These were my ill chosen words, a futile attempt to shield Katie from the serpent filled reality that we had just entered. It’s not that I was necessarily scared of the snake that I was watching crawl through the window of our home, it was only that I wanted to keep the overall panic to a minimum and prevent a hasty return flight back home to coastal Washington, a region quite bereft of such excitements. As my headlamp shone on it, the two foot long snake exited as quickly as it had entered, unfortunately too swift for my untrained eye to make an identification…
But let’s first return to earlier in the day, as we enter the house that is to be our home for the coming week. The musty odor hits our noses first, a mold emanating from, and slowly devouring, the beautiful Guanacaste lumber from which the house is built. A single tree perhaps, cut from the site where the house now stands, and used for everything, the walls, the siding, the countertops, the joists. Every surface, save for the concrete floor and the metal roof, was of this wood. And as that Guanacaste tree was surely an integral part of the jungle when it stood living, so this house remained an integral part of the ecosystem today.
A mere 600 square feet, this cabin I’m fairly certain, contained more biodiversity within its walls than the entire continental United States. The biomass of the ants alone easily outweighed our entire family. Each night, a prayer that we wouldn’t be carried away to some underground colony to feed the larval masses, and each morning a “gracias a dios” that they had spared us to live another day.
The whip scorpion was a constant friend, to be counted on each night hunting near the light switch, and luckily the true scorpions kept to themselves in the front yard. It became prudent practice to open the door to the bathroom slowly, and peek a watchful eye around the corner before exposing any vital organs to whatever creature may have claimed squatters’ rights to that space the night before. Shoes were of course mandatory at all times, windows were closed only to keep out things larger than a coatimundi, and it became a regular, and all too nonchalant question to ask each other “what’s that running on top of the roof?”
But back to the snake. It was probably a harmless boa constrictor or cat-eyed snake, but too quick in its retreat to provide that confirmation, we lay in our bed pondering the possibilities. Rest did not come as easily as usual as I peered at the snake skin that he or another like it, had shed while crawling down the shelves in our room. It was clear that snakes enjoyed this place as much as we did.
The house had a certain porosity to it that brought me back to my days of sleeping under the stars, which is the best sleep one can have once you master a few certain fears. And so it was here, the jungle ebbing and flowing inward and outward, a tidal flood of sounds, and smells and creatures pouring forth through open windows and unscreened vents. We could not have asked for a better show of Costa Rica’s wildlife than we did in those first few days living within that Guanacaste wood.
Stay tuned for updates as we have submitted the paperwork to UNESCO for this little Air BnB to be recognized internationally as a Biodiversity Hotspot World Heritage site.