Earthquake Stories – From John & Mary in San Clemente


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John's idyllic coastal bus ride didn't end so pretty...

John’s idyllic coastal bus ride didn’t end so pretty…

John, thank you so much for sharing your story!    I was not only there with you as you found your way through miles and miles of mazes, but I was also enduring the earthquake at San Clemente with dear Mary…

From 2012 - John and Mary in Cruzita Ecuador

From 2012 – John and Mary in Cruzita Ecuador

Mary, even if it’s painful, it might be a catharsis to share your experience.   Sending you both my love and comfort.    Z

Here’s John’s story:  Earthquake First Report

They might not be able to reply, but let them know you appreciated their story.


Angels Watching Over Us – Ecuador Earthquake


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Mother and Daughter, Helene y Lise - I Can Do This! in Costa Rica - 2012

Mother and Daughter, Helene y Lise – I Can Do This! in Costa Rica – 2012

Heart-warming news arrives as through angel couriers, and today two messages arrived from Helene, a dear friend from France.   She wears big shoes at CNES (France’s equal to NASA) and shared some info that touched me greatly. Continue reading

Ecuador Earthquake – No News Might not be Good News

Relief Donations - from Mindo to the Earthquake Victims...

Relief Donations – from Mindo to the Earthquake Victims…

Thank you all for your comments and emails.  You are so kind, and your notes of concern and empathy have touched my heart.  For some reason, most of the emails bounce back as entirely-blank compose pages. I hope that these updates reach most of those who so graciously inquired about my safety and of those who live in Manabi Province, where over the years I’ve posted many stories from Casa Loca.

Nicolas, standing in window seat, first dubbed the name when he exclaimed,  "Esta Casa Es Loca!"

Nicolas, standing in window seat, first dubbed the name when he exclaimed, “Esta Casa Es Loca!”

There is still no news from my friends fromJama, Canoa, Bahia de Caraquez –  and Casa Loca is low on my list of concerns. I wish I could command that Magic Carpet to come get me so I could comfort and help those that I love.  Has anyone heard from John and Mary in San Clemente?  Gonzalo, how are you and your family in Manta/Montechristi?

Bob, of Piran Cafe, provided an update on Jama. Thanks, Bob, the photos made me cry. They also help to understand how/why reaching Jama is an impossible task. PiranCafe:Images from Jama.

Another friend sent a link from CNN…
From CNN
Here are more images of the relief effort from Mindo:




Iliana, (in white shirt and black leggings) and family/friends dashed to inquire, “Lisa! Jama?” …………I looked at them and shrugged, “I don’t know.. I need to get online and find out what’s happened.” Iliana often hosts me at Hostal Charrito when I stay in town.


(Silvana, thank you again for the updates, which were shared on the previous post.  I am glad that your family is ok, though I am sure you’re worried about all of your loves ones in Manabi Province.  If we can get the Magic Carpet to soar out of Casa Loca, I’ll come get you before returning to the coastal area.)

If wishes were magic carpets, we would fly!

If wishes were magic carpets, we would fly!

Most of you have faster internet and can probably glean more information than I, so I will close and return to the pristine setting of my friends’ property. Weather, roads and electricity willing, I will return on Wednesday.

I wish I could provide some good news, but for now, it looks pretty bleak.

Love, Lisa

Just In: Jama Report (Sent from Silvana in Chile)

1:20 Monday afternoon:

First, Barbara sent an email just after the update was published.   “Please thank Cynthia when you see her for answering my frantic email and letting me know – which, I shared with Marie, Steven, and Karen (and Karen shared with her Mom) ….that Mindo had not been hit real hard.
I am so happy that I remembered I had her email address so I could get in touch with someone in the area.”

Second, Thanks, Cynthia, for updating Barb, who offered words of comfort to my loved ones.

Third:  My friend Serena, who once lived in Manta, sent a brief update from Quito.  She says that Pedernales is “destroyed.”


Now, for a disturbing comment that our Silvana (writing from  Chile) just shared…  Dear, dear Silvana!  Thank you so much.  I will post this now.Z

Here is the traslation of a newpaper article, this is most clear report of What is happening in Jama so far.

Lisa I am so happy you were in Mindo. My family were mostly in Manta and they are fine, but We didn´t know about Mathias until this morning, He was there with His Dad and They both are fine.
“Jama is like a war zone, there are almost no houses standing in this village, which is located within an hour of Pedernales, Manabi province. According Leonel Zapata, pastor of the population, this earthquake on April 16 killed 12 people and left 15 others in the rubble, but the villagers say the figure is higher. There terror that exists.

