PenguinArt by Kate Garchinsky

Tag: costa rica

November Northwestern storm. Uclulet, Vancouver Island, BC

The rain sounds like crinkle paper as it overflows the gutters and forms pools around the house. The trees dance in the wind gusts. Water coats the surface of every sill.

Every place has it’s own style of rain. Here in Philadelphia, an evening thunderstorm is summer to me. When the electricity in the air makes my lungs ache, it stirs memories of camping on the living room floor with my sister, Maureen, in our childhood home. We’d roll out our Care Bear sleeping bags on the green shag rug, and scoot inside with our most frightened stuffed animal or doll. Storms were good, Mom would tell us, because they meant a change in the weather. Everything cooled off after a storm. If we didn’t have storms, it would never cool off.

When I lived in Colorado, rain was precious as snow. The headwaters of the Colorado River were a few miles from my house. They needed filling. A humongous water pipe stuck out of the mountain and plunged down to a tunnel that lead to Denver, which has been in a drought for over a decade. Any one who wanted to build a house in the mountains had to find a well first. Water was precious, and storms seemed magical. I’ve never seen so many rainbows–doubles and triples. Lightning was a fearsome creature, to be avoided at all costs, like a mama moose with a calf.

When I first visited the Northwest last fall, I expected rain all day, every day. In some places, it did, and others, it didn’t. On Vancouver Island the air is rain, and it creeps into your bones at 45-55 degrees. It’s not warm, it’s not cold, just damp. Chilling. You wish the temperature would make up it’s mind already, because dressing for “coolish” wet weather means layers. A fleece? A rain jacket? Wear both. Switch them up. Bring an extra pair of wool socks. The best remedy for cold hands is to wrap them around a hot cup of coffee. It makes total sense that Seattle is the home of the coffee shop. Yet the absence of Starbucks on every corner feels very alien, especially since Starbucks is headquartered there. No one in Seattle drinks Starbucks. There’s no reason to. The original old independent shops that Seattle built their business model on have better beans, and they vary in character from place to place. No one puts another out of business.

Then there’s Costa Rica. The sun rises at 5:00am and sets at 5:30pm. It’s best to embark upon adventures as early as possible, because by 9am you feel like it’s high noon, and by 11am clouds begin forming and bumping into each other. Clouds over the mountains mean rain at the beach, and clouds over the beach bring rain to the valley. It’s best to be prepared for a deluge.

It’s LOUD. Don’t try to have a conversation until it is over (don’t worry, that will likely be in about 20 minutes). When the rain stops, the sound shifts from tapdances on tin roofs to the awakening of birds. Birds who spent the hotter hours of the day under the parasols of palm and ficus trees pop up to the top of the canopy. Giving their feathers a shake, they proclaim, “the rain is over!” and get busy chasing insects. The flycatchers are especially fun to watch as they dive from telephone wires, then swoop UP SIDEWAYS and DIVE in a millisecond. It’s one thing to see a gnat make the gesture, and another to see a predator 10,000 times gnat size follow its movements. A flock of green parakeets darts across the skyline, and you only know it’s parakeets because you hear their rusty old bicycle screeches just long enough to know that they’ve passed you. Now they’ve disappeared into the canopy. They mimic the leaves as they preen.

I think the perfect combination would be a Rocky Mountain rain storm followed by a Costa Rican post-rain chorus.

Scarlet Macaw, Costa Rica

 

Tag: costa rica

12 days in Costa Rica helped me prepare for this late spring heat wave. 12 days in Costa Rica taught me a lot about cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical birds. 12 days in Costa Rica cleared my mind of past ghosts and made room for new thoughts and experiences. 12 days in Costa Rica made me realize how bad I can smell, and that it’s ok because everybody does. Except Brian. He is suspiciously sans body odor, even in the hottest and most humid conditions. Either I married up, or I married an alien.

12 days in Costa Rica yielded scores of little sketches and studies, but not much in the way of finished art. Drawing wild birds in a wild place makes for wild strokes. My favorite drawings from the trip are the least finished. They resemble life drawings from my days in college, where you had 10 seconds to get the gesture of the nude model on paper before they changed poses. Birds give you one second, if that. They don’t stop moving. Even when roosting for the night they fidget and preen until they can’t stay awake any longer. And then it is dark.

I’ve been lugging a lot around in my head since we got back from our honeymoon last Sunday. I’ve been mentally writing this blog post over and over. It’s not coming out the way I had planned. It almost feels somber. Not at all as deep and colorful as the trip. Why?

Maybe it’s best to just post the pictures. The gestures of birds. Scribbled notes and brain maps. A verbal summary feels impossible. My photos appear too dull and small. I felt so much more than can be squeezed into a viewfinder or expressed in adjectives.

I have some scanning to do. I’ll be back.