Day 51: A parade for your Costa Rica bucket list

Holiday-wise, November brings some celebrations to Costa Rica from other climes: some people do celebrate Thanksgiving here, whether because of a U.S. relative or just a liking for the idea, and of course, Black Friday rears its ugly head with increasing vigor each year. But November is also the time for the most authentic Costa Rican tradition you can imagine – the Oxcart Parade, which fills the country’s biggest city with the pride of its countryside.

You need to see this spectacle for yourself. In case that’s not imminently feasible, I took lots of photos, as you can see. So did a gaggle of professional photographers, which, in fact, is part of the reason I have never attended this event in 15 years in Costa Rica: it’s across town on a Sunday morning, and I guess I’ve always figured I will see it in the paper the next day, expertly captured by the best. But oh, the sheer volume of cart after painstakingly painted cart, the faces of the impeccably coiffed girls and stoic old ladies riding high in their places of honor, the old man strumming his guitar and making every child on the sidewalk fist-bump him, the kids casually steer enormous bulls through the streets… it was an astonishing thing to witness.

And I probably would have missed it except for the Daily Boost, an entirely made-up obligation. Which taught me something. I kind of hate it when people say that what you put out into the world is what you get back, because even though they would hasten to say they don’t mean that you “earn” illness or injustice, that’s always how the statement hits me. In big ways, the statement is not true, because some people simply do not get what they deserve. But it can be true in small ways. If you love something and talk about it, an announcement in the paper about that very thing will catch your eye in a new way. If you decide that you are supposed to be a person who finds beauty around her, for no other reason than that you said so, you will find yourself in the middle of beauty more often.

So much of life, of what we see or miss, is determined by the tiniest breaths of air that blow us one way or another when we make a decision, when we balance on that tipping point between “meh” and “yes.” When we say out loud what we love and want to see, even if we only say it to ourselves, we make our own breeze. Not gusts of wind. Just the smallest puffs. But at the right moment, they can still change our course.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 

 

 

Day 30: Let’s startle the world with beauty

Boyero with his oxcart in Costa Rica

Superfluous beauty is one of the best things about the human race. We’re gratuitously violent and stupidly destructive, and then we write novels. Build cathedrals. Paint intricate designs on oxcarts when it would have been so much easier for the hardworking people who fill, empty and guide them over misty mountains to leave them unadorned.

Who started this, in fact? Who was the first person to say, “This cart is an opportunity for startling beauty?” Costa Ricans and those of us who know the country say, “Of course, another fabulous oxcart,” but imagine coming across one for the first time, out of the blue, as you push heavy sacks of coffee through the hills or fog or heat with your normal, simple cart. Wouldn’t your jaw drop? You’d shrug or smirk, but just picture that spectacular blaze of color out of nowhere.

Just think – whoever it was, the person who first painted an oxcart was our relative, our fellow person. We all have that same potential to make something lovely that has no business being lovely. Any of us can choose to startle the world with beauty. May this weekend include a chance to make something unnecessarily awesome (on a plate, on a page, on a canvas, in a garden) – and may we take those chances when they come.

Day 21, Monday Motivation: Meet a Nicaraguan refugee changing lives in Costa Rica.

Day 22, Tuesday Beauty: An international treasure hunt for the lost tapes of a music legend.

Day 23, Wellness Wednesday: A parenting epiphany at the skate park.

Day 24, Thursday Exploring: A pic from a Costa Rican park (no one has identified it yet!).

Have a great weekend…

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).