Free to Bloom at Wanee

Terry & Jill RVing at Wanee
Jill & Cindi

I desperately need to burst outside; leave the home cave, after too many hours inside from taking on the worries of the world, including publishing my book Free to Bloom. I walk out into my yard and start picking fruit. Under an umbrella of mulberries pricked through with sunlight, I pick buckets of sweet luscious berries each facet reflecting a thousand purple insect eyes, the last of the meyer lemons, as big as oranges, one lone papaya from my former tree recently fenced in by the evil neighbors.

I begin to see a different world as my edges smooth allowing the colors, scents, music, smiles and perspective in with the fresh air. Frustration is tempered with fulfillment:

  • Verizon has disconnected my phone and internet, but can’t turn it back on. On April Fool’s Day my luck reverses and they work.
  • I’m unable to upload my bookcover on Amazon, but successfully upload the book.
  • My computer guru son isn’t able to complete my website, but fixes and delivers his RV to us in time for the Wanee Festival, an old hippie extravaganza of musicians running the gamut from headliner the Allman Brothers to Taj Mahal.
Terry & Vilma way down upon the Suwanee
Wanee Music Festival


And Wanee Fest becomes my perfect tension tamer. 30,000 people mill about under 80 acres of trees on the Suwanee River. In our first RV experience, Terry, Vilma, Cindi and I eventually find our way to the campground and set up. We sit under pines and oaks, music on all sides, skin cool after a morning dip in the river. We’re in an isolated world of friendly smiles, great music, perfect weather, cool breezes with nothing to do but dance, eat, sing, play, laugh, and forget the cares of the outside world.


I relax, open up and another gift appears – my ebook Free to Bloom is published on Amazon. Thank you everyone, especially my son Ray, for helping me in so many ways to accomplish this feat.

Robert Plant and Patty Griffin

Finca Bellavista-Getting There-Part 2


It’s my birthday and we’re on our way to the Treehouse with our Finca Bellavista pointer sheet in hand. Lots of instructions, directions and rules. Too many to remember. It begins:

You won’t find billboards or roadside signs that lead you to Finca Bellavista. We are not a full-service spa or a fancy hotel. You won’t find TVs in our cabinas, or electricity. What you will find is a rustic, yet comfortable retreat from the outside world to explore and enjoy on your own. We are in our infancy as a project. Though we keep our location somewhat of a secret from the outside world, we are more than happy to open our doors to you since you found us!

As per directions, we follow the coastal highway south from Dominical to the remote pueblo of Piedras Blancas and turn left at the only restaurant in town, Rancho Guiri Guiri. According to the pointer sheet, it serves the best fried chicken in the southern zone of Costa Rica, and since it’s lunchtime we decide to stop. I take the safe route and order fried chicken. B. checks out the ‘specials’ and takes a chance. “I’d like to try the tepezquintle.” This rodent-like animal has been the hunters’ favorite since homesteading days and here it is on the menu, probably illegally.

“Your horoscope this month must be telling you to take chances.” I laugh.

B. knows he’s made a mistake as soon as the cook serves us, “Whew, that smells really gamy.” And it taste that way too. He takes his medicine like a man and eats most of it. I try one bite and we chalk it up to experience.

Finca Bella Vista base camp

Back in the car we finally see the obscure sign for Finca Bellavista, follow the dirt road a few miles to the ‘base camp’ and pull into the only car parking area. There’s a community center with bathhouse, kitchen, dining area and game room surrounded by well-kept gardens and trails. We meet Erica, she shows us around and we gather our belongings for the long trek to our treehouse. Thank goodness we’re in good physical health. The trail is steep, wet, and treacherous, but the destination is worth every step. A handmade sign “Mis Ojos Treehouse”, points to a two-story wooden structure set high up among four giant rainforest trees, with just one more steep ladder-like staircase to heaven.


After showing us around and giving last minute instructions, Erica leaves us with, “dinner is served at seven back at base camp.”

She’s gone before I realize. “Oh shit. We’re gonna have to walk all the way back there.”

“And in the pitch dark!”

We’ve signed up for meals instead of cooking in the treehouse. A big mistake?


We don’t want to think about it right now. We sit on the balcony and soak in the exciting new adventure of being an integral part of the majestic jungle hundreds of feet below and above us. “We’re so lucky – or rather you are. You win stuff all the time.”

