The Pacific Coast Beach Trip. Funny how sometimes you don’t realize you need a retreat until you’re gifted with one and come back to normal life so rejuvenated. I had gotten into a funk for some reason, probably having to do with the fact that I hadn’t left Mastatal for a whole two months. Three days of full team beach volleyball, sand dollar findin’, wave riding, pizza eating, journaling, emailing family and friends, and reading “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, did the trick. We’ve all come back to the Ranch with a vengence, working our (metaphorical in some cases) balls off and wondering aloud at how clearly we see the beauty of this place and the people in it.
The 1st Annual Cork Festival! On the evening of first day of spring (the spring equinox), we all trooped up to the Cork, the new wattle and daub residence under construction, to participate in and enjoy a music festival. Wine, homemade mead and Imperial flowed freely, and we sat on cinderblocks and boards next to the octopus mural as the mountains behind the stage faded into nighttime. There were skits and poetry readings about circuses and rich men, and songs about blueberry picking and personals ads. Yours truly was in two acts: Angel From Montgomery (John Prine) sung by five of the female interns in three part harmony, and a solo act, a cover of the Avett Brother’s “Murdered in the City.” Everyone got a bit sloshed, real affectionate, and quite verbose about our gratitude for each other’s creativity. What a wonderful night.
El Baile Segundo! This past weekend was the second dance in Mastatal since I’ve been here. As happened the last time, Ranch folks went to pick up the generous pig, who made quite a scene in the truck and in front of the community building before it was slaughtered, screaming and emptying its bowels. It definitely knew it was going to die, and it’s a humbling experience to be a part of that sacrifice, to see where your sustenance is coming from. All day Saturday folks were at the community center (a single floor tiled basketball court with a kitchen) cooking tamales and the “cerdo” (pig). By 10 pm Saturday night, the gym was full, and the DJ was mixing the music, which has absolutely no breaks—one song just flows into the next for hours upon hours, and somehow you’re jiving to a remix of “If You’re Going to San Francisco” that flows seamlessly into twenty minutes of reggaetone and then on to thirty minutes of fast, traditional Latin American music. Let me tell you, these Latin men know how to dance…and so do us gringos, except that we are doing goofy angular things with our legs and holding flip flops to our ears as if they were telephones, while the Latin men’s style is simply…hot. So it was a late night/early morning for us Ranchers, who work and play hard but are usually in bed by 10. So worth it!
Yestermorrow Natural Building Class. As I’ve been telling y’all, my fellow intern Anne and I have been building a shitter up at the Cork. Once upon a time, we were both interns at Yestermorrow Design Build School (different years) and we’ve taken to calling each other simply “Erann” to express the commitment we have to each other and to our work. Well, Erann had the opportunity to co-teach a timberframing workshop to the Yestermorrow class that came down from Vermont for a two-week natural building class. What a rush to be able to design a timberframe, teach it, cut it, trouble-shoot it and eventually raise it. Erann are both heartily enjoying the experience. The class has left and we still have a bit more to do before raising day in a couple days. It was also great for us both to see one of our favorite instructors from Yestermorrow, Lizabeth Moniz, a spunky corker of a woman who’s been a builder for many years, rode her horse through the fields of McLean, VA before it was all condominiums, and is super fun to shoot the shit with after work hours are over.
Honestly, I could write a paragraph about every day at this place, which, especially in the past month, has really fed my soul and inspired me. So that’s why I’m staying until early June! Many of the interns head out this month, but I’m feeling that I have more to contribute and learn, so after traveling around Costa Rica and Nicaragua for a couple weeks in May, I’ll be back for another month before the new rainy season interns arrive. I’m still pondering where to go and what to do for the summer back in the states (yup, I’m still planning only in seasonal increments), and suggestions are welcome. Love you all, and enjoy the latest:
Can Coconuts Be Composted?
“Can coconuts be composted?” he wonders aloud.
“Just chuck them in the jungle,” we reply.
So gloriously normal they’ve become
The strange things we say and do in this place.
Ladders cobbled together from scrap wood and old nails
Carpenter’s squares so rusty the numbers have given up trying to assert their existence
Cookbooks only a few years old molding and decrepit, mummified in duct tape.
We cut bamboo with machetes, plug screws with purple heart, and hand plane tropical cedar and pelon—
All the while shirtless or shoeless or calves bared –
Or all of the above.
Absent is the plywood, the Ikea shelves, the plush couches
Replaced by overwhelming inspiration
Gained from imagining the number of fingers and brain cells
That have labored to create the tables I sit at.
Mango and papaya and avacado are for breakfast
Yucca and chiote and hand thrown tortillas for supper
Starfruit in the backyard and cilantro in the front.
We romance the vanilla vine by pollinating it ourselves,
We help the poop and banana peels and eggshells feed the soil and fill our plates.
A magic jar of yogurt appears on the counter every morning
And sugar comes brown and crystallized, wrapped in banana leaves.
A six inch long scorpion on the wall by my bed
Takes a break from his lunch of a four inch long grasshopper
And all I can do is yawn.
Cold showers, leaves tickling knees, stones underfoot
And the forest to stare at instead of grout and tiles.
Breathing, sleeping, heart-beating with the out of doors
As lacking walls and window panes will do.
We make a habit of gawking, of staring, of telling work and play to hold on a minute
Until that ant finishes dragging his tarantula home,
Until that neon green lightening bug finishes his meal in the compost bin,
Until the birds stop their morning gossip
Until I can make out the face that belongs to the long, furry, striped black and brown tail
That curls up and down a near tree as I sit on the shitter and watch.
And yes, coconuts can be composted
It just takes a really long time.