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.

 

 

Albertina Talking to Jaguars

a poem for a girl who isn’t born yet about a woman who has passed on

Your bis bis abuela
Albertina
knew about the danger of
jaguars at the quebrada.
She remembered when the
mapmakers came to town and
tried to change its name to
something holy like
Santa Barbara down the road, or
San Lazaro further on.
She said she told them no.

Your mamá was
too little to listen to stories back
when Albertina’s mind
was clear, and then Albertina
started seeing angels.
She walked
barefoot to Santa Cruz with
comales on her head and
sold them each for one colon
to buy sugar and
coffee–
things she couldn’t grow or grind herself.
Then she walked home.

She knew the old stories
the old ways.
She had seven sons and
no husband to obey.
Me decía “mi nieta”
because she knew I belonged to her
even after she forgot my name, and
sat on the porch talking
to jaguars until
she turned one hundred.

Acronyms Meet to Discuss Crocodiles in Tamarindo

These are my gleanings from the meeting held at the Barceló with ADI (Association de Desarollo Integral), SINAC (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion), CATURGUA (Camera de Turismo Guanacasteca), and MINAE (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss The Crocodile/s . I mostly went to listen, because that’s always a good start, and I got to ask a few questions. What follows is what I took away from the meeting. This is not intended to be a complete summary—I’m sure ADI will provide that. It is a subjective gleaning and contains editorial commentary and a concerted effort to minimize sarcasm.

 

MINAE says:

–They carefully observed the crocodiles in the estuary after the July attack. They removed the very big one that exhibited dangerous/unusual behavior, explaining that there was only one exhibiting this behavior and it is certainly the one guilty of the attack. It was taken to Puerto Humo. (I looked it up. It’s where the Tempisque River is born. ) They are still monitoring crocodiles in the Playa Grande/Tamarindo/Langosta area and analyzing their behavior. In the five kilometer marine stretch that they monitor, it is normal for there to be 12-14 crocodiles moving around at any given time.

Laura The Crocodile Expert says:

–It is not true that crocodiles were “seeded” here.

–Salt water crocs are completely natural in the estuaries and oceans of Guanacaste. She says they were depleted in the 40-60s, but that now their populations are becoming “healthy” again.

–It is not true that there is an overpopulation of crocodiles in Tamarindo. Overpopulation occurs when there are so many of a species that there is not enough food for them, and they begin to kill each other. Since crocodiles are not doing this, there is no overpopulation. Lucky for us, crocodiles are of a species that control their own population—as in, crocodiles never have overpopulation because they kill each other first and solve their own problem.

–Swimming in the ocean is normal crocodile behavior. Eating dogs is normal crocodile behavior. (I wanted to ask if eating human preschoolers would be considered normal crocodile behavior, but I was afraid of the answer.)

–Attacking/eating (presumably adult) people is not normal behavior for this species of crocodile. Nile crocodiles, she explained, eat people, but not this kind. She made a big deal about how crocodiles do not hunt people, do not want to eat people and are normally afraid of people.

–The (only) problem in Tamarindo is that crocodiles have been, for so long, fed by humans.

The SINAC guy talked too, but he didn’t say anything that stuck with me. He did take a moment to praise the fact that we have such a wonderful government system that allows us all to participate in decisions, as demonstrated by this meeting.

The meeting, by and large, revolved around how dreadful it is that we have created this dangerous situation for ourselves by feeding the crocodiles. (Which I acknowledge. Our Tamarindo crocs have twisted minds and there’s no one to blame except us.)

But ok. So we’ve corrupted the crocodile population. While we right our wrong, what’s the plan for our safety?
Signs. Signs warning people not to feed crocodiles, and not to swim in the ocean/estuary. (How about a sign asking crocodiles not to eat the people? I didn’t say that, but I thought it.) And crocodile “monitoring.”

