Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Backing Off

Through the bedroom window, I could see, at my eye level, a bird sitting on her nest about six feet away. I drew up a chair and quietly opened the window, then sat and watched her. The wind blew my bedroom door shut, and she fluttered her wings in surprise. Then all was calm.

She sat. I sat. I sat watching her for about 20 minutes. She sat longer. I knew that sometimes she left the nest, probably to stretch and grab a bite, because yesterday I'd been outside when I saw her fly back to her nest. That's how I knew there was a nest.

Today, though, she wasn't stirring. Not yet, at least.

And although I stood up and walked out of my bedroom, I wasn't stirring much. Nor have I for the last week that I've been here at my second home in Costa Rica. I've used the time to recover from bronchitis, continue healing from a arterial bypass operation in January and muse about why this place has such a hold on me.

The other day I thought the answer to that was that when I come here, I have no expectations about what should be done or how it should be done or when it should be done. For the most part, that is, because I did think my husband should have drawn money from the bank on one of his first trips to the Grecia square! But, compared to the shoulds of my everyday life in the states, the ones here are virtually nil.

And that's part of the answer to why I love coming here and sitting quietly while watching the leaves sway and the hummingbirds hover near the salvia. But it's not the whole answer.

The whole answer involves my childhood free time, when I also had no expectations. We always had a yard and some undeveloped land near our home, and I spent a good deal of my non-school time outside in these places: lying in a hammock looking at the clouds and sky through the lacy branches of towering tulip poplars...running through grassy fields...watching ants crawl through the grass...climbing trees and scampering back down again...picking iridescent beetles out of zinnia blossoms.

On the surface, none of this was productive activity, except maybe the beetlecide, because the neighbor paid me to pick them off and drop them in a cup of gasoline. She was an elderly gardener whose flowers were prized by all.

But, even that didn't raise any expectations in me: whatever I picked, I picked. Whatever I earned, I earned.

So now it's a half century later, and I'm in that back yard again, with open fields nearby. My husband kills the bugs now; if it were my call, I'd let them live. But he and the caretaker paint the trees and use poison to kill the leaf-cutter ants that have deforested the top of our orange tree. And if the tree makes it, I will get the benefit of the sweet, round fleshy fruit.

I left my expectations at home, with my winter clothes. Both weigh me down, and here I am as lightweight as the singular blue morpho butterfly I spied at the side of our yard yesterday. I watched it fly past me, then over the tall cane that establishes our border. We've been coming here for years and this was the first blue morpho I've seen.

Lsst year I spied my first huge iguana, sitting atop our concrete retaining wall. I was the only one to see it. It was the only time I've seen it.

I realize that sitting outside quietly, just watching, is not unproductive at all: The intangible memories I create are pearls to cherish all my life.