Villagers said that south of Jama five hotels collapsed and dozens of people remain trapped. Getting to this town is almost an impossible task, the earthquake of 7.8 degrees on Saturday destroyed several sections of the road. The force of the earthquake left cracks up to a meter deep and slightly less wide. In addition, the mountain is constantly collapses and therefore drivers who choose to travel by these routes must slow down and be very careful. Given this situation and the uncertainty of aftershocks and waves due to earthquakes, the population of over 23 000 inhabitants has chosen to spend the night on the roads to the weather. T


he Suarez family said they lost everything in the earthquake and the three of them decided to camp on the road. While others came from different cities of the country in search of their relatives who are believed to be trapped in the area. The health center Jama not cope, it was decided to transfer a person who was in critical condition to the hospital in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. The night of Sunday 17 April came a convoy of three trucks with army personnel who are responsible for carrying out the rescue. In addition, they conduct control and security in the area. The whole town looks devastated Jama, has collapsed houses, streetlights on the floor.

There is no electricity, nor telephone signal. They are held incommunicado. In addition there is no water or food for the population requesting urgent assistance from the authorities”


Also from Sylvana: Here is a link that Lesli Flaman shared on Facebook saying: “If you want to help Jama, we know this family, it’s legit”
Please whoever wants to help, people from Jama will be more than thankful for it

Manabi Earthquake – First Report from the Cloudforest


There were three small landslides between Rio Cinto and Mindo, but this morning the roads were clear. I knew (yesterday) that something was pretty bad for this helicopter to fly along Rio Cinto.

There were three small landslides between Rio Cinto and Mindo, but this morning the roads were clear. I knew (yesterday) that something was pretty bad for this helicopter to fly along Rio Cinto.

OK. I cheated.. I said I would post this and then start wading through the email inbox and the comments, as I knew that my loved ones would be worried. I peeked at the comment bar, which brought tears to my eyes. Thank you all – I am fine and am writing from the cloud forest… Just saw Pedro my electrician friend who is getting his ID badge and paperwork to head to Pedernales on a work mission. He says there is no way to reach Jama…. I will follow up with a report and photos from the people in Mindo assembling care packages for Manabi….

Here’s my post, which I began writing yesterday at 7:00 a.m. — Sunday morning, April 17, 2016

Twelve hours ago, the earth seized control of this house and almost rattled the windows out of their casings. My first thought was, ” Something’s trying to break through the window” until I remembered that I was sitting near the second-floor windows that overlooked the foot of a towering hill.

The windows continued to reverberate, and I thought, “Volcano. A volcano’s about to blow…”

Cotopaxi Volcano started spewing in late September...

Cotopaxi Volcano started spewing in late September…

The rattling continued, and my desktop computer keyboard danced off its perch and leaped to the floor.

I pondered the rain-saturated soil betwen the house and Mindo, and from Mindo west to the coast, and east to Quito.

“Power. We’ll surely lose power,” and I began unhooking the computer speakers from the mini laptop. (I had been transferring photos from little burro computer to the desktop computer.)

What is it about the moment of a power blackout? Aside from the chattering windows and trembling floors, there’s no warning – no flickering. One second the power is working, and the next second, it’s gone. The glow from the mini laptop provided comforting assistance as my next thought reassured me that the flashlight was in its place – on the sideboard near the front door. The laptop would suffice until I retreated downstairs. I noted the time, 7 p.m.

Like a tin lid on a kettle of boiling water, the rattling continued. This wasn’t the typical house-and-landscape-moving earthquake. It was more like someone sifting sand through a screen. I assumed that Mother Earth was diffusing her anger via a violent earth-shaking mood. In the Deep South/USA, we were coached to move to an interior bathroom during tornado warnings, and I rationalized, “What works for tornadoes surely works for earthquakes? ”

I sidled toward the upstairs bathroom, stared up at the framework of the door, then decided that the house would be fine – I would be fine.

The shaking rivaled Shakira’s reverberating hip vibrations as I retrieved the laptop, the camera and the bird-identification reference books. WThe rattling stopped, adn I slowly descended the steps.

Twelve hours before, I’d written about the expectations of the day. Now, twelve hours after, I’ve inspected both houses, greeted the hummingbirds, scanned for new landslides up and down the visual path of the Rio Cinto’s valley, and returned to the house to get fish food for the pond inspection walk.

“Coffee first today!” I defended ith a sense of entitlement I had not truly earned.