That’s when I raised my hand. First, I said why I was there—because I happened to be a first-hand witness of the trauma caused by the attack, and I DO NOT EVER want to see anything like that again. And I don’t want you to, either. The room became very quiet. Then I asked the guy from MINAE: How are you monitoring the crocodiles? And what does a crocodile have to do in order for you to identify it as “malportado? “

They said they are monitoring the crocodiles by observing them. I was imagining chips and tracking devices, but no. That’s way too Animal Planet. “Monitoring” means that MINAE has people watching over the crocodiles. (I haven’t seen these monitors. Maybe you have?) Later in the meeting MINAE stated that they have 7 people in charge of “monitoring” 26,000 hectares. Or maybe I misunderstood that? I hope so. And a naughty crocodile, one who could get itself on the bad-boy list for possible deportation to Puerto Humo, is one that shows abnormal interest in people. Swimming near people. Looking at people. Not humbly slinking away.

MINAE wants us to report to them—that’s the most useful thing I learned at the meeting. If you see a human feeding a crocodile, make a denuncia. If you see a crocodile showing interest in humans, make a denuncia! (I’m not sure it’s called a denuncia if it’s against an animal, but you get what I mean.) MINAE says that for all of the videos on social media and for all the fussing and fuming there is about people feeding crocs, there has not ever been ONE SINGLE denuncia filed against anyone with MINAE. Which is silly. A few denuncias, a long time ago, would have enabled them to act before things turned out the way they did. Or anyway, that’s the story in retrospect. Point being: if you see any funny stuff between people and crocodiles—regardless of which species is the perpetrator—call MINAE. They’ll be right over after they finish observing the other 25,000 hectares they’re in charge of.

Other people asked questions, but I don’t really remember what they were. (I don’t advertise this a lot, but I’m actually quite selfish.) We spent A LOT of time reviewing the evils of people who feed crocs and the wonderful power of signs. Signs in red, to be specific. Red was praised. I’m not kidding. (And all sarcasm aside, red is better than the brown-and-yellow ones originally posted behind the high tide mark.)

I asked my other question to Laura The Crocodile Expert. Because I wanted someone at that table of “experts” to say it to my face. I said, “You’re the crocodile expert. You know these animals better than anyone else in this room. So tell me. Now that the big bad crocodile is gone, but knowing that there are others nearby who were certainly fed by humans, would you , if you were a surfer like I am, put your board in the water and surf in the mouth of the estuary?” Everybody laughed nervously. And Laura said, “No.” Not in the mouth of the estuary, she wouldn’t. No matter how good the waves were. That’s like chilling out on their buffet table.

People surf in the river mouth every day, and so far all of us have been safe. I didn’t say that, because she gave me her honest opinion, which is what I asked for. And she confirmed that my persisting fears are not an irrational.

Now, looking back on it, I feel a small (but futile) twinge of victory. I didn’t mean to set a trap, but if you think about it, I guess the panel of experts admitted that even though they’ve “done something” about the crocodile “problem” in Tamarindo, it still isn’t “safe.” Babies, dogs and surfers, beware: MINAE is working to protect us within the bounds of the law, but the crocodile expert wouldn’t go for a swim.

I took this photo in April 2016, of a crocodile exhibiting "abnormal" behavior--chilling there staring me down. If it ever happens again, I will call MINAE.

I took this photo in April 2016, of a crocodile exhibiting “abnormal” behavior–chilling there staring me down.  If it ever happens again, I will call MINAE.

The Social Worker In The Blue Dress

(A flash of short fact/fiction)

The social worker in the blue dress is not about to be bitten by small dogs today. She came to see you because her boss asked her to, to make sure that you haven’t killed yourself yet, that your baby is getting fat, and that your two-year-old is wearing clothes.

The social worker in the blue dress thinks the evil-spirited pack of chihuahuas is yours. She thinks you have done a particularly terrible job of training them but she doesn’t blame you, having two babies to take care of and a complicated husband. She scurries from the gate into your one-room apartment behind the main house, receiving only one slight sharp-toothed nip to the heel.

You convince her that you’re doing alright. You apologize for the mess in the kitchen. She didn’t exactly call to tell you she was coming, or ask if it was a good time. It’s not a good time. But you don’t exactly have a phone, because your husband takes it to work with him. She’s nice enough and she ignores the mess, points out to you that your baby is really good at following things with his eyes.

As she’s leaving, she asks you to call off the dogs and you tell her that they aren’t your dogs. They are the landlady’s dogs. And the landlady isn’t home.

