Thursday, June 19, 2008


I feel oddly buoyant. Trying to locate the source of such lightness: I ate a lot of fruit salad today; the week is half way through; it’s a full moon and the datura is ready to open; I had a good conversation with the snake man; someone suggested a new mange cure? Perhaps it’s a combination of all coupled with me getting home in time to feed the chayote and tomatoes. Whichever, it feels good.
It appears the yellowing chayote is a lack of nitrogen, I dismissed this before because I do give a fair amount of nitrogen to the plants – but it’s worth a try so they got more today. We’ll see.
I was telling the snake man about the beautiful salmon coloured snake I saw the day my camera died, he thought it might be a bird eating snake and the picture in his book while not as glorious a colour, was a match – plus the snake was waiting at the foot of a tall skinny tree with two very obvious birds nests. He was telling me snake stories – one of the locals was bitten by a coral snake, he was found on the road still holding the snake. They took him to the clinic and but when the snake started thrashing around they kicked him out and someone took him to the hospital in Limon, by then he was having convulsions. They ended up taking him to San Jose and hospitalizing him. He dismissed himself the next day and came back on the bus. He should be dead, but he isn’t. The locals kill all snakes on sight, dangerous or not. The expats seem naive (myself included) and tend to believe they can just move the snake out of the garden. But they are territorial creatures and tend to come back. I like snakes; I used to carry around garter and gopher snakes when I found them. It is very difficult for me not to touch those I see here, but it’s different: a gorgeous bright yellow snake, not so very big, so easy to pick up, sitting so still on a tree would in all likelihood kill me with its bite. That’s a big part of being in Costa Rica for me: it is possible to die here. Sounds so stupid and so simple, but life becomes different when death is present. I know this is stupid – car crashes and the dangers of urban life exist everywhere I’ve lived to date. But elsewhere death is hidden, here it’s clear, it can be found hanging in the bathroom, lurking below the bed, lying on the dark path. Death is present daily, vultures circle overhead, the smell of decay comes from ditches; today a street dog chased down and tore apart a chicken in the school yard in front of all the kids. After they spoke of all the blood, then returned to their drawings and schoolwork. This afternoon I found the back of something furry, maybe a raccoon, perhaps a peccary? below the carambola (good for the soil). One becomes aware of life here because one is aware of death.
I told the snake man I was always worried about the dogs getting bit: I live surrounded by jungle on 3 sides and the river on the 4th; the dogs are romping about in the undergrowth daily. He told me it takes a lot of energy for a snake to produce venom and they don’t give it up so easily – if the dog accidently stood on one while running through it was highly unlikely the snake would use venom. He thought that even if the dog attacked the snake it might not use venom, or not enough to kill. It’s highly unlikely the dogs will attack a snake, given the sidelong glances and sideways jumps that happen if they see a vine lying on the ground. This is great news. There are no jaguars so close to human habitation and the crocodiles were long since hunted out of the river; the dogs are at the top of the food chain, snakes are the biggest threat.
The mange treatment is something called green oil and is a mixture of sulphur, citronella and camphor. It smells quite good and it’s an oily green fluid. I hope it makes a difference; it’s the first thing I’ve tried that he hasn’t licked off. Right now he’s hiding under my bed. Unfortunately the smell will alert him. He has allergies to dog food and wheat and is prone to skin problems, it’s not unusual for me to slather him with odd things and he hates it. He’s become very good at deciphering my concern – if I look at him in any way suggestive of checking out his skin off he slinks under the house. It’s almost to the stage where he won’t come near me. If I take him to the vet she gives me antihistamines which work great as long as he takes the tablets but I don’t want him taking antihistamines all his life. He eats well; meat, veg, grains, fruit and a daily multi-vitamin, but something is missing. Lady J has no skin problems, she hasn’t even caught mange.