Feed the Good Wolf

I feel the need to weigh in on the political situation in US of A. I do not believe that I have anything new to say, but when I think that I will therefore not say anything, that feels wrong.  So this, today, is my statement.  Followed by a story that gives me a way forward.

I am not happy with our new president.  I was not happy with him as a candidate, and I am not happy with him now.  I don’t like what he says or has done regarding issues of immigration.  I don’t like his arrogant, self-absorbed demeanor.  I read things that disturb me regarding how he is placing white supremacists in powerful positions around him.  I am told that hate crimes and hateful actions are on the rise.

I know good people who like him, who brush off what I find intolerable with a shrug of the shoulders and say this is the liberal media, not the truth.  All I can say is, I hope you are right.

I still don’t like him.  I feel betrayed by a country that I thought I understood a little, but clearly I don’t.

In the face of discrimination, hate and fear, I feel compelled to wage love.  Wage kindness.  Wield it like a sword.  No one, no matter how hateful, can take away your ability to be compassionate.  Do it expansively.

Here is a small Native American story for us to keep close to our hearts, to give us a way forward, personally.  It doesn’t speak directly to politics, but to individuals–to me.

A grandfather tells a young child that inside each person, there is a good wolf and a bad wolf.  The bad wolf is hate, anger, and arrogance.  The good wolf is love, compassion, and kindness.  The good wolf and the bad wolf are locked in a fight.

The child thinks about the wolves and, as children do, asks, “Which one wins?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

Feed the good wolf.

 

 

An Inch Too Far To The Left

I wanted to lie in my hammock and look at the moon. It was shining onto the porch through the trees, so if I lie with my head at the feet end, and my feet at the head end, I would be able to watch it rise. Up until that Wednesday night, I kept the hammock tied high and tight. It took some talent to get into, but it’s a much more comfortable position once you’re in, than half-sitting with your knees hyper-extended like what happens to me in normal hammock position.

One second, I was trying to wiggle up into the hammock with my left hip. The next second something slammed my head so hard I knew it was trying to kill me. That is literally what went through my mind: an attempt on my life.

I was lying on the floor. What? The cement floor under the hammock. On my porch. It was very hard to think about things, to understand that one second I was balancing into my hammock and the next second I hit the floor head-first on the other side. Sober, in case you’re wondering. Mortally clumsy.

It seemed clear to me that I might die. The sound I heard inside my own head as it slammed the cement echoed. I put my hand to my head and a soft, hot lump like the skull of a newborn filled my palm. If it’s swelling like this on the outside, what is happening on the inside? Am I going to die?

I called for Pio who was inside watching tv. The moment before, I kissed him and said I was going to go out onto the porch to lie in the hammock for a while. At 8 PM on a Wednesday. The night before full moon when I can’t bear to be inside. Then I was lying there trying to scream for ice.

*****

Clearly, I didn’t die. I walked around in a fog for a few days, and I still have a black eye even though the hit was nowhere near my face.

I’m writing this to tell you what came to my bruised brain as it bounced around inside my skull and decided to keep doing its job of making my body live. This: Pongase las cuentas al día. Get your accounts in order. Literally. And so-to-speak. Leave a paper trail. Say what you mean. Don’t start things you have no intention of finishing. Don’t start things you shouldn’t finish. Because any day, for any stupid slip-up, you could be gone.  Before you know what happened. All you have to do is lean in an inch too far to the left.

Pio got me ice. I don’t know who was more scared–him or me. I lie on the ground with my feet propped up while he iced them to keep me awake. It helps. Keep ice in your freezer. It might keep you conscious some night, which helps. I thought about Jon and the crocodile attack. He held on for 45 minutes or more lying on the beach while he waited for an ambulance. If he didn’t let go, I wasn’t going to. Not that there is any comparison between falling out of a hammock and being attacked by a crocodile. But I thought about it. No ambulance was going to come for me.

Pio called our neighbor who showed up with his truck, they put me in, and hauled me off the the “emergency room” in Santa Cruz, a very bouncy 30 minutes away. At the “emergency room,” they asked me what day it was, how old I am, looked in my eyes, pushed on my arms and told me I was alright. This is the type of free “medical service” available in Costa Rica. I got my first wheelchair ride. They told me if I started feeling or acting strange in the next days, to come back. I left as terrified as I’d arrived. The town I live in has lost more than one person several days after a head injury.

But I feel better now. I think it’s safe to say I made it. The day I leave this world, it will be because of something else. But you know what? I like it here. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m staying right here if I can help it, in this yellow house with Pio and the cats, my dying computer, the wind, the dusty road and a couple of low-slung hammocks that hyper-extend my knees.

2017 Plans, Starting With Coffee

I was talking on the phone to one of my sisters the other day, and she asked me perfectly normal question: “So what are your plans for the new year?”–or something like that.

For one very confusing moment, I had no idea what to say. I mean, I realize that, yes, we have turned a page on the calendar. I even made a resolution regarding how to (hopefully) be a somewhat better human being. But that’s not the same as plans.

For some reason it felt like a confession of something not very noble to say that I don’t really have any plans.  But I mean that in a good way, if you get what I’m saying.  An expression of contentment.  I have nothing to fix because nothing is broken.