While preparing the coffee, I noted a flash of red and photgraphed an unusual petite bird foraging for insects. Probing and pecking, it gave me ample time for photos, but alas, this camera does well in strong light but gets poor ratings in low light. (Scarlet-backed Woodpecker.)

Sitting on the deck and comparing photos to the book, I was interrupted again by another flash or color near the pond. I froze. Moving only my eyes, I admired a toucan perched in “The Swallow Tree.” the camera captured the moment, but still not in “National Geographic” quality. After Lovely Toucan soared over the roof to its next perch, a hermit hummingbird hovered several feet in front of me and stared into my scarf-shrouded face. “Remember us? Sugar? Yes, we’re addicted to our morning sugar fix.”

I smiled, “Hey there. Yes, I’ll fix it now.”
The sun burned off the mist, and the pond mirrors a lovely day. The power remains off; there are no sounds of traffic on the road; my mind wonders, “What was that last night? What direction was that? Was it a nearby landslide? Are the roads clear? Blocked? Is this a small power outage? Large? Is Mindo blocked? Does Mindo have power? How many slides between here and Mindo? Betwen Mindo and Quito? Was it a volcano blowing? An earthquake? If so, where? The last big one to shake Casa Loca had its epicenter in Columbia. I remembered stories of the last El Nino and the epic earthquake that hit Bahia de Caraquez. The country has suffered with El Nino rains. Could this earthquake have hit the coast? Surely it made headlines.

My coffee’s cold; the fish are waiting; toucans are croaking. No news will fall from the sky, and the morning becons. The mystery bird chirps from across the pond. Like a pied piper, it teases me into countless games of Hide & Seek. It’s led me to new trophies, so I’ll close, retrieve the fish food, work tools for the day and allow all of the unanswered questions to take a back seat to the tasks of the day.


24 hours later…
As I worked n a stubborn area of weeds and grass yesterday afternoon, the thump-thump-thump sound of a distant helicopter nudged me from my work. I peered upriver while trying to coordinate the sound with my vision. A speck slowly came into closer view as the small blue helicopter followed the Rio Cinto’s topography. Retrieving the camera, I photographed it as it passed low and close, and then I watched as it sailed out of view. Hitting the review button, I sort of gasped when I read the words, “Policia.”

Pichincha. I’ve been told not to worry about this river or area unless Volcano Pichincha blows. Could Pichincha have blown? No, surely I would be able to see a column of ash. Cotopaxi? If they were patrlling this river, surely Mindo was affected as well. No, the road to town would not be open today… I resumed work until rain forced me to a grateful end to my day of work.

After cleaning up and enjoying a fresh batch of guayusa-ginger tea, the lightbulb flashed in my mind. The truck. The truck has a radio. AM and FM. Retrieving the keys, I stepped into the misting outdoors, unlocked the truck and began scanning the channels. Reception is poor in this isolated mountain-surrounded valley, though many static-filled and afew strong stations came through. Almost all were broadcasting emergency information, and I was grateful that my
Spanish skills had improved. There were lists of towns, provinces, streets, as well as bus termindals and airports mentioned. Every so often certain words came through more often. Esmeraldes. Pedernales. Manabi. Jama. (gulp – Jama). Canoa. San Vicente. Santo Domingo. Chone. Manta. Tsunami. Tsunami – Panama – Costa Rica. Hmmm, they must have put out a tsunami warning for high-risk coastlines.

Several times I heard the word, Terremoto -(Big earthquake) and I always heard, “punto ocho – point eight,” but never the first part. I think they said that the coastal highway between Pedernales and San Vicente was basically destroyed, and I pondered the history of sand mining and the beach sand that was used in construction of that section of highway. They mentioned bridges destroyed. One broadcaster mentioned a ‘loma’ (hill) that had collapsed along the highway. Over an hour later after switching channels, I deducted that the epicenter was near Pedernales, which is about 30 miles north of Jama.

Knowing I could easily become obsessed with the thirst for more information, I turned off the radio, locked the truck as the last light of the day escorted me back to the house… I lit three candles and bagan preparing an early dinner, when – with even less lack of warning than 24 hours before – the power returned!

It is now 9 AM Monday morning, and I have finished transcribing my notes. White fluffy clouds stud a pristine-blue sky, and the sun promises a morning of pretty weather. I will drive toward town and ask a neighbor if the road is clear, then will either drive to town or until an obstacle blocks the way. If the latter, I’ll park in a safe place the walk to town to find out more as well as to let everyone know that Z’s fine – though she is profoundly concerned for her loved ones in Manabi.

