Monteverde: Struggling to Breathe

To read my Costa Rica journal from the beginning, click here.

We were in the Santa Elena Reserve near Monteverde, a beautiful amazing dense cloud forest of trees covered with mosses covered with epiphytes dangling with vines covered with ferns covered with mosses covered with epiphytes.

A green riot of life. Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Plants grew on top of other plants, vines wound around tree trunks, ferns choked the hillside, mosses sprouted from thin air. Don’t stop walking! A vine might grab you, a moss might take root.

There were huge broad leaves, tangles of vines, enormous tree ferns, plant life everywhere. How in the world would we see any animals through this riotous foliage? We were in search of monkeys, sloths, the dazzling Resplendent Quetzal, Toucans, and any other mammal or bird or lizard or spider that Costa Rica wanted to present to us.

Dakota and Martin were in a veritable birding frenzy, continuing their friendly but zealous competition.

And the tightness in my chest which had blossomed yesterday was still there, pinching me, making it hard to breathe. I found myself struggling with jealousy and hurt feelings, with a sense of being neglected, ignored, unloved. I also felt a growing anger and impatience with myself. I was in a gorgeous Costa Rican cloud forest with my truly beloved husband and our dear friend, and I was absolutely ruining this trip with unhappy and totally pointless emotions!

Stop it!

How do you stop having feelings that you’re feeling? How do you change the feelings you’re feeling?

I don’t know how to do that. My brain can reason, plead, lecture, or yell at me. It doesn’t matter. I can’t help it: I feel what I feel.

So we took a long, leisurely, lovely hike around the perimeter of the reserve, stopping frequently to locate and identify all the tiny darting impossible-to-see birds in the dense green jungle. And the tightness in my chest grew as I tried to see them but couldn’t, and Martin and Dakota eagerly pointed them out to each other, but not to me.

Trail, Santa Elena Cloud Forest

I felt forgotten, standing there with my binoculars saying, “Where? Where’s the bird?”

It was such a struggle, to not burst into tears. It was such a struggle, to breathe around the hurt.

If you can somehow avoid having crazy menopausal emotions, I highly recommend it.

I’d like to state, right here, that I was not ignored, I was not left out. They were pointing birds out to me. I was included.

But you know how emotions are. When they’re crazy, they’re crazy.

The day was not a total loss. We saw an Orange-bellied Trogon, and a pretty Collared Redstart. We found a delightful little stream with a plank bridge (I love bridges!) and sat with our legs dangling over the stream, eating thick sandwiches. I clomped joyously back and forth over that bridge for the sheer delight of it. We wandered slowly along the trails, scanning the treetops for monkeys and sloths, for Quetzals and Toucans. Dakota peered hopefully into every dark hole, to see what might be lurking within.

Dakota searches hopefully for fanged monsters or slithering creatures.

He’s just like that.

In fact, not surprisingly, we became pressed for time, aware of a growing and urgent need to complete the trail before, say, nightfall. Dakota, who loves horror movies and creepy crawly slithering things, was letting his imagination run wild, conjuring up all manner of eyes and insects and inconceivable horrors that would engulf us as night fell. Peering into dark holes for fanged and large furry-legged creatures undoubtedly fed his fear.

He wanted out of the jungle. Before dark.

His pace accelerated noticeably. His feet were very likely keeping time with his pounding heart.

We were among the last people to stumble out of the cloud forest that day, but we all made it, unmolested by any jungle monsters.

Back at the ranch, we were treated to an unbelievable barbeque by our hosts. The dining room, a lovely room with wide windows overlooking the Bay of Nicoya, was full of guests when trays of food began arriving. Tiny servings of rice and salad were spooned gently onto our empty plates. A dollop of coleslaw here, a taste of fried pork skin there. I was worried as I eyed the small portions. I was ravenous after our long hike! I accepted a little skewer of barbequed pork bits, and resigned myself to going home hungry. At least we had some nuts and granola bars in our room.

But the food kept coming and coming, more platters, more bowls, a spinach meatball here, half a sausage there, a chicken drumstick, a chunk of delicious starchy casaba, on and on, the food piled up. I began to protest, to decline food – there’s no more room! – and still it came. They insisted: Eat! Eat!

A tall glass bottle suddenly appeared. A clear liquid was poured into a tiny shot glass and offered to Dakota, who sipped it politely. The room roared with laughter. “Drink! Drink!” the room chanted. Tables were pounded. So he tossed his head back and flung it down his throat while the room bellowed its approval.

Then of course I had to try the fiery liquid, and a warm fuzziness spread from my heart throughout my whole body, and the tightness I’d felt all day in my chest loosened and faded, and it was so easy to breathe again. Finally, for the first time today, I could breathe.

Maybe fiery liquids should be prescribed to all high-strung perimenopausal women.


Ply highly-fragile, emotionally-unstable, positively-unhinged perimenopausal women with judgment-impairing alcohol?

Most assuredly, most emphatically: No!

That is a really bad idea.

But that one shot sure helped me breathe again.

1 Comment Monteverde: Struggling to Breathe

  1. Karen Gake

    I love how your writing makes me feel as if I was there (I wanted out of that creepy jungle as much as Dakota!). I got full just reading your description of the food. I am not a drinker, but I am wondering if just a bit of that judgement impairing liquid might be medicinal for a crazed menopausal female?! Perhaps we should ask Martin and Dakota??


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