When people stay in one place they can get so used to the world that surrounds them that they stop noticing and tune out. Besides, everything they see already has a name, and they’re awfully busy and preoccupied. It’s a natural tendency to filter out the usual.
A change of scene takes you away from what is familiar, and pulls you out of your habits. Away from your accustomed routines, everything becomes unusual and noticeable again. You have to pay attention. Where are you? Where are you going? What is that? Why is that there? What IS that????
When we get to Costa Rica, our surroundings change. We don’t hear much English. If we want to be understood, we have to speak Spanish. Our former day-to-day busyness is replaced with the process of learning about and adjusting to a new place, another country, another culture.
The very air is different. The temperature is not ten below zero, it’s ninety-three degrees above. We no longer see dark shades of gray and brown and white, we see greens with splashes of color. The sun beats down with a light that’s hot, bright, and strong. There’s so much to see.
When we’re here we always notice the creatures. They’re not like the ones back home. The bugs are different bugs, the birds are different birds. We notice these new critters, and take pictures of them. Here are our first dozen creatures of this year’s visit.
Right after we set our suitcases and backpacks down, a turkey vulture soared by.
In front of us, at the edge of the porch, was a butterfly in the flowers.
Later on, down at the main house, we heard a scream.
Someone had found a scorpion under the outside sink.
Some birds are hard to see. We almost didn’t notice this one, slowly and stealthily sneaking into the rapids above a river pool we’d gone to for our first swim. Later, we looked our bird books and identified it as a tiger heron.
Every night before we go to bed we like to take our flashlights and patrol the perimeter of the house to see what might be found. You almost always find a toad or two.
These little frogs are champion jumpers, and on a painted concrete wall they stick like glue when they land.
There’s seldom a night when one of these wee sleepyheads hasn’t settled in atop a rafter.
Insects are attracted to our lights at night. You never know what will show up.
On day two we went to the beach. One of my favorite silhouettes was above us.
Behind the beach, along a marshy area, were basilisks. The basilisk of mythology is part rooster, part snake, and part lion. Don’t look at it! It can turn you to stone with its gaze.
But not this basilisk, which is just plain lizard.
On the way out, where the beach road crosses a stream, I suddenly begged, “Stop the car!”. I interrupted in order to try to take a photo of this wading bird. The photo suffers from having been taken through dusty glass, but I’ve worked on the image enough so you can see some of its beauty.
The next morning we saw creature number twelve.
An iconic Costa Rican critter, Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii.
The chestnut-mandibled toucan.