Thanks for sticking with this epistle. Without proofing, I’ll publish this and will update as soon as more information is gathered.  If you’re wondering what the Jama locals are like, start here:  The Lovely Women of Jama     and here:  More Lovely Women of Jama.

I speak for all of my friends in Manabi, thank you so much for your concern. Presently, you know more about what happened than I…


Timeout for Updates!

The birds daily designs are drawn with cracked corn, and the birds slowly erase the designs! Can hyou guess what this image in the foreground is about?

The daily designs are drawn on the boulders with cracked corn, and the birds slowly erase the designs! Can you guess what this image in the foreground is about? (Will this work as a Timeout for Art?)

Several people have recently written to be sure all’s fine, as I’m not usually so silent.  Thanks, amigos – the past few weeks have been busy, and I also dedicated some extra quiet time for remembering Joe.

The flowers were rescued from a fallen tree in the public road. The painting makes a fun backdrop! Will this work for a Timeout for Art?!!

The flowers were rescued from a fallen tree in the public road. The painting makes a fun backdrop! Will this work for a Timeout for Art?!!

Last week brought an assortment of ‘helpers’ to the property.  Pedro, the all-in-one great kind of assistant, helped with some electrical repairs and then put on his birding sombrero and helped identify some birds.  Here’s Pedro/Peter at his top form — the fact that he’s also a rapelling guide might explain how he so easily accomplished the task.  I tipped him twenty dollars for his heroic efforts… Continue reading

Joe “Bass” Skyward


Uniquely Joe

Uniquely Joe – “Hey Dudes!  Hey Dudettes!  You won’t believe what’s next! “

“Unique –  Being the only one; being without a like or equal”

Joe and I met in front of a cattle chute in the little village of Pueblo Nuevo de Bejuco – Guanacaste, Costa Rica.   Knowing that the noon bus would soon be careening around the curve, I walked to the corral where another person was standing near the dusty intersection.

(Joe emailed this cattle-chute photo several years ago.)

(Joe emailed this cattle-chute photo several years ago.)

“Are you waiting for the bus?”  I asked the tourist that seemed a bit out of place.

Bus?  There’s a bus?” he replied with wide-eyed wonder.

“Yes,”  I smiled, “it should be rolling through any minute.”

I don’t recall exactly how Joe mysteriously landed smack in the middle of the dusty cowboy pueblito, but he happily climbed aboard the “Bejuco-Jicaral Express,” the only public-transportation option for the rest of the day.

Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

I was traveling a short distance to Playa San Miguel, and in the ten-minute ride Joe decided to bail out and experience what is often called one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

As the cliché goes, “The rest is history.”    Joe’s unique personality warmed the hearts of the people in the area;  one only had to mention his name, and others smiled.  Wanting a part-time respite from his California life, Joe purchased a parcel of land and built a retreat where he embraced Costa Rica’s ‘Pura Vida’ culture.

I join many who are sobered by the news of his death.

Eclipse Sunset

Costa Rica Eclipse Sunset

From Loudwire:  “The music world has lost another talent as bassist Joe Skyward, best known for his work with Sunny Day Real Estate and the Posies has passed away at the age of 57.
The rocker, born Joe Howard and also known as Joe Bass, had been fighting cancer over the last two years. The Posies alerted fans to Joe Skyward’s passing via a Facebook posting. ”  

For the rest of Loudwire’s obituary, go HERE

A more-worthy tribute will take time to gather information, photos and perhaps some testimonials from those who knew him.   My deepest condolences go to his family and loved ones.


Ecuadorian Birds – Name that Bird!


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The female racquet-tail hummingbird usually doesn't have the 'tail' and the male usually doesn't have the white.. Thanks in advance for a proper ID!

Reference material for the female racket-tail hummingbird doesn’t show a racket ‘tail,’ and the male doesn’t have the white breast… Thanks in advance for a proper ID!   When illustrated reference books seem lacking for details,  I often check Nick Athanas’ Antpitta site.. Check out his magnificent portraits of Neotropical birds.  ( – Booted Racket-tailed Hummingbird)

While updating the bird list for the property, I was pleased to count over 90 species of birds – and the ones that live on the other 95 hectares are still unrecorded!

Calling all birders – can you help with identification for any of these UFBS – Unidentified Flying Birds?    I will be offline until next week but look forward to your feedback.

Let’s look at those birds!