“You’re right, my son used to be the lucky one. He won almost every time he entered a contest, from dinners for two to Caribbean cruises. Guess it runs in the family.”

But luck isn’t all of it. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, taking risks and making changes is what makes our lives rich and exciting. Last week we took surfing lessons, my low bid at a silent auction for a dog adoption group. And now here we are at Finca Bella Vista in the treetops of the Costa Rican jungle drinking coffee. In our faces, the insistent sound and sight of the waterfall intertwines with sweet and raucous birdsongs, and fluttering blue iridescent flashes of Morpho butterflies.

Malawian Villages – Making Changes

Zachi and Ng’ombe Villages – Chikwawa District

Nelson is a wonderful storyteller. We take turns sitting next to him in the front seat of the bus to listen to his lively Malawian tales. One of my favorites, though not based in fact, gives a real understanding of why the people of Malawi are just emerging from the darkness of poverty and disease.


Nelson’s body language is as much a part of his story as his words. I paraphrase. “Malawi declared independence from Britain in 1964. Hastings Banda, who had already been educated as a medical doctor, was sent to Britain for leadership training. A conspirator from Ghana searched out Banda, murdered him, took his identity and returned to Malawi as president. The original Banda’s parents saw photos of their alleged son and cried foul. They were brought before the new president to make amends. Instead the mother said, ‘Take off your left shoe,’ which he did. ‘You are not my son,’ she cried. ‘He lost his toe in a childhood accident.’ The president, in a rage for being made a fool of, beat and imprisoned the real parents. He became ‘President for Life’ over a complete police state for the next thirty years until his demise in 1994.”

p9140653-300x225-6283499We arrive in Zachi to rousing greetings then walk with the women and children in the burning sun for what seems like forever (but is only a kilometer) to see their water hole. And hole is the right word – it is at least eight feet deep and so steep-sided the children are afraid to climb down. The water seeps in so slowly that a small bowl must be dipped in over and over to fill one bucket. It takes many trips to get enough water for cooking and drinking with maybe the dregs leftover for washing clothes.


When we return we are again given chairs of honor under the one shade tree. The woman chief, Ednafred, greets us with, “Zikomo gwambiri!” thanking us and presenting two young masked boys dressed as chickens for a traditional dance. They scratch, jump, squawk and peck in perfect rhythm with the crazed-eyed drummer until other dancers encroach on the costumed boys. A fight breaks out as the drummer throws down his sticks, and bodily tries to clear the stage. We breathe a sigh of relief when the women restore order then take to the dance floor themselves. Though Malawi has strong gender inequality most of the men are dead or gone from the primitive villages, and the women take over.


Chicken Dancers

We arrive in Ng’ombe to view a village with both a well (bore hole with hand-pump) in the village center and new sanitary latrines. The people look cleaner, healthier, happier. “Water For People now focuses on how to make sanitation a productive or income-generating activity that people are really interested in. Families with an “ecological sanitation” (eco-san) latrine—a specific type of toilet that creates compost out of feces and fertilizer out of urine—can either sell their fertilizer or use it to produce higher-quality produce themselves.” Joseph shows us the thatched arbor loos and the clay brick latrines. “The people are educated in construction and use first, and become more accepting of the eco-sans if they are separated from their huts.”


Everyone is gathered in the square as one of the school girls shows us how the pump works. Here the women and children gather to chat and play while they fill their containers with clean water. One of the few men, trained by WFP, demonstrates making a sealed concrete top for the eco-san. Joseph announces, “The incidence of cholera has dropped by 50% in Ng’ombe since the additions of the pump and latrines!” Everyone cheers, gives thanks and the dancing begins.

Slice of Life – Costa Rica

Everyone’s eventual question concerning my life in Cost Rica is “What do you do all day?”  They assume that life in an exotic tropical paradise must be different than theirs. A fairy tale? One without stress? Well it’s not. But it is different. Here’s a little slice of it.

