Backyard, Amor del Mar

The sea, aquamarine in the foreground, deepens to ultramarine at the horizon, where haze obscures the main body of Costa Rica across the Gulf of Nicoya. Cobalt dabbles the vault of heaven. At the shore before us, black volcanic rocks that are seamed white make the small breakers froth almost blithely; their sound Saturday night was like heavy rain drumming the roof. About seventy-five yards offshore a brow of rock is the nighttime roost and daytime redoubt of pelicans, a few of which linger during the morning, watching the occasional smug show-off glide past, wings held back, bellies inches from the water. Three placid loafers bob around. Inward from the shore, a sprinkler rotates lazily on the grass. The lawn—dotted with a few coconut palms and divided by a mass of dracaenas from which a large, thorny, leafless acacia rises (itself half strangled by the vine of a philodendron with enormous yellow and green leaves)—is of a thick, thirsty type of grass. A closer inspection of the grounds turns up various ferns, succulents, gingers, bananas, mangoes, and even a wispy, waving thing with neat rows of tiny leaves and every so often a brown dangling seed pod: a tree looking suspiciously like a locust. The lone conifer with branches spaced at regular, airy intervals could be a spruce.

Casa Luna
Casa Luna

A couple of loras just flashed past and landed where the tasseled jays have been castigating everybody since today’s dawn. Possessing the camp robber gene, they mingled with us during breakfast on the patio, stealing a cube of melon whenever an unsuspecting guest rose from the table. One of this little troupe was missing its tail feathers, and the Swedish woman who manages the restaurant told two Swedes at the table beside ours that a cat had acquired the feathers, but the jay still demonstrated remarkable agility. Drifting in and out of view higher overhead are a frigate bird and four smaller yet formidable gray-white birds with sharply pointed straight wings.

Every so often someone goes by: the auburn-haired Swedish girl with a straw bag slung from her shoulder brings a cup of coffee out to a hammock and sits in it. Now she’s walking barefoot on the rocks, her faintly pink sarong stuffed into the bag. She sets her bag down. A seam in the rock admits inrushing tidewater. She carefully steps into it using a ledge that leaves her shoulders and head visible, but then she disappears. Every so often her tan cap pokes out of the little canyon. When she finally climbs out again, she reclaims her shoulder bag and leaves, stage right, behind the dracaena thicket. The birds are silent now. The breakers keep up their murmuring and the sprinkler still chatters away.

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