Continue reading

Costumes of a Different Color

Capes of a Different Color - Acrylic by Lisa Brunetti

Capes of a Different Color – Acrylic by Lisa Brunetti

“It gripped him: that cross was not the cross of Christ, but the cross of the Ku Klux Klan. He had a cross of salvation round his throat and they were burning one to tell him that they hated him! No! He did not want that! ”  Richard Wright – Native Son,  Pubished 1940

(Ecuador) – As various towns and cities throughout Ecuador prepare for tomorrow’s Good Friday Procession, I will be tucked away in the cloud forest and hope to finish the above painting.

Re: 2015 Procession —  Although I had read and admired photos of Quito’s parade, I experienced a visual shock from seeing thousands of capes and pointed hats/masks that reminded me of Mississippi’s KKK dark history.   Continue reading

Timeout for Painting Signs!


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Why is Barb chuckling as she sits on the bench?

Why is Barb chuckling as she sits on the bench?

(Rio Cinto/Mindo Ecuador) As Barbara’s “work visit” comes to an end, we’re reflecting on how much we packed into this past month.  She can now add sign painting, wildlife guide and landscape design to her resume!

Thanks to a guide's visit to the property, Barb has been officially infected with the birding bug!

Thanks to a guide’s visit to the property, Barb has been officially infected with the birding bug!

Join us for a walk along the pond to critique the signs!   If we’re lucky (and quiet) we might spot an otter!   Adding Whimsy to the Trails 


Lisa & Barb

Timeout for Art – Cattle Roundup!


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Would this make you smile?

“Some little thing in my brain stretched, and twisted, and turned until I was pulling all kinds of things from the dark corners of my studio, and this was the result.” Karen (of Stone Soup- KarenSameNow)

(Mindo Ecuador) One can allow unexpected challenges to ruin one’s day (or night) or one can try to find the humor in frustrating moments. With Barbara around, it’s easy to burst out laughing instead of wanting to shout with frustration! My friend Peter (bird guide and electrician) saw my hand-scrawled note and burst out laughing!

"Does she really expect me to move when there's such delicious grass on the property?"

“Does she really expect me to move when there’s delicious grass on the property?”

Yes, my brain stretched and twisted and decided that a quickly-drawn illustration might best describe the cattle’s destructive tour of the gardens and trails! The note needed few words to deliver the message to the owner of the cows.


Every time we tried to herd the cows back to the gate, where they’d found a weak part in the barbed-wire fence, they bolted to deeper and difficult-areas to reach in the old pasture areas. At night they tipped back to the yard in order to raid the hibiscus, the orchids and the impatiens.


The Scout


At one in the morning, we were sitting in the truck waiting to ambush them if they returned, as they had sent a scout to see if we were sleeping. Half an hour earlier, I peered out the bedroom window to see a peeping-cow staring back at me!

They finally gave up, but at 7 in the morning they were back.   We herded them toward the gate, where I had taped a note to the owner of the cattle.  One cow inspected the note and sampled it – YOW!  STOP THAT, SILLY COW! Continue reading

Road Minga


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Water gushing past front gates!

Water gushing past front gates!

Roads turned into mini rivers

Roads turned into mini rivers

(Mindo Ecuador)  – Many locals tell me that the extreme rains we’ve been receiving are due to the El Nino weather.    When the road along Rio Cinto almost washed away, Barbara and I were part of an impromptu “Minga” where locals work together for the benefit of a community project.   After about fifteen minutes, we were able to drive through the ‘rock bridge’ that crossed the washout.


Wait, I think I know that worker in the blue jacket! And that’s the lady that drives the milk truck in the white shirt!


I tried to move this stone, and the gallant neighbor volunteered to help!

Continue reading

Timeout for Trails!


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For the Trails! (Acrylic on old board)

For the Trails! (Acrylic on old board)

“Hummingbird teaches us… what has happened in the past, and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now.  It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate the sweetness.”  Constance Barrett Sohodski

Mindo Ecuador – Barbara’s visit is zipping by way too fast, but we stay busy with many creative tasks.    The sun peers from behind the clouds for a few hours each day, and we work on various outdoor projects until the rains run us inside!  We then switch to other projects – like creating signs for the trails!

There are many beautiful places.. a new spot to sit and relax is on the far side of the pond and beneath that tall tree...

We’ll be working on a new spot to sit and relax on the far side of the pond… Stay tuned for updates featuring that tall tree…

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Taking Time for the Younger Ones


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(Mindo Ecuador) – An impromptu meeting redirected one of my afternoons last week, and I embraced the opportunity to work with a small group of students that are preparing for an art competition. We met this past Tuesday, and they will bring sketches to the next meeting on Monday!