Is that terrible?  I know in my heart that it isn’t, but it’s a 1st World cultural thing:  you need goals.  You need plans.  If you aren’t going somewhere–well.  How dare you?  Let me clarify:  this is NOT said sister’s attitude, nor is it the spirit in which she asked the question.  We were just chatting.  And then I got to… hablando sola.

When I sit down and make a list of what I actually plan to do this year, this is what I come up with:

–In 2017, I plan to wake up every morning.  Early.  Early enough to see the big dipper on the horizon in the south, then watch the sky fade from black to gray to blue.  Roosters, then monkeys, then parakeets.

–I plan to drink hot coffee in the mornings.  A glass of red wine in the evening.  In between, plenty of water.  I fully intend to eat far more plants than animals, and that most of the animals will be fish.

–I plan to surf as often and as well as I possibly can.  It won’t be as often or as well as my heart asks, but I plan to be ok with that.  I know my options.  For five cold years I couldn’t surf, ever.

–In 2017, I plan to feed my cats twice a day.  Religiously.   And pet them and pester them and sing them silly songs.

–I intend to go to work 5 days a week, and remember that this alone makes me lucky.

–I plan to be a good wife.

–I plan to visit my granddaughter.  She isn’t my biological granddaughter, obviously, because her mama wasn’t my baby, but I prefer to define things by what they are, not by what they are not.  She will learn to sit and crawl and probably walk.  I have no plans of being a stranger.

–I plan to look at the sky every night.  Search for certain stars or watch the moon.    On dry nights I may lie for a while on my back on the ground under the sky.  Me and the Milky Way.  Because I can.

–I have a hammock, now, and I intend to use it.

–In 2017, I plan to turn 47.  I feel fine about that.  Next year I plan to turn 48, and I’m not afraid to say it.

–I plan to pay attention to poems, to dreams, to wind direction.  If I can get those things right, the rest will follow.

These are my ambitions.  My goal is to be warm.  My plan is to be content.  On both counts, I am fully self-confident.

December 26, 2010: Barbara’s roommates speak with Bill on the telephone

On December 26, 2010, not having managed to locate Bill for four days, and now sick with fear about what might have happened to Barbara, Bill and Barbara’s roommates decided to call Bill’s family in North Carolina.  They gathered around the computer and punched the number into skype.

An older gentleman’s voice answered the phone.  They identified themselves as Bill friends, and asked if he knew where Bill was.  “Sure!” he answered pleasantly, “He’s right here.  Would you like to talk to him?”

They said yes.

I wasn’t part of this conversation, but have heard about it from several of the people who were.  The roommates say that they confronted Bill directly about Barbara, asking what had happened to her.  According to them, Bill laughed at them for suggesting that he killed her.  He made jokes, as if he could read their minds, about putting her in the board bag and throwing her over a bridge.  Then he hung up the phone.

This is the last conversation that Bill had with any of his former room mates.

* * *

Four days later, an investigation of the home by the OIJ revealed evidence that we are all familiar with, removing all doubt about whether or not Barbara Struncova was still alive.

The whereabouts of her body and of the board bag are an ongoing mystery.

 

Barbara Struncova November 7, 2010

Barbara Struncova
November 7, 2010

December 23, 2010: Money discovered missing

On the morning of December 23, 2010, the owner of the tour office where Bill worked woke up to discover that his company’s bank accounts had been frozen due to unusual activity the previous day.

At some time on December 22, 2010,  during hours when the shop was closed, several thousand dollars were charged to Barbara Struncova’s credit card at the tour center.   Security cameras confirm that directly after these charges were made, Bill Ulmer withdrew a large amount of money in cash at the ATM across the street from the shop, using the corporate ATM card that was in his possession.  He reportedly withdrew roughly $5,000–part of this money belonging to the tour company, and part of it belonging to Barbara Struncova.

At this time no one knew where Bill had gone, only that he was last seen sitting at a bus stop.

On this day, six years ago, the owner of the tour office where bill worked was the first person to suggest that Bill had harmed Barbara and fled.  It seems obvious now,  but at the time, shock and disbelief stupefied everyone.  Both Bill and Barbara were gone and no one knew the whereabouts of either.

Bill and Barbara’s room mates went into their bedroom.  To their horror, they found all of Barbara’s things in their places, untouched.

 

Bill Ulmer: arrested in June 2015 for using a passport belonging to his brother

Bill Ulmer: arrested in June 2015 for using a passport belonging to his brother

Read other days:

December 22
December 26

 

December 22, 2010: Bill Ulmer disappears without saying goodbye

On the afternoon of December 22, 2010, 17 days after Barbara Struncova was last seen, Bill Ulmer also disappeared.

He was last seen by a room mate, sitting at a bus stop with a small back pack and wearing long pants–a sure sign that someone at the beach is headed out of town.  The surprised room mate asked him where he was going.  Reportedly flustered, Bill replied that he was waiting for the private shuttle bus to the capital because he needed to pay the driver directly in cash for a client transfer.

That was Bill’s last conversation in Tamarindo.

The shuttle company, when contacted, reported no pick-ups in the name of Bill Ulmer, but they did report the pick-up of a white foreigner named “Steve York” at that spot, at that time, on that day.  Curious that Bill has a cousin by that name–one who has never been to  Costa Rica.

barbara at the beach

Barbara at the beach. July 2010

Read other days:

December 21
December 22