To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
With December 25th on the horizon, the spirit of Cayman slowly turns as the wet rains of the hurricane season slowly dissipate and the cool north winds blow in. When my great-grandmother was young, Christmas in Cayman was a different experience than it is today. Caymanian men returned from sea to celebrate the holidays with their families and white sand gardens with conch shells and Christmas blossom decorated every home. The spirit of the season was found in simplicity, community and faith.
Today, the landscape is drastically different as Caymanian families now wait for Christmas pine trees to arrive from foreign lands, multi coloured lights begin crawling up coconut trees and a giant snowman greets traffic on Seven Mile Beach. Shops begin preparing for the invading mass of consumers and churches lay out extra chairs for the ‘once-a-year’ members of their congregation.
But what I love about this change of season the most is the festive atmosphere that permeates the Island as if everyone has awoken from a hot summer dream refreshed and ready to celebrate their rebirth.
This year, my family and I decided to abandon the western traditions of Christmas and go ‘back to nature’ with a trip to Costa Rica, a land known for its wild nature and beauty.
We flew into San Jose International Airport and jumped in a taxi van that drove us four hours north to Arenal Volcano. We arrived at our lodgings nestled in the tropical greens of Arenal and spent the next few days trekking through lush rainforests and hot springs. Every evening we unlaced our mud stained boots and listen to the orchestra of birds at sunset. We watched lava spewing from the sides of the volcano like a wound and spied sloths sleeping in Cecropia trees. On our last day in the area, we volunteered at Projecto Asis Animal Shelter before heading to ethereal cloud forests of Monte Verde. We fed and cared for wounded toucans, spider monkeys and a kinkachoo. It was definitely a highlight for my younger brother and sister who found themselves in a magical world where they played and cared for the orphaned animals as if they were their own.
Conservation and Eco tourism is obviously important to Costa Ricans. Over 25 per cent of national territory is protected and in the race for modernism, Costa Rica has chosen to develop an environmentally sound and lucrative eco-tourism industry instead of jumping into environmentally damaging prospects like so many other developing countries. I find this absolutely inspiring when recycling bins surround us in every hotel room and messages of conservation and “green” values are present throughout the tourism industry. Coming from a country where people are still fighting to have a National Conservation Law passed, my family and I found Costa Rica to be a refreshing change and educational opportunity for ourselves and my younger siblings.
We spent Christmas Day at a small bed and breakfast in Manual Antonio on the Pacific Coast. We woke to a beautiful sunrise and the sound of capuchin monkeys in the trees above our window. After breakfast we went sailing around the Manual Antonio National Park with wild dolphins swimming along our vessel. In the afternoon we took surfing lessons on the beach where I got to witness my father’s joy at riding his first wave and realisation that he wasn’t 25 years old anymore after his first wipe out. In the evening we watched the sunset on the Pacific and enjoyed Christmas dinner on the patio surrounded by lush rainforest and gave thanks.
The gift of family and nature was more than I could have hoped for on this Christmas Night. To discover and revel in the beauty and diversity of this world gave us great perspective. Spending those 10 days so close to nature, brought me closer to God and myself.
In this age of modernism, industrialism and technology it’s easy to forget our relationship to the Earth. The lush rainforests of Monte Verde, orphaned animals of Projecto Asis, the bleeding Volcano of Arenal and the warm waves of Manuel Antonio’s black sand beaches reminded me of this beautiful gift of nature.
To forget the earth is to forget ourselves, but when we do, just “ask the animals, and they will teach you; or birds of the air and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you; or let the fish of the sea inform you. Job 12:7-10”.