Are You Sure?

“Are you sure?”

My late father-in-law stood in his yard next to his beaten-up, overworked Suburban and the large, covered horse trailer attached to it. The trailer dwarfed the Suburban—taking up fully half of the street in this upscale Houston neighborhood. We had loaded the trailer with a variety of odds and ends from his farm in rural Texas. About the only thing not sitting within the trailer was an actual horse.

He gave me a look that I’d received many times before. A look that said, “If there’s not a specific rule against it, why wouldn’t I?” In this case, that meant that he’d be blocking one side of this skinny, but heavily trafficked street for a couple of weeks while the contents of the trailer were exposed to the heat, rain, and bugs that call Houston home.

I was fairly certain that the neighborhood deed restrictions did, in fact, have something to say about this notion. I was also sure that no one was going to appreciate this new, unique hurdle to the already challenging traffic. Finally, I felt confident that none of the contents of the trailer, which had large openings to vent things—like horses—would emerge in a state worth keeping.

I kept these thoughts to myself, which has always been hard for me. My father-in-law was a wonderful man, but not one known to change a position. Until the villagers revolted and marched with torches to his front door, the trailer would stay right where it was (and even then he would, like any good lawyer, resist until the bitter end).

Here in Costa Rica, the notion that you can do whatever you want is the national credo. My father-in-law would have loved this aspect of Pura Vida. Now a few years into the experiment that is the rest of my life, I have slowly learned to be a bit less rules-oriented, a bit more open to the idea that anything can indeed go (most of the time, and as long as it doesn’t wake me up).

It is also true that the lack of clear rules, and the acceptance of a bit of anarchy, leads to situations that endanger public safety. For instance: this decision to drop a series of small boulders whimsically wrapped with warning tape in a span of the main road that Tropical Storm Nate turned into a spillway.

I don’t believe this is what Shel Silverstein had in mind when he penned, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”

Without a doubt, post-Nate a host of participants quickly pulled together and repaired access to Monteverde proper in record time. Those initial repairs have left behind a number of situations, like this one, where it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs (a local taking pictures fell from this spot a few months back and broke a number of things on his twenty meters plus descent to the creek below—but, amazingly, has fully recovered).

Our boulders, however long they are with us, may keep a tourist from driving off into the abyss. Like the horse trailer, they have turned the road into a complicated, one-lane affair where participants, including the public bus and the huge milk trucks, freely debate who has the right of way. Erosion, however, is not a process healed by time. Pura Vida may dictate that everyone just get used to the notion of driving around tape-laden boulders for the foreseeable future, but gravity likely has other, more compelling ideas.

I suspect that I will never attain the level of Pura Vida necessary to fully embrace this approach. I am and will remain, a flawed, often worried, human being. I do appreciate the fact that it is an upgrade from the usual action: 1) ignore it, or 2) shove a stick into the hole and tie a plastic bag to the top.

With all of this baggage in mind,  I pass these boulders on a regular basis, repeating my mantra to my inner doubt, “Are you sure?”

Watch that first step…


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