting is a state sport here. For all the public relations blitzes about having no military, and the myth that Costa Rica is The Switzerland of Latin America, these people are scrappers.  Historically, they have stolen land from their neighbors and fought wars over it;  Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula were both stolen from Nicaragua, The Southern Zone stolen from Panama, and last year the Costarican government had armed conflicts with Nicaragua over the Rio San Juan border to the north.

This is not something expats learn until they have lived here for some time. The urge to mix it up goes from the highest levels of government right down to campasinos. Almost everyone I know has either been in court, or is in court, over some stupid conflict or another.

One friend of ours bought a plot of land from someone he grew with, his neighbor for over twenty years. Six years after the purchase, and with the price of land skyrocketing, they burned him out and claimed he’d never bought the land, despite his having documents to prove otherwise. Their rationale? He didn’t pay enough money and they needed more. There are fights like this one going on all the time, legal brawls between families, brother against brother, expats versus the locals, and most famously, one hotel owner who fought the government for twenty years. They finally tore his hotel down and he died two months later, but not before he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs.

You can spend years in the legal mosh pits over something as illegal as the previous owner changing his mind despite having signed a bill of sale—”Oh, someone offered more!” Not to put to fine a point on it, it’s a form of extortion.  Ask any Costarican—  they can quote the law as though they’d been to law school, and they are ready to mix it up. The courts are complicit in all this; often, is comes down to paying your way out.

Perhaps Costa Rica should establish a military and conscript  everyone in the country to serve for at least two years. Maybe that would curb the appetite for battle.

So, yes, B si for bochinche, a very Costarican dish.