The social worker in the blue dress walks to the door and the menacing pack of furious chihuahuas is nowhere to be seen, so she steps out into the sunshine of the yard. She is halfway to the gate when they see the intruder, and come snarling at her, needle teeth bared. They take turns lunging at her while she shouts and tries to frighten them.

They aren’t frightened. Each lunge comes closer to her ankles and their camaraderie emboldens them. You scream at them uselessly from the safety of your doorway.

The social worker in the blue dress doesn’t have much time to think, but there is one thing that she is sure of–that she is not about to be bitten by small dogs today. With complete disregard for her dignity, she breaks into a dead run, headed toward the rickrty wooden fence. She won’t have time for the gate. She isn’t even running toward the gate. She hits the top of the wooden fence with both hands and vaults. There is the flash of pink polka dotted panties in the sun.

You stare at the social worker in the blue dress who is suddenly standing on the other side of the fence, panting, safe, looking surprised and a little sheepish. The stunned chihuahuas fall silent for a moment.

“Alright,” she says breathlessly, patting her hair and straightening her blue dress.

The chihuahuas find their voices and leap at the fence.

You don’t quite know what to say to the social worker in the blue dress who just jumped over your fence. She doesn’t seem to know quite what to say to you.

“Sorry about the dogs,” you offer.

“No problem,” she answers, and then giggles a little, accidentally. “Sorry to run away.”

“Oh,” you say, because you can’t think of anything.

“I didn’t want to get bitten,” she says.

“Yeah,” you reply.

She gets into her car and drives away. The dogs look at you disappointedly and begin sniffing her footprints in the yard.

You turn around and go back into the dark, dirty apartment where your two year old is pouring milk on the floor beside a cup. But instead of yelling at her, you sit down on a chair and laugh for the first time since you can remember.

May 7, 1980: Ponysitting

Straight from the red diary of the little girl who tells the tales in
When The Roll Is Called A Pyonder:  Tales From a Mennonite Childhood.

May 7, 1980

Yesterday I got a pony his name is Sparckey, but he’s not mine, he’s Julie Hoffer’s. Her mom and dad are going on a trip and Julie and her brother Gary are going to her friends house, so I get to take care of him until they get back. Last night I went to ride Sparckey and he almost threw me off. But he seems to like when I brush and comb him. And when I comb his mane. I took Sparkey for a walk in the medow (he had just been in the crall).

May 9, 1980
Early this morning Matthew’s Grandpa died and when Matthew came to school he looked as if he would cry and when we were about ready to start singing he burst out crying. Today I had my first peano lesson it was fun. I had to do a hard finger exersize and play two songs that were stupid and one neat one.

img023This photo is from a few years later when I am in sixth grade and have my first horse.  Pictured with me are Missy Miller and Karen (Longenecker) Carter.  Dandy met an unhappy fate after he bit me on the leg and sent me into the house crying.

The next post from my Red Diary will be the last one.  The Red Diary ends there and others continue.

I am working on a new diary project to be announced next month and launched at the beginning of 2015.  If you liked this ride, hold onto your hat because the next one is even more fun.

 

For Coco, Fifteen Years Years Later

(A poem about a dream about my little dog who never lived to be a big dog.)

In the dream he isn’t my dog,
he’s my sister’s but I would
know him anywhere –
silky black fur smooth as an
otter, soft ears of a lop-eared
bunny.

In the dream it’s his neck
that snaps, not his pelvis and
I do it myself out of carelessness
not Doña Daisy in her rattling
red truck as she sees him
run toward me and she doesn’t break
even a little.

Either way it was an accident.

I frantically flip through the phone book
searching for vets and they
take him away to be examined and
then peacefully put down.
Not brought home whimpering
in the car where he lays in
shit for two days refusing to eat
refusing to drink and
finally my husband gives up
glaring at me and calls Angulo to
come over with his shotgun and
do it while we cower inside
covering our ears, all waiting for mercy.

