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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Costa Rican Turtles: Trials and Tributes

Well, I am quite delinquent in my posting schedule, with more than a week having gone by without a report here. But it’s hard to write when one is dealing with sad personal issues. For me that included the tragic news that a dear family member is facing terminal cancer and is now counting her weeks here on earth. She has good friends and family to help her and is still enjoying some of her favorite things but hers is a poor prognosis. My heart is heavy indeed when I think of losing her.

About the same time, I began facing a tough decision of my own: It may be time to put my elderly Morgan horse down. His aches and pains are much worse during the California winter when the cold wind, rain and sometimes snow add to his discomfort. In spite of all the expensive medicines he takes and the good care he receives in his retirement home, the truth is he is not as mobile as such a magnificent creature deserves to be. For an animal whose joy in life depends on mobility, it is unkind to keep him alive, only able to walk slowly, not trot or gallop around the pasture on strong legs. So I’m heading to California soon to make that hard decision in person. He deserves no less from me after all the wonderful miles we’ve shared and the more than 23 years he’s been a part of my life.
So forgive me if I’m less than my typical upbeat self. It’s a sad season in spite of the sunshine and the holiday cheer all around here.

But we have had some fun times, including the Atenas Art Show and Auction on December 4th and 5th. Part of the profits from sales of the artwork were to benefit a local Tortuga Leatherback conservation program, an important effort here in Costa Rica as development has intruded on turtle nesting areas and poachers and predators cut into the survival rate of newborns. Estacion Las Tortugas is located on an undeveloped stretch of the Caribbean Coast. There, under the guidance of founder Stanley Rodriguez, staff and volunteers work to prevent the extinction of these magnificent creatures, the largest reptiles remaining on earth. Scientists predict the species could be extinct in less than three decades if poaching, long-line fishing, development and pollution continue unabated. A local artist and art teacher, Mary Parks, had created a striking picture featuring an underwater scene with a large Leatherback in the center, which was to be auctioned off with proceeds to go to Estacion Las Tortugas.

Included on the event schedule was an artists’ reception for Saturday evening, featuring the wines of our favorite importer Shannon, whose delicious Argentinean products were offered at our own little wine-tasting event a few weeks ago. Layne and I had wanted to find some traditional-style Costa Rican art to liven up the décor in our apartment so the reception seemed like the perfect opportunity to shop for local art, enjoy some wine and cheese and do our part to help the Tortuga program.

Our beautiful painting, entitled "Atardecer" or "Sunset"
And we were not disappointed. Not only were there dozens of attractive watercolors, oils, sculptures, photographs, lampshades and garden art by local artists, many of them students of Ms. Parks, but also we met a local young artist whose vibrant colorful scenes of Costa Rican life were exactly what we had been hoping to find. And since Layne’s birthday was coming up the following Friday, we invested in a painting that adds so much to our home.

 "Casa Frente al Lago" or "House in Front of the Lake"  
Darwin and Kat
Only 19-years-old, with the unlikely name of Darwin Romero, this young artist should have a bright future. His work features the exotic wildlife and flora of Costa Rica, from macaws, parrots and chickens to orchids and coffee fields. The brushwork is meticulous in detail, stunning in deep rich colors and innovative in the use of local materials. Our upstairs neighbor Linda bought a large painting in which Darwin had utilized sand, coffee beans and even eggshells to create a three-dimensional effect. Just stunning! Darwin’s older brother Jose, who spoke good English and served as salesman for the collection, said the young man had only been painting for five years. If he enjoyed good sales at this event, proving he could make money with his art, Jose he felt that their mother would allow Darwin to attend an art school in San Jose. We hope our purchases encourage her to permit him to study art and we certainly wish him the best of luck!
(For larger images, click on the photo.)

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