My writings about the Constancy of Change in Life and beyond. From my view spot above the city in southern Costa Rica, I write.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Intensives of 2017 that Were

2017 was a year that began in disarray. Personal upheavals seemed to parallel the political ones. I had scheduled four Intensives for the first four months of the year – and suddenly, plans were changing nearly as fast as the US political rhetoric. Five people suddenly canceled while two more just as suddenly signed up. Disarray. But those who participated in the first four months of 2017 will remain in my heart forever! I told them all – you are best ever! And I meant it.

January -  Two Painters and a Writer
I met them in the rain on the top of the Cerro del Muerte, ‘The mountain of death’ where we agreed to meet for our first meal together. And our time began over lunch at the Chespiritos cafeteria style restaurant with all kinds of great Tico food that included ensalada rusa, arranche, arroz con pollo, and so many other wonderful dishes I've come to love.

Three people, all from the Pacific Northwest. Two were experienced watercolor painters – Rick and Jeanne. Carla, married to Rick was in the process of writing a book. And all three exuded creativity and enthusiasm.

For the next five days we established a routine that included time for me to read what Carla was writing, doing a painting demo for Jeanne and Rick on a selected subject, lots of painting time for us all in the outdoor studio and time for Carla to respond on her laptop to the writing
thoughts I had after reading her in process book – a wonderful fantasy adventure about a 12 year old boy discovering his powers and sense of belonging. I even found some moments to rest a bit in the midst of the active schedule. Meals were cooperative and Anita came up several times to provide home made Tico dishes that we all enjoyed.

February - Two Painters and a Dog!

Que has participated in an Intensive or a workshop here in Costa Rica for the past seven years and was ready to gear up for lots of painting time in the studio. Julia, a fellow ExPat who had arrived from Colorado and her sweet dog, Chloe stepped in to take an available spot after two cancelled. It was a win win for all. Que, along with her painting experience has also been a dog trainer and helped Frida to accept (mas o menos) another dog in the outdoor studio. (Frida is pretty protective of her space after spending a few years on the streets).

And this group painted start to finish at least five paintings each! Including me! We even took on the formidable 'sleeping angel clouds'!

Frida said goodby from her place above the road and valley.

March -  Two Intrepid Canadians!

I was so very pleased to welcome two Canadians to my place and studio and I am pretty sure Frank enjoyed their presence, too. Both Jayne and Helene set up their goals which mostly centered around understanding and using color more effectively. And Jayne added another goal – to FINISH a painting!

In the process we painted, critiqued, enjoyed Anita's cooking and attended a talk in town given by a local writer, Carol Vaughn who spoke about her new book, about to be published by The Costa Rica Star -"Crazy Jungle Love: Murder, Madness, Money & Monkeys" (see synopsis below)

At the end of our time together Jayne finished at least two paintings as did Helene. And Helene, a consummate designer carried her love of color and Costa Rica cooking tastes home with her. She sent me this amazing photo featuring her dinner party preparations of seared tuna, gallo pinto, fried platanos and fresh fruit. The photo says it all. 

Best of all – the Intensives in 2017 were intense and exuberant! Thank you all!

And oh - did I mention that Canadians really know how to enjoy the sun!

Synopsis of Crazy Jungle Love: Murder, Madness, Money & Monkeys

Synopsis, by Carol Blair Vaughn
Crazy Jungle Love is the true story of an American couple who arrived in Costa Rica in 1998, leaving behind their lives in the United States -- forever.  John Bender was a multi-millionaire hedge fund manager, and Ann Bender was his beautiful and exotic wife.  The Benders both suffered from bipolar disorder, and perhaps other mental illness challenges.  They settled in one of the most remote and wild areas of the country, an area famous for dangerous animals and unfriendly neighbors.  Their dream was to create the area’s first nature reserve, and to live out their lives peacefully, discovering new flora and fauna on their 5,000-acre estate, while creating an animal conservation program for the Southern Zone.  That dream began to unravel after the first three years, as the Benders both descended into the agonies of mental illness, exacerbated by neighbors they had alienated, and financial problems which they had not foreseen.  Then their Costa Rican lawyer allegedly stole one hundred million dollars from the trust they had created for the reserve, and a former business partner of John’s sent goons to Costa Rica to attempt to collect on a debt of ninety million dollars he claimed John owed him.
John’s life ended tragically in 2008, by a single bullet wound to the back of his head, with only John and Ann present in their master bedroom on the night of his death.  Ann was accused of John’s murder, and was tried three times for intentional homicide.  During these three trials, Ann fell in love with Greg Fischer, an American fitness trainer and fellow nature lover.  Greg died under mysterious circumstances in his own bedroom, while Ann was in Preventive Detention for John’s murder.  Ann had lost the nature reserve, $20 million of her jewelry collection, and her house and household effects while in detention. It was assumed that their lawyer had absconded with the Bender fortune, and moved to Nicaragua to build his own Shangri-La, complete with Arabian horses and fantasy mansions.  Costa Rica confiscated Ann’s passport, leaving her few options for escape.
Crazy Jungle Love describes an operatic love affair set against the background of the jungles of one of Central America’s most beautiful countries. The plot is replete with shady characters, questionably honest police and judicial officials, antiquated forensic techniques, profound mental illness, strange behavior by lawyers and friends, native legends and folk tales, and a tragic heroine who seems to have lost everything of any value in her life.  Ann Bender has survived, but at a terrible cost to her wellbeing.  The story is told in intimate detail by the reporter from The Costa Rica Star who covered Ann’s case for four years, documenting each twist and turn from a bird’s eye view in a Costa Rican town very near the Bender estate.  The question still remains to this day, Who killed John Bender? 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

