Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Arenal Volcano at night...taken from our terrace...note the big dipper pointing into the Volcano,,,and look at the stars...

Time flies…Life gets in the way of good intentions…The world continues even when we sleep…Blogs get postponed.  Days become weeks, weeks become a month and sadly, sometimes the months multiply.

That’s my story.  We left Costa Rica last July as we began renting our home, White Hawk, on Air BnB and VRBO.  It seemed foolish to let this beautiful place be empty day after day.  Houses are not happy when no one enjoys them.  The rentals were an immediate success.  Over 25 different renters for lengths of stay between a few days to over a week.  And every one has given us a 5 star review.  From mid November to the day before we returned in January, it was almost 100% rented.  People love our home...I do not blame them...it has become everything we dreamed of and more...

The home of the White Hawk...you can see why we love it...and so do the renters...

I returned to Costa Rica for 2 weeks in November to be sure all was OK, to do some things that needed to be done, and then returned to Florida for the Holidays.  We arrived in Florida in August after our long road trip, and now can state with authority that Florida in August is not the place we want to be.   September came in a close second.  It was too hot to do much outside.  It was even to hot to photograph much, but here are a few things my camera saw in Florida…

Boca Ciega Bay at sunset.  The far shore is St Pete Beach fronting on the Gulf Coast.

Oyster Catcher, getting ready to dive...hoping to eat.

Because so many of the waterways are used for navigation 24/7, many of the bridge undercarriages
are beautifully lit at night.
Nighttime...side view.

And with a bit of cropping and some white balance adjustments, the same bridge takes on a whole new look.

Laughing Gull...

Immature Southern Bald Eagle...taken in Boyd Park in St Petersburg.

My favorite Florida bird...a Skimmer.  The only bird in the world with the lower bill longer that the top,
 allowing them to fly close to the surface of the water and drop their lower bill into the water to find food as they fly.

And when the water is smooth, the reflections can be amazing...

The Wood Storks returned for the winternjust before we left for Costa Rica.

In Mid January, we returned to Costa Rica and relished our return.   It started with a big celebration...my 75th birthday party.  18 or our friends gathered for dinner at Agustin’s Restaurant, just down the hill a bit...we had a great time.
And as we arrived look who flew over and landed on our car...I am sure he came just to wish me a happy Birthday...NO I am not talking about Susan...she was there too.

Many of our Costa Rica friends joined us to celebrate my 75th...time does fly...
Lets see...that works out...each candle = 75 years...the good news was that they could not be blown out...
hope there is message there someplace.
The weather, our friends, the flowers and greenery, the birds, the volcano all combined to welcome us back to a place love more and more. 

That quickly changed as news of our granddaughter descended on us. What was thought to be a cyst turned into a serious invasive cancer.  She is only 12.   Children should not be allowed to be invaded by these kinds of things.  The treatment will include chemo, radiation, surgery and then more chemo.  It will span about 25 weeks.  We both are devastated, as is the rest of her family.  To learn more about this tragedy in our lives, go to Facebook and search on “Ally’s Allies” for a complete rundown of how cancer has invaded and changed our lives.  Please join us in prayers for peace, comfort and healing for Ally and for her entire family.  I have written a prayer poem...you might recite it for her as well...often...as the spirit moves you.

Ally visiting us in Costa Ria last Summer.
Hiking in Costa Rica last summer

Ally this Christmas

ALLY’S PRAYER...from Gramps to Ally

Oh God,
  I feel you near me…
Feel your love
  your hand, Your hugs.

And today
  I humbly ask you...
Grant this prayer
  for one I love.

It’s a time with
  many challenges,
Let Ally know
  You’re there for her.

Please walk
  along beside her…
Hug her gently,
  dry her tears.

Let her know
  You’re helping heal her.
Let her know
  You’re always there.

Let her know
  that she can trust you.
Let her know
  she’ll be OK.

Let her know
   when 'ere she needs you,
You’ll be there
                          to help her day                           

Oh God,
   give her your comfort,
Give her Grace…
   your Healing Touch
Take her hand,
     be there to help her...
When her strength's
     not quite enough.

This is  posted, sung and played by a dear friend 
on her  Facebook Page...Ally’s Allies...
please visit the page and like it, 
giving a boost to this special girl.