How To Catch An Armadillo And Cook It For Dinner

Part I:   How To Catch It

Women don’t hunt for armadillos.  Armadillo hunting is a man’s job involving dogs, shovels and being out in the hills and fields after dark when women are inside.  But if you are a foreigner, you have by nature thrown the rules into question anyway.  And if you are married, and if you pester your husband with your ceaseless curiosity, maybe he will invite you.

If he invites you to come along with him and Renan and Santos and Grevin:

  • Wear shoes that tie and long pants, no matter how hot it is.  You won’t be able to see where you step in the dark fields and there will only be one flashlight between the five of you.  There will be sticks on the ground and you won’t be able to see stones or little cornizuelos.  You won’t be able to see snakes or the spiders called picacaballos that can make horses’ hooves fall off, and the hills of fire ants will look like harmless mounds of earth.  Wear a long sleeved shirt to keep off the mosquitoes.
  • Ride your bicycle through the soft black night with the laughing men.  They are all your friends.  They will bring a flashlight, the shovel and the dog.
  • After you park your bikes, follow them through the field, trying not to trip.  Listen as Renan sics the dog and she whines, wheels on her hind legs and begins to dash madly in an opening spiral, snuffling the dry ground.
  • Stand with the men listening to them tease Renan, telling him his dog is no good.  Look up at the glowing carpet of stars overhead.  The Milky Way looks close enough to be the cloud of your own breath on a cold night long go and far away.
  • Run with them when the dog starts to yelp and growl, clawing at the earth.  Follow them to the hole where she dances, desperate.
  • Stare in fascination as Grevin digs carefully around the mouth of the hole, opening it wider, and Santos peers into it with his flashlight.
  • Ask your husband if it will turn and try to run out.  He will snort, and tell you they are shy, frightened animals that can only try to hide.
  • When the men ask you if you would like the honor of pulling the armadillo out, say yes.  Ask how.
  • Kneel by the hole in the ground under a million stars.  Ask the men if they are sure you will not be bitten by an angry snake. Feel emboldened by their laughter.
  • Reach your hands gingerly into the hole that gapes in the flashlight beam.  Reach in past your elbows, almost up to your shoulders.
  • Squeal when you feel something stiff and snakelike move in the dark hole. It is the armadillo’s tail.
  • Grab ahold of the armadillo tail with both hands and pull.
  • Pull harder. Pull as hard as you can.  Feel the desperation of the creature as it resists you with all its might, digging into the earth with its terrified claws.
  • Listen to your cheering, chanting friends.  Do not let go.
  • Pull with your legs.  Lean all of your weight into the pulling, and feel the armadillo begin to come loose.  Feel its panic.
  • Do not think about your hands.  They will heal.  You have salve at home.
  • Inch backwards.  Curl into a squat.  Do not let go.
  • Pull this breech child of the dinosaurs out of its hole with your bare hands, your legs and your back.  When your husband lunges forward to take it from you, let him.
  • Stumble backward.  Do not watch while Grevin beats it to death with his shovel.  Do not listen.
  • Catch your breath and remember that you and the armadillo are both children of the earth and stars, that someday you will lay within the earth you have pulled it out of.
  • Peddle home with the men, through the star-peppered night. Laugh when they praise your valor, which they which had not expected.

 

Part II:  How To Cook It

Your husband will peel the armadillo from its shell, skin it and gut it.  This is also a man’s job, one that does not interest you because it involves blood and a very sharp knife.

  • Place the newborn-rat-like carcass in a pot of boiling water with lemon and several cloves of garlic.  Try not to breathe the foul-smelling vapors.
  • After it is cooked and cooled, refrigerate it overnight and then boil it again the next day in a new pot of water with lemon and garlic.
  • Pour away the smelly water, remove the meat from the bones, and throw the armadillo skeleton to the delighted dog.
  • Mince the rubbery meat with a large knife, bathe in fresh lemon juice and refrigerate overnight.
  • On the third day, sauté onions, red peppers, garlic and cilantro in a large frying pan.  When the vegetables are soft, add several scoops of armadillo meat. Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and black pepper.
  • Cook until the meat begins to toast.
  • Serve with rice, beans and a generous bottle of tabasco.
  • Note with relief that the meat tastes quite a bit like chicken.
  • Ask your husband how he feels about raising chickens.