BFFs Forever

A Story of a Dog Rescue

Originally written and blog published in August, 2014.

When I moved to Costa Rica in 2008 I brought my animal family consisting of four parrots and two dogs. The four parrots lived together in an aviary attached to my house and readily open to my office. My two dogs, Livvie and Seurat were best pals. A year after our arrival, Livvie died at a respectable age of 12 for a German Shepherd and Seurat was alone, which he seemed to manage. After Frank and I got together, we often talked about getting another dog pal for Seurat. At different times there were puppies made available to us – but Seurat would have nothing to do with them. When Frank brought one of his dogs to my house, Seurat was incensed. It seemed he was pretty particular about who he would share his family with.

Two days before the end of 2013, Frank and I decided to stop by a local dog shelter owned by a Tica Veterinarian, Dr. Milena Elizondo. This compassionate woman rescues dogs abandoned in San Isidro de El General. We decided to try again.

Dr. Milena was excited and said she knew just the dog - and a man was taking care of her but would bring her over immediately. Randall soon arrived with a sweet, starving german shepherd mix who had recently given birth but was without puppies. He had noticed her wandering the streets in a nearby town and took her to his friend, Milena. Wasted and starved to her bones, there was something in her lovely eyes that implored Frank and me to return the next day, New Year's eve - with Seurat. We hoped he would let us know how he felt about her.

The meeting of the two dogs began on Dr. Milena's porch. I immediately called the quiet dog Frida - for Frida Kahlo who also suffered a painful early life. And her name would be in keeping with the artist nomenclature I'd adopted with Seurat. I would often reply, 'Pointilist' when someone asked about Seurat's breed. Though only artists 'got it', it always made me smile. 

Seurat was immediately just fine with Frida as we walked them together to see how they interacted. It was almost as if they both knew they belonged together. We just shrugged our shoulders and went home with Frida and Seurat. When I put Livvie's old collar on her, Seurat actually jumped for joy!
We fell into a routine of 4 meals a day for Frida and Seurat began training his new pal - when to bark, how early to wake up the humans, taking her out each morning to walk the road and check out all the new smells - and he even brought her back! Frida was very mellow, and slept a lot. We understood she was still weak and recovering from her starvation on the streets.

After about two weeks of steady improvement, Frida one day began walking unsteadily and appeared disoriented. One eye was filled with blood. We immediately took her to see Dr. Milena who diagnosed her with Erlichiosis or Canine Hemorrhagic Fever.  A terrible blow. This is a most often fatal blood parasitic disease carried by the brown tick. Frida, unfortunately was in the chronic phase with includes retinal hemorrhage. Dogs can often live with the parasite and show no visible evidence until it reaches the chronic stage, as with Frida. Dr. Milena armed us with antibiotics, blood and immune building capsules and we decided to do the best we could and not give up on this sweet girl who wanted only to live. Seurat watched her carefully, too and was nearly always by her side.

Frida fought back! After a week+ on antibiotics (which I was only able to get her to eat through extreme trickery), she started acting more upbeat, gaining a little weight and the retinal bleeding happening not as often, permitting her to see and enjoy her surroundings. Her pal, Seurat stayed right there for her. He seemed to understand.

And one morning they began their serious business of playing! It is often just a blur of growls and occasional yelps. 

They are best friends forever, after all!

Frank loved Frida, reminding him of his first shepherd, Osa a long long time ago. It was lovely to see the bond these two developed.

After Frank passed in early March, Frida and Seurat seemed to miss him so and I began to take them on the walks they had so enjoyed with Frank. It has become a regular treat for them and exercise for me.

By August, Frida appears to be completely healthy and sooooo rambunctious! She is best friends with Seurat and they share bones, food and anything else, including me. 

What a lovely family! And this family of dogs helped to get me through losing Frank.  But last I heard from him, he told me that my old sweet Shepherd, Livvie and his shepherd Osa are with him – as well as Flash, the parrot he also loved.

BFFs forever.