  • At dawn the howler monkeys do their alpha male “Don’t try to join my band and eat our breakfast. Go find your own.” aggressive give and take hooting. No more sleeping for me. 
  • I get up and feed our two new mostly Lab puppies, grind some  fresh organic Costa Rican coffee beans, their rich aroma blending with the heavy loveliness of the ylang ylang drifting over the balcony.
  • Drinking my coffee on my balcony aerie overlooking the Pacific Ocean’s Whale’s Tail (see my blog photo) is the perfect and only start to my every day. 
  • Within minutes the sunrise-washed blue sky turns gray with rushing clouds. Rumbling thunder shakes a huge rain down in front of me. The rainy season is upon us.
  • Will I make it down the mountain road to yoga class before  it turns into a gooey clay mess that turns the tires into slick glazed doughnuts? Nope. My heart pounds as I take my foot off the brake, go with the slide, and miss falling in the ditch by inches. Can’t go back up until things dry out.
  • One must always keep a backpack in the car filled with necessities in case you can’t get home (whether bad roads or broken down car) – towel, toothbrush, sunscreen, hat, bathing suit, book . Add a hammock and surf board and you’re covered for awhile.
  • It’s still wet after yoga. With time to kill I stop at the bomba (gas station) to fill up, but the gas tanker has been delayed too. Maybe manana. This Central American country is a drastic mix of Third World and modern. In the tropical heat everyone is at least two hours late. Ah, except the buses. They’re always on time. Don’t ask why. 

Well, that’s the morning. Can you tell that patience is truly a virtue to cultivate if you’re not a native. Ticos have it naturally.

Dear Regina Perry or My Historical Fiction

Having returned to the back jungles of Costa Rica, I’ve had to deal with no and slow technology, and other losses in my life slowing me down. I’m clawing my way out. Just got hooked to internet at my house – a feat of unusual difficulty. Yippy. I’m ready to roll on, though not speed. 

I open my computer to  a writer friend’s announcement of a blog posting.  She’s been out of commission for awhile too.  she explained her reasons for having the blog and all it entailed, from why she started writing to how she got published. We’re members of the same excellent writing group. I loved the story, especially since she’s a good writer and friend. Check it out at

So I’m reading along and nodding my head, oh yes, oh yes. I’ve gone through the same evolution or mutation. Started writing memoirs. They are so cathartic and freeing, but not for publication. The truth can be insulting, incriminating, hurtful, embarrassing. First I tried just changing the names to protect the innocent. Hah, that doesn’t work. Then I changed the places. Not enough. Now the characters. I now call my writing historical fiction. I can add, pad and subtract from the truth, but it’s still based on it. I’ve got a good group of Costa Rican stories finished or almost. But patience. I’ll soon be ready to try for that publication, too. 

And thanks Regina Perry for getting my ball rolling again.

Are You Somebody?

After reading Nuala O”Faolain’s memoir Are You Somebody? I shed a few tears:

  • for the  pain and the beauty in this little treasure of a book I found at Goodwill.
  • for how it relates to me (we’re so egotistical aren’t we) and all women.
  • for the memory of my mother, whose birthday is today.
  • for my close friend’s mother’s dying, her funeral being today.
  • for my ill health. My stomach hurts from some undiagnosed what?
  • for my inability to settle my unruly thoughts, sort through them into a coherent view of my life and its relationships.

She tells her story with such honesty, power and frankness from a horrendous Irish childhood into her 50’s as she begins to deal with aging.  This American edition includes her Afterwords – the letters and stories she received. She just needed to tell her story having no idea that the instant best seller it became meant so much to so many people, especially women.

I was ready to write to her too, but found I was too late. She died late in 2008. I’ll write here instead. Hope to be posting some short stories soon.

And I thought I was going to write something funny and smart. Next time.  I’ll be back to my old optimistic self tomorrow.


It’s all out there now. Public. That’s what I keep forgetting. And there’s so much of it. (At least nothing goes out until I hit post.)

  • I sit here listening to NPR. The bailout -don’t continue to give to the haves. Pepsi’s Gatorade change to G – what a slap in the face!
  • CR sends me an email with Playing for Change – I want to dance inside and out. Each computer site I enter leads me away to another.
  • In the car, listening to an audio Loving Frank (Lloyd Wright) by Horan -what a preposterous genius. Need some visuals and background. Find a book, go on-line.
  • Nap time is for reading a book in print, Are You Somebody? by O’ Faolian. Still buy the Herald-Tribune, but how much longer will I keep the wonderful, archaic habit of reading the paper with the requisite cup of coffee? CRB sends email – the Costa Rican major newspaper La  Nacion, will probably have to give up print and go only on-line.

My mind’s awhirl. How did life change so much in such a blink-of-the-eye? And I didn’t even get to TV.