It’s hard to get up, feeling so low. I have to get out of this place!
I grab the book, the computer and my writing stuff, and walk out. It’s sunny, and sticky. I’ll go to the café. I get an espresso and put a tad of cream in it as the chunky notebook starts-up. I look at Andy’s email.
“22 March 2000
Hey buddy! I’m in SJ until probably Fri. but may head up to Montalba. Am awaiting a wire transfer of funds from a Utah account. Then I’m heading to Jaco to pick up my board, which is in the shop for repairs. I want to go back to Malpais, if I can. Probably be there around Sun. or Mon. We’ll see but if I have to wait for the money, I’ll come to Montalba and see you there.
Write back. Read the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell (who is my hero). You will learn to love it very quickly.
I’m putting in a little thing I wrote about my Chirripo climb.
Talk to you soon.
I guess when I arrived I kind of hit a wall. Everything was soaring at full speed and without effort: I was studying and learning all about emergency medicine, biking everyday, climbing in endless boulder cirques with glaciated peaks around me, and spending time with a beautiful girl whom I care about deeply. I thought I would continue to ride the wave right into the mountains and rivers of Costa Rica…
But the wave died. I had a great time, but it was more like dog-paddling than riding the wave. I broke new boundaries in kayaking big water, but once my shoulder went out, that went out too. I suppose I just never felt like I was really tapping into Costa Rica. I didn’t really connect with anyone but Cubans, Gringos, Argentines and Canadians. What about the ticos?
So I left…for Chirripo. I figured the cold frost-nipped air would do me good. It did more than that.
The first day passed from a mountain village at 4000 ft. over rivers and through lowland jungle, then cloud forest, then stunted pygmy forest, and finally through a huge burn section at nearly 12000 ft. The ghostly charred roots and trunks stood like sentinels at the gates of the underworld amid the mists. Humming birds darted in and out of the dead figures tending to the bell-shaped flowers which held the promise of the next forest’s rise.
Around the corner lay the base camp. Here, among the bogs and swimming highland grasses, I found the connection I was missing.
Alone, I summated the cerro Chirripo which blessed me that cold 5:00 in the morning day with clear views of the coming sun scattering rays across both oceans and a blanket of clouds in between. I climbed the various peaks and cirques for days all alone among the cold rose-tinged vapours. But I returned to a family of sorts…
Down at the base in the communal kitchen was a rag-tag assemblage of mountain lovers: Germans, Canadians, Americans, Chileans, and TICOS!! Here I met a group of extraordinary Costa Ricans who shared my avocados with me and in turn offered me a stay at their house upon our return. They also gave me a ride to their home in San Isidro, a two hour’s drive from the base village.
We watched the sun go down and come up every day together, with warm mugs of tea enclosed in our hands. We spoke of everything in the world, and the language barrier dissolved as did the other boundaries that can’t hold sway on the mountain people. We skipped and danced our way down among the stones and mosses and shared ice cream at the bottom, a beleaguered troop of smiling wayfarers. We joked that we would join the local boys in a game of “futbol” when, in actuality, we were walking like bow-legged city-slickers after a three day rodeo.
Back to the honk and bustle of an evolving third-world country caught between it’s bucolic past and it’s desire to partake in the drinking of the river of wealth and material shininess which flashes across the movie screens, internet windows, TVs, and radio waves of the brave new world. Back, yes, but with something smiling in my mind. A silent bird of understanding had fluttered its’ wings in my dust-bins awakening my awareness of how utterly together we all are, despite the barriers which can present themselves in our minds.
Of course, as any lover of mountains ought to admit, we love the mountains themselves, yes. But we equally love the way the world looks at the base of the mountains after returning. How simple and pure to stand back and gaze upon that looming giant with that new knowledge of the comforts of the more inhabitable lands.
Imagine a stain glass window in an ancient cathedral. It is sort of like studying light passing through a perfect deep crimson glass plane, and then, upon stepping back further and further, seeing the all the rich colors of the world dancing across the eternal interstices of wide open space.
This is what Chirripo did for me.”
I got to digest that for a while.
I read the book. I’m almost finished it.
* * *
I’m done. That was quick, only fifteen minutes.
Everything seems connected. How is it that I came to have brought this book, that I knew next to nothing about, thousands of miles then read it precisely now?
I’ve got to write.
I take out the book.
“31 March 2000 – a Friday
Montalba, Costa Rica
Whoa! I don’t have too much energy today. Two late nights, smoking and drinking hard, have caught up to me. I’ve read Andy’s email again; it’s so poignant for me.
When I returned to the casa, after a twenty-four hour party binge, I could see somebody had been there. I found the note from Andy, saying hello and a bit more about his travels.
After Chirripo Andy had gone on a two-week hike through the rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. At one pointed, he exclaimed in the letter, he’d come face-to-face with a jaguar. After that, he’d gone north to the Nicoya to surf.
I was sad to have missed him, because of my capricious exercise in self-destruction, blindly pursuing fruitless disconnection. Oh well.
In this past month I’ve been up high, and way down. But now, I just feel tired and confused.
Why am I here?
What am I doing here?
What should my next move be?
How will I get to it?
I’m encumbered. I still worry about the future at the expense of… right… now! And this fucking shit! That goddam car! Fuck!
The meagre insight that I’ve gained has accentuated, and sharpened, my feeling that something is missing.
The frantic pace of earning and spending is so loud, it drowns out those activities essential to humanity. It’s making my head hurt, thinking about it. The connections fail, or are lost in the noise. There’s no room for spirit in the corporate run society; consumption is the religion and the drug. The numbing works.
Infrastructures of civilizations are monstrous cyborgs, partially composed of zombified human components. These alien creatures are dedicated to the harvesting of power from individuals to fuel their own cancer-like growth on the planet…
But, hopefully, I’m just hung over.
I just finished reading El Buscon, by Francisco de Quevedo, moments ago. The last paragraph is as follows:
‘When I saw that this situation was going to be more or less permanent and that bad luck was dogging my heels, I made up my mind, not because I was intelligent enough to see what was going to happen, but because I was tired and obstinate in my wickedness, to go to America with Grajales. I consulted her first; I thought that things would go better for me in the New World, and another country. But they went worse, as they always will for anybody who thinks he only has to move his dwelling without changing his life or ways.’
Grajales was El Buscon’s whore, before becoming his girlfriend and then wife.
The poignancy of this message belies the long string of tenuous circumstances leading to how I originally acquired the book, mostly pretty much by chance, then selected to take it away with me, knowing almost nothing about it, then read it, now!
It’s ringing in my head.
Hopefully, I’m just hung over.”
.”The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, first published 1949, ISBN (republication) 978-1-57731-593-3.
. All in quotes composed by A.D. in confidence, with implied consent for inclusion
.The Penguin Classic, “Two Spanish Picaresque Novels“, which includes Lazarillo de Tormes, anon, and The Swindler (El Buscon), by Francisco de Quevedo, published originally in Spanish, in 1554, and 1608, respectively, translated from the original Spanish, by Michael Alpert, Penguin Books Ltd. 1969.