Today, I am so thankful that we took that trip to Costa Rica and that I kept a fairly thorough travel journal there, because without that, you would be stuck with the following drivel. (Oh wait, I said "following", which means that I am going to stick you with it anyway).

Since returning from our trip, I have felt overwhelmed by life and work, and whenever I am overwhelmed, the trivial (and not so trivial) tragedies seem to crowd in around me: the moment I laid my hands on my pile of today's work this morning, it gashed open the side of my left hand with a mighty papercut; my shirt smelled weird again, although it did not smell as weird as the last time; I was gassy at work; my back hurts, my blood sugar levels feel all wonky, I have a snag in my sweater, there's cat hair in my nose that I can't blow out, the days here are much too short in January, a friend is losing her pregnancy, and I miss Costa Rica.

There, now that that is out of the way we can move on to the good stuff, from B@by Duck to Dom Perign0n.

Costa Rica! Yes. Let's leave this depressing crapolla behind us and get on with the travel journal:

the Fiery One reading
The Fiery One reading a book in a corner of our host's home
22 December 2005

Last night, D, a man originally from Cosmopolis, took the Fiery One and I out to visit with friends, Lidieth and Milo (Mee-loh). Out behind their home they have a gravel area sheltered by a corrugated metal roof.

In the rafters, they have a variety of memorabilia hanging: a couple of old cattle yokes, wooden and clay pots, wind chimes, an empty bird cage, a homemade fishing rod, etc. On a piece of wood nailed to a roof support are glued small shells spelling out "CLUB DE VAGOS", meaning Club of Bums.

At one end, there are a few chairs around a table and a woodburning stove and a tiny nervous dog named Canella; at the other end is an unpainted picnic table and a hammock and a large red dog name Tallaboo who just had puppies.

The puppies squeal every time someone sings, and that is done mostly by Milo and Lidieth, who glow when he strikes his guitar. They sing duets of national songs, and Lidieth brings out moroccas and a zester with a pronged metal tool for percussion. She plays an overturned plastic bucket to which Milo has attached a bamboo stick and fishing line to make a bass string instrument.

People marry young here, so these two are still relatively young but have been married for twenty-two years. They look soft-skinned and shiny-eyed and don't mind our abysmal spanish. Lidieth claims to know no english, but she catches too much of what we are saying to get away with it.

We (D, the Fiery One, and I) have brought rum and C0ke and two cans of Imperial beer (the beer of Costa Rica). When that runs low, Milo brings out a re-used two-litre C0ke bottle filled with a clear liquor he calls "gasolina". In what spanish I can make out, he tells us that it is the illegal, unofficial national alcohol of Costa Rica. It is a home brew made primarily from corn. He points at it repeatedly and says "my-eece, my-eece".

Milo pours some for himself, a small half-finger, in a glass, and even he makes a face after taking a tiny first sip. He pours some for the Fiery One, which we both drink. It is powerful. When Milo first waved the bottle under my nose, the fumes smelled chemical, but it tastes sweet and leaves a pleasing slow burn in my throat. Lidieth nudges Milo when she sees me drinking it.

I could have watched Milo and Lidieth for hours, the way they leaned together at the picnic table, tired from the day and singing songs and tolerating us gringos remarkably well. The night was warm and Milo's eyes closed when he sang and stinky Tallaboo kept coming out to sneak affection, her old teats long and swinging from too many litters. Something slid into place like rollers in a lock.

I felt fine and good. A pocket of the world was fine and good that night, and I with it. I shifted my feet in the gravel, enjoying the rolling lumps through my thin sneakers, and I remembered what it is to feel uncomplicated and simple.

Forgetting is much too easy in the face of life's occasional avalanches of petty tragedies. My only desire for this new year is to remember so that I can continue to know, so that I will continue to be able to recognize quiet joy when I find it.