House in the Woods

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“I went to the woods” says Thoreau, writing in Walden, “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived . . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like, as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Fine. I went to the woods because it’s rainy season and bloody wet, the beach house was full of wafting sea mist and steam, and this guest bungalow was available on the periphery of the hotel grounds giving me easy access to both the forest trails and the bar as well as complete seclusion. It has a bed, a bathroom and a table I can work at, and I have Japanese crackers, fruit and other supplies in a barrel with a lid. I get to hear the dawn chorus and not just the thrashing waves; I get to film toucans and woodpeckers, pizotes, agoutis and spider monkeys without leaving the porch (although occasionally I do). The pizote has taken to hovering by the door. I’ve filmed him snuffling, and as soon as I get to the Big City of Sierpe, I shall endeavour to upload the footage from Bar Las Vegas.

I’m well up for sucking the marrow out of life, and living sturdily (if that means long walks with a stick), but not so much the spartan existence. Actually the 6.30am breakfast of gallo pinto, the breakfast of championes, cooked up at the hotel by Mama each morning, ranks up there with the birds and the monkeys among the top perks. Mama is going to teach me how to make gallo pinto, but I have to be up at 5am. Having first lived in Costa Rica 22 years ago, you’d think, by now, I’d be able to produce rice and beans, but I can not.

Anyway, I, too, am intending to give a true account of life in the woods, whether mean or sublime. Got to say for the past week it’s been pretty mean with a couple of dark, dark days and endless rain, and branches and bromeliads crashing down right, left and centre, but now, with the sun back in the sky, and the birds delirious, it’s quite sublime. So sublime in fact, I am about to take a truly trashy novel to my hammock and eat bananas.


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