I lost Gracie a few months ago. A scorpion or spider wandered in her cage. She screamed suddenly and by the time I reached her, she was hanging upside down, one claw desperately hanging from her perch. I reached in and gently took her out. I held her close to my face and a few minutes later, she died.
My son had bought Gracie for my birthday, so it was even harder to say goodbye to her. Just a common green parrot, but she was a great friend. She loved to play on my desk disturbing everything in her path, and shaking her head up and down in satisfaction when I scolded her.
I kept her in a shoebox for a few days and finally let Vigil bury her far away on the finca so the dogs would never find her. I'm such a sentimentalist, and it is sometimes hard to be tough in the cycle of life that comes and goes here on the finca.
Ever's little girl Wendy celebrated her third birthday a few weeks ago. Evers asked if he could borrow my camera to take pictures at their house during the party. I didn't really feel comfortable letting him take the camera, so I offered to stop by and take the photos myself. When I arrived, he immediately came outside and I sensed he didn't want me to come inside. That's when I noticed while moving my way to the entrance, that the floor was dirt and they had no furniture other than a rickety wooden table. I pretended as though I didn't see any of it and just concentrated on taking pictures of Wendy while she batted at her pinata, and blew out her candles. I stayed for cake and coffee and then drove home. Evers told me last week, they are expecting another child in January. With any luck, I will be here to bring them home from the hospital as I did with Wendy.
This Sunday, I rode Nino around the finca. I found out the other day, that no one had ridden him in almost two months. Where did the time go? Evers escorted me and we spent an hour visiting with all the families that grow corn. Most of them have bent their corn stalks in half now to finish the drying process. The beans are almost all planted and if you look closely, you can see the first leaves emerging from the ground.
Seeing the corn so close to harvest, I realize it is coming up on a year since I came down here. Three seasons have passed with the busiest one just ahead. My previous trips down here were always for a few weeks at a time, so I missed a lot. It seems ages ago when I first walked on this land during a visit with my mother and sister in 1994. I remember feeling this strange pull, but quickly dismissed it as a silly daydream. At the time, I was married with a very conventional life in Chicago.
When my mother first approached me about running the finca, I initially laughed at such a far-fetched notion. It seemed impossible. How could I suddenly change gears, move to a foreign country, learn a new language, grow coffee, and live on an abandoned plantation alone? I guess my mother knew me well. I remember saying the words, "okay, I'll do it," to her and within moments, my life had shifted. I didn't know if I would succeed, but I had to try.
I asked myself, "What's it's going to be Steph? Stay safe, go back to your job, date, marry again, be conventional...or, maybe, just maybe, take a risk and see what you are made of." I really didn't want to admit that I had already made up my mind.
Initially, this seemed like a romantic adventure. Go live on the side of a volcano and whip 200 acres into shape. Five years later, it has become so much more than I ever imagined. The land romanced me as though I had been here before sometime in the past. I never felt I had to get to know the place like you do a new neighborhood. I put one foot in front of the other and never questioned it. The answers will come, and they have. Help has come from many sources. People have been generous and have gone out of their way to clear my path. For every challenge, there has been at least one person who eased the burden so that I might continue.
The initial and still important goal of turning a piece of land around, and allowing it yield a profitable bounty once more, has been eclipsed by the changes in the lives of a few. This really is a little speck on the globe that nobody would know about if I didn't write my thoughts down every now and then. In the big picture, it's minuscule compared to what's going in the rest of world.
But it is amazing to me when I look around at the people whose livelihood depends on this land now. Bringing it back to life has given at least 30 families a sense of well-being and security. Someone is running the show again, and the days of my great grandfather weave their way through tomorrow. I will always be grateful for this sobering time in my life when I was able to strip away the fluff to what matters the most, those human connections we make while we are here. I shall also be glad to pass on the baton one day. If there are any younger members of our clan out there interested in getting their feet wet, come on down.