The mechanical cacophony of nature

(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)

Wednesday, September 5

Now I know what they call it a rain forest.

I could see the day building toward a storm, and it delivered. I almost tried to beat it with a dash down to the local soda for a late lunch but thankfully I stayed put. It’s not so much the intensity of the rain that surprised me. It’s how sustained it was. It didn’t let up for a while. I’d been feeling a bit down leading up to it. The impending storm scrambled my mind, and I was brooding over one of our rental houses in Athens that needs a major repair. The Book also was clouding my disposition. I spent much of the day organizing sources and thoughts.. I have a lot of stuff floating around in my files. Links to newspaper articles. Half starts on The Book. Dead-end ideas. Schemes that just might work. Character sketches. This has been percolating in my mind for well over a decade. So I’m trying to sort through it to figure out what’s worth keeping, what isn’t. I made a lot of progress and I think, perhaps, a breakthrough on how I want to handle the “supernatural” element of it. I was terrified of cranking out a weak imitation of George Saunders’ Lincoln the the Bardo. He’s brilliant. I’m not. I need to heed my limitations and write to my strengths. I think I found a way.

Random butterfly/moth thingy that sat still long enough for me to snap its photo.

As the gloom of the day built, I plugged away, finally getting cranky at the nettlesome gnats buzzing my ears. I called it quits, deciding to head up to the Treehouse to lie down for a bit. Then the thunder cranked up like a hot-wired Harley and the rains came. And came. And came. I couldn’t sleep for the roar of it so I stepped out onto the Treehouse’s deck. Deep breaths, sucking in the cool breeze that arrived with the water. Hey, this was proving cathartic, calming.

Though that lightning strike right THERE pushed catharsis to adrenaline, the difference between a relaxing sencha green tea and a triple shot of espresso. At times, it doesn’t even sound like thunder. More like a cannonade. BOOM boom boom boomboomboom as it bounces pinball-like around the surrounding mountains before drifting off into the Pacific.

As the rain faded, the denizens of the jungle started to party. The cicadas rose up in a roar reminiscent of spaceships taking off in 1950s sci-fi movies. I’m astounded at how mechanical nature can sound. A monotonous whoop whoop whoop whoop drones on like a distant car alarm. The first time I heard it, I was convinced it was a car alarm. I”m guessing some sort of frog? ¿Quien sabe? Another sounded like submarine sonar pinging through the jungle. The birds clucked and chattered. Even my house gecko, Chuckles, joined in with a joyous croaking. I never realized they made noise, yet alone noise so profundo. Sometimes Chuckles feels the need to let loose at 3 a.m. I keep a flashlight next to the bed so I can paw around in the blackness to locate it, click it on and shine it in his general direction. Silence. (Jeff advised me to keep a flashlight nearby and use it for nocturnal trips to the bathroom. You really don’t want to step on some stingy bitey thing in the middle of the night when you’re packing a full bladder.)