Susan returned to Chicago to be with Ally and her family.  The doctor visits, hospital consults, tests, preparations, pills, shots, ports, treatment times and updates and changes and schedules all create an amazing maze to work through.  The extra hands of Susan and their Sister-in-Law Jayne help hold the days together.  Me?  Just not enough room at the Inn...I will head back in March spend some time with them, then return to Michigan where we are still trying to sell our home.  It has been empty for close to two years, and the house and yard need some tender, loving care.  Especially the gardens.  Our hope is that by August Ally will be well on the way to recovery and Susan and I will both be able to return to Costa Rica for the fall and early winter. 

The rest today will be a photo blog…not many adventures away from the house, but I am constantly amazed at what happens right here.  I will let the photos do the talking…with a few captions as needed.

BIRDS...My favorite subject to photograph.  All of these taken in our yard in the last few days...

A rufous-tailed Hummingbird...we have many of these around all day, every day.  They are a treat.
Another Rufous in flight.  They dart from flower to flower extracting the nectar
as they move rapidly throughout the garden
I am always amazed to hear them chirping...it is a soft delicate sound I find wonderful to behold.

Hate to say it, but I do not find a blue headed hummingbird in my Costa Rica bird book...help in naming appreciated

I love this little guy.  He is tiny...I believe him to be a Volcano Hummingbird.

Another little guy.  Must be an immature.  Cannot find him in the book.
Perhaps the blue on  the neck is a give away...Ideas?

Same bird as above...notice the difference in expression and attitude.  
Who would think birds can express emotion?

The Namesake of our home...the White Hawk.
A pair of them live in the mountain valley that runs alongside of the house.
Almost every day in the morning we hear them scream their call as they fly
from their home deep in the mountains to hunt near us where it is a bit more open.
 They are beautiful large birds that fill our senses with joy every time we see them.

A few afternoons ago a friend brought her friends along to do some birding.  We happened to stop in the garden to talk a bit about 5 PM, and suddenly noticed a lot of tiny bird activity.  One of the trees in the yard has a small berry the birds apparently love.   I have now discovered that every day about this same time of the late afternoon they arrive, feed for 20-30 minutes and leave.
The following small bird pictures are from one tree in the yard over 25 minutes.
The first of several ID problems.  Have no idea just what this is, unless it is a  puffy Blue-gray Tanager...
any thoughts?
There are many yellow and grey birds in Costa Rica.  I think this is a Warbler, but  I do not know which one...
there are a half dozen to choose from.  Help?
Finally, one I do know.  And a real treat for us here.  A Bay-headed Tanager.
I have not seen them here before.

Another view showing his beautiful blue chest.

Another Warbler...Chestnut-sided Warbler?
The coloring of a Golden-Headed Tanager...the first I have seen in the garden.  A beautiful creature.
but he seems small for a Tanager...Is he one?

FLOWERS, growing in the yard...

Canna Lilly...more common name Platanilla.  Common around here,  tall beautiful plants that spread.  Solid reds, solid yellows, mixed.  Need constant maintenance to keep the bed looking good.  Worth the effort.

One of many miniature orchids, found growing on a tree in the rainforest and attached to a palm in our yard.
Apparently very happy

An Orchid growing on the terrace.  In it’s third or fourth bloom.

A Hibiscus...one of many planted in the garden

Another Hibiscus
Called the Queen of the Night or Angles Trumpet.  I gives off a sweet smell al night long.
BUT every part of the plant is hallucinatory, with really bad and very long lasting effects,
frequently leading to permanent brain damage and even death.  See them for their beauty...
smell them for their sweetness, but do not ingest event the tiniest amount.

Of course you are right...another Hibiscus...in the rain

Bought a few of these in pots with one or two stalks...they multiply into beautiful Iris like clumps.  
Blossoms only last a day.

 ARENAL VOLCANO shows it’s many moods multiple times every day...so moody...
All taken from our terrace.

Very Early Morning.

Early morning.

Another very early morning.

Late night.  Time exposure during full moon.  Look closely at the thousands of stars that are in the sky.

The clouds dance around the volcano during the day, creating an ever changing view.

I still pinch myself as I think...this is where we live...

It is always there, dominating the landscape, almost forcing you to look.

A panorama view of the volcano and the lake and the jungle and the rainforest.

Adding the clouds that often rise from the forest floor to the ever-changing and ever moving clouds
that surround the volcano creates a symphony of visual sensations.

And sometimes we see a cloud of dark smoke from the crater, reminding us it is not dead,
even though the last fireworks were in 2010.

The night sky...

Thank you for looking...hope to write more in about 2 weeks...
Susan and John

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