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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Memories of Star Thistle and Cardiac Hill

         Sitting out on the expansive deck of our friend Janine’s house here in Cherry Acres, I had just settled in to draft this post when across the wooded back area flies a Cooper’s Hawk, its banded wings and distinctive long tail gliding silently across the grassy terrain beneath the branches of dozens of Blue Oak trees. Our house-sitting chores here are minimal: water the nasturtiums and make sure the house is locked when we leave. It’s a lovely home, beautifully situated on five acres in the woodsy area outside of Cool, California; we feel fortunate indeed to spend a couple of weeks here looking after it for our friend while she visits her sister in New Mexico.
         When Janine returns early this week, we move to another house-sitting situation for another friend, a comfortable home located in the small town of Auburn. There we will have the pleasant task of caring for two cats, Socks and Abby, our friend Ruth’s beloved pair of yellow felines, as well as looking after her garden and enjoying some of the bounty thereof. Since Ruth’s home is much easier to find than Janine’s more remote property out here beyond the American River Canyon, Layne and I plan to try and sell some of our “stuff” on Craigslist from there. We particularly hope to sell a car, a ping-pong table and perhaps a few pieces of furniture now stored in the small barn on our leased country home near here. Renting a furnished house in Costa Rica has taught us just how little we really need to be comfortable so it’s time to continue lightening our load.
          One real benefit to house-sitting here in our old neighborhood this summer is being able to go for walks along familiar trails. Cronan Ranch paths are just as picturesque as ever and the route we fondly labeled “Cardiac Hill” still has us huffing and puffing before reaching the top. Once there, the view is pretty spectacular: rolling golden hills leading down to the South Fork of the American River. Instead of fields of coffee plants or banana trees as in Costa Rica, of course, here we have acres of poison oak and a noxious, invasive weed called Star Thistle, which has taken over this part of California. The paved street behind the firehouse in Cool is another favorite walk, often populated with hikers and their dogs because it is not open to traffic. It connects up with Knickerbocker Trail, a nine-mile route that is part of a famous equestrian endurance race each year, the 100-mile Tevis Cup Ride, so we often see the occasional horseback rider conditioning their mount for the long contest. In fact, in years past, when we had two horses, Layne and I frequently rode that trail ourselves, enjoying the scenery and the tranquility of an outing on horseback. 
         Still, for all of the pleasant reminders of our former life here, we both long for the easy-going lifestyle we enjoyed in Costa Rica. Although our schedule has eased considerably since sending off our residency papers to our attorney last week, we can’t completely avoid the hectic stresses of life in the U.S., either a quick trip to the store (by car, of course) or an important phone call to return, an appointment to keep. The slower pace and reduced pressure of Pura Vida lures us back with every passing day.
         But besides the sheer pace of life, there are other contrasts with Costa Rica as well. On our walks, Layne and I have commented on how few birds we hear, compared to the continuous cacophony of birdcalls in Costa Rica. Even now as I sit here on the deck, surrounded by pine trees, oak trees and bushes of all sorts, I hear only a few bird chirps and a couple of dogs barking at some distance. There are no children playing in the streets like in Alto del Monte, our neighborhood in Costa Rica, no chickens running loose or horses tied to trees. In fact, we seldom see our neighbors at all; for the most part, life seems to happen indoors here, out of sight. There is wildlife here, however. Even as I wrote this paragraph, a gorgeous redtail fox went sauntering by, stopping briefly to look me over!
         Still, we know the summer will pass quickly and we plan to enjoy every moment we can with friends and family here before heading back to Costa Rica in late August. By then, we expect to be ready for a return to Paradise, complete with crazy drivers, rainy season storms and all those bugs and bats and butterflies! 

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