Creating Things

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My theory (based entirely on someone else’s experience) is that if you are going to build a tropical beach house, spend a long time in a tent on a tropical beach first, that way you know you’ll want areas of deep, dark shade, and to have screens instead of walls, and very fine screens too, in order to achieve the ultimate fantasy of thwarting that enemy of the people, the purruja or sandfly.  If you are going to build a hotel, use that time alone in your new beach house looking at your million dollar view and fantasising about someone turning up, to think about the kind of things a guest in this hot place might want – from a cold towel to a cold pool and a cold beer to a hot shower and haute cuisine. Then put it all together! Da-daah!

(My friend, alone in the Osa for weeks at a time, did fantasise about ‘some hot blonde’ appearing.  Unfortunately, when, against all odds it actually happened, he was hunkered down, relieving himself. I hope he won’t mind me sharing.)

First this house, and then the hotel, were conjured from nothing, fashioned out of fantasies. That was a while ago. There have been flurries of eccentric creativity (a high-ceilinged, Spanish colonial style restaurant building complete with water feature), but generally speaking, Fitz’s focus has been on the efficiency of lightbulbs, the nuances of wine glass curves,  how best to laminate an information sheet and so forth.

But recently the liberating and unnerving business of creating a thing from scratch is beginning anew, this time at the farm at the back of the property. Okay, as it’s been a farm for 80 years, it isn’t truly creating from scratch, but it is creating, because at this point this nice piece of land could be anything and many ideas are being bandied about, including one obvious option to create a more productive farm.

I love this place. It’s name, Claro del Bosque, translates as a clearing in the woods, and that’s exactly what it is, a space full of birds and light. It’s the jungle equivalent of a secret garden, a private world enclosed by 40 foot forest walls instead of old brick ones, but entered through a little gate all the same.

I first came here on horseback, and fast, because my friend walloped the trusty criollo on the backside for fun before I was quite on and it galloped most of the way along what was back then a vertiginous, slippery, red clay rainforest trail. The farm was then managed by Don Bolivar. He and Fitz had shared a couple of decades in the Osa, and I listened to tales of the early days into the night, watching the bats (wondering if they were vampire bats), and drinking guaro under the old thatched rancho, the black night full of sounds out there.

That was about 15 years ago. Now StevenSon is heading up the reinvigoration of the Claro del Bosque project. He’s done some tentative planting, and, under Don Bolivar’s initial tuition, sometimes with workers, sometimes alone, has re-roofed that old rancho, (a complicated business involving days in tick-infested areas cutting suita palms, balancing precariously on sticks and planks that serve as scaffolding in these parts, and 8 days twisting palm stalks over horizontal rods under a hot sun). I’m happy to say that I contributed a  good hour to that thatching process! (And in the cool of the house, a drink on the side, scratched a picture of the rancho into a jicaro gourd). But I’m helping in other, smaller, cerebral ways; looking at market demand, competition and logistics on the ecotourism side. StevenSon is full of enthusiasm and energy, but there are occasionally days when the potential, the amount – and diversity – of opportunities, can be overwhelming.

In a wider sense, I feel that too. Aside from the tasks I’ve set myself here in the Osa, I’m free – free to finish my book, edit the short films I made across the USA, try pitching an idea for another Natural World, shoot a taster tape for a project in Panama I spent an entire six months researching and take it to Sheffield Doc Fest as I considered doing once. I’m free to take up an invitation to get involved in a tourism project, or to revert to freelancing and follow up leads in Colombia and Honduras, or to go back to the UK and continue as a consultant in multimedia publishing. I could build a pod somewhere.  Sometimes when I’m tired, and gazing morosely out to sea from my room, I think I have nothing to do, and nowhere to be.  I guess that’s the flip side of potential and freedom. It’s all rather draining.

Anyway, in this big place, without distractions or schedules, I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I could do, and that’s as far as I get.  I need to set myself a task, a media rancho. Actually I need a whiteboard.

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