18 June 2015

It’s A Dangerous Business, Frodo, Going Out Your Door

We had a mountain rescue event caused by some unknown fauna, most likely of the rodent genus. Last weekend near dusk Jill spied something down on level II where we were burning moving boxes. Off she went into the brush tracking rodent movement. It could have been a small mapache, but more likely it was a rodent given this dog's nose for all things mousey. Anyway, before she knew it she was sliding down the mountain toward the river, the loose earth crumbling under her feet. She finally reached a tiny, brushy platform and began her attempt to climb back up. Every leap was met with more landslides. Yes, I was on the verge of totally losing it.

Rusty ran for his brush pants, boots, rope, and a machete. In the meantime I took the walking stick and oh-so carefully climbed down around the retaining wall. So with rope and harness in hand, Rusty prepared to rappel down the cliff.  Let me tell you: all three of us were in danger . . . and we can lie to ourselves and say that we (especially Rusty) had the situation under control, but such was not the case. After five minutes of trying to find a spot where she could achieve traction, Jill was panicked and doing her crying bark. Anyway, she was so terrified when Rusty reached her that she stood paralyzed while her harness was donned; and I hoisted her up the mountain. Think she learned her lesson? Sadly, doubtful. And we'll all probably live through this nightmare another time.

So Costa Rica is rich in bio-diversity, including rodents. The nation prides itself in an astounding variety of flora and fauna. Wild cats, large and small . . . a variety of monkeys . . . amazing birds . . . amphibians . . . reptiles and insects. Oh, the insects. But did you know that bats species account for more than half of the mammals in Costa Rica? And that includes the oceanic mammals such as whales and dolphins. That’s a bunch o’ bats. And the number of species of bats is overwhelming. I can name dozens of African mammals. Why, even among Africa's lion species, they vary. And don’t get me started on the variety of hyenas. But the variety of Costa Rica bat species is overwhelming, even to the gal who prides herself on winning the name-that-species game. Bats outnumber rodents by two-to-one, which isn’t great news for a rodent-hungry bat. OK, rodents aren’t on a typical bat buffet . . . but I’m just sayin’. That’s a lot of bats. Yes, we have the vampire bat. I recently had a tiny cyst removed; and I have this horror that I’ll be outdoors in the night with my healing-wound and a vampire bat will find my naked arm. This is silly, I know. 

Anyway, presently the crater in my arm where previously lived the cyst seems minor in contrast to my . . . can we call it a rash? Last week I noticed a vine intertwined among our palms. So I fished around for its source, unfurled it, and yanked it from the earth. Friday night my right eyelid seemed a little itchy. Sunday I awoke with both eyelids swollen shut. Contact dermatitis? From the unknown vine? Possibly, but it doesn't feel like a poison-ivy-type dermatitis. Heat rash? Which is precisely how it feels . . . but who gets heat rash around their eyes? I consider myself one of the best diagnosticians on the planet, and this issue had me baffled. Regardless of the diagnosis, our take-away here is never, never-ever garden without gloves . . . flora is unpredictable. I know this from Texas. What was I thinking? And the heat from the cardboard fire and the sweat during the mountain rescue didn't help. OK, horses sweat . . . men perspire, and ladies glisten. But I was glistening like a pig, and it didn't help my eyes. Monday Dr. Freddie pumped me full of I.V. antibiotics, antihistamines, and cortisone, which made me very tipsy . . . a term with which he was unfamiliar until I started quoting lines from Finding Nemo and could not stop giggling. Now Dr. Freddie grasps the concept of tipsy.

We keep all doors open from dawn until dusk . . . for the cross-breeze. At times the breeze is so cool on the terrace that I’m tempted to put on long sleeves. At dusk, the front door is closed to keep out insects, baby porcupines, etc. By zero-dark-thirty the southern screen doors are closed to prevent the entry of frogs. We keep the exterior southern carriage lights on at night to greet our resident bat as we sit on the southern terrace. Doesn’t that sound grand? Miss Imbrie, the south parlor. In reality, there’s only one terrace and it faces south. I could say patio, but we left the patio in Texas. And I believe that terrace connotes an elevated space. Anyway, the terrace fan light is never on as it attracts too many insects; but the under-eave lights are on to attract the bat, who is attracted to the flying insects.

Now inevitably insects land on the terrace. This provides a great feast for the adorable frogs that emerge at night from their hidden daytime locales. I used to hate frogs. I had an irrational fear of frogs (childhood trauma). But these are very upright-standing frogs, and they’re cute as can be. We’re thrilled that Jill has lost her Texas inclination to pounce on frogs. In Samara she demonstrates a casual interest, but no indication of attack mode. Anyway, each night the frogs make their way right to the screen doors where the buffet is open. You’ve got to be quick to see their tongues snatch a large moth. We have golf-ball-size moths; and it’s astounding to see the three-bite effort that a frog puts in to swallow such a large moth.

And speaking of got to be quick, it rained most of Saturday afternoon and evening. One minute the valley is bathed in sunshine, the next it’s transformed into a cloud forest. 

And then begins the lightening . . . and the terrier freak-out show. This dog can sense a storm long before clouds begin to gather. The panting and pacing begin, and we know that rain is on the way.

Now I share my Xanax with no one. They’re too precious; and it’s not within my authority to dole out a Xanax to anyone (though years ago I did FexEx a single tablet to a dear friend who was faced with a crazy mother-in-law for Thanksgiving . . . I think that a mother-in-law holiday crisis merits the sharing of a single tablet). 
Jill is the exception. At one point she had her own Xanax prescription, no joke. The dog really hates storms and is a better rain prognosticator than the best trained meteorologist. 

So the terrier freak-out begins, Jill runs to her room (her crate); and we get her hunkered down in the bedroom with the air-condition and fan on hoping that white noise will cover the distant thunder. And yes, a true gully-washer merits half a Xanax.

Let's revisit the diversity of flora. Taking out the trash in Samara involves a five minute drive down the mountain to the recycling center here in our gated community. This we do about twice a week. 

One day at the recycle center we were surrounded by simple, green forest trees. Two days later the same trees were covered in bright red bromiliads. Dozens of them. Some branches were so heavily laden that they fell to the ground. We snagged a couple of these limbs and brought them to our garden . . . only to have a terrier carelessly tread on the blooms on her way to hurry up. I do have some concern that the relocated bromiliads will flourish and perhaps spread too far and wide. Like The Trouble With Tribbles.

So are bats like roaches and mice; i.e., there’s never just one? If so, bring ‘em -- I’m a bat lover from way back. As to Jill The Pill and thunderstorms . . . yes, dear pet friend, I'll share the Xanax until your U.S. prescription is refilled in August. And as to my eyelid rash, Dr. Freddie says we'll never know the cause. Really? Best physician south of Dallas doesn't have a guess? If such is the case, then my reputation as a superior diagnostician remains unsullied. Lo que hay.