Every single student is precious, and they all seem thrilled that I will be helping.
6 of 10 students

This week’s Timeout is short and sweet, and will hopefully be delivered to your doorstep via ‘Publish later’ option. Barbara arrived this past Saturday, and – aside from lots of rain – all’s fine at beautiful Rio Cinto. (It was nice of the otter to drop by and say “Welcome Back!”)

More next week! Z

“I Think You Lied to Me…”


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A lovely day for a swim?

A lovely day for a swim?


“I think you lied to me,” she said as they swam to the shallow end of the private lake.  “You told me that story just to pull me away from my friends and take me here… They are probably catching lots of fish in the river right now…”

2B020654 rio cinto
“I promise, I told you the truth!   Just wait and you’ll see for yourself!”   Continue reading

Birds Birds Birds!


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“Goodness, someone left mystery flowers— are they for me?”

"Will you be my valentine?"

“Will you be my valentine?”

Birds, birds and more birds! This is the Backyard Birdcount Weekend! Give your feathered friends a voice and put your backyard on the map! Yesterday I counted a few, and today I’ve been in transit, but tomorrow will be dedicated not only to identifying each species, but also to counting howw many drop by to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Bird ID Please?

This one dropped by yesterday — Bird ID Please?

This is the Backyard Birdcount Weekend! I hope that many of you will give your feathered friends a voice and put your backyard on the map!

Thank you for your enthusiastic feedback on the last post! The Neotropical otter is called a “Nutria” here in Ecuador, and it visited for just that morning and has gone back into hiding. It must be playing tag with the cormorant, which returned and is again gobbling the tilapia! By combining photos, audio extractions of camera videos and music snippets, I found creative ways to tell the story via Windows Movie Maker 2012.


Rufous-tailed hummingbird and wild bromeliad – (Photo taken during yesterday’s bird count.)

Today I am in Quito, and sitting across the table from me is our very special friend “Hummingbird” Barbara, who arrived from Panama this morning! We are about to travel to Mindo, and tomorrow we’ll try to document as many birds as possible there on my friends’ property.

Here’s a bird that landed near the house yesterday. Can anyone help identify this raptor?

Raptor - Is this a Gray Hawk?

Raptor – Is this a Gray Hawk?

It will be fun to swap bird stories later this week!

Here’s the link to the “Get Started” page for the birdcount:

Get Started

Something’s OUT THERE!


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Something's out there, but where did it go?

Something’s out there, but where did it go?

Something was out there.

My breathing paused while my eyes switched from the well-thumbed Birds of Northwest Ecuador to the reflective waters of the pond. Subtle ripples confirmed that something was there, though there were many possibilities.

The masked water tyrants were nesting again, and they often patrol that section of the pond. I did not think that those birds were responsible for those ripples.

The white-ringed flycatchers were absent this week; their nesting cycle ended when the small bush holding their life’s work toppled into the pond during heavy rains. Hopefully the fledglings had fled before the nest’s baptism. Maybe they relocated to a favorite perch, the red ginger at the edge of the pond.

A striated heron stops in every so often, though it usually perches on dead limbs and waits in stealth mode. I quickly dismissed the heron from my list of suspects. Cute little swallows gather insects while practicing touch and gos during the last few hours of each day, but this was a sunny morning. Swallows were also quickly ruled out.

Ah! The blue-winged teal! They stopped by for a visit in December. Maybe they were back? Their presence added a touch of grace to the landscape.

The neotropical cormorant had been absent for a few days, thank goodness, as it gorges on tilapia throughout the day. I checked its usual spot – empty – and shifted my eyes to the mirror-like waters. Most likely the cormorant had returned. If so, it would surface soon.

My eyes darted to new ripples along the grasses, and the swift movement jolted me into action.
Continue reading

Between Rains – From the Cloudforest


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Between Rains

Between Rains

(Mindo Ecuador) – The rainy season has definitely returned here in the cloud forest, and the rain guage has ‘caught’ at least 20 inches of rain since the new year began! The rains continue to purge the normally-tranquil Rio Cinto, that has lost its temper twice and roared as it passed (in its bounds) through the valley.

This past Sunday/Sunday night - I suspected there would be minor landslides, and I was right!

This past Sunday/Sunday night the Rio Cinto roared like the ocean, and I suspected there would be minor landslides in the area.  I was right!

Monday morning brought clear skies, yet theh road was eerily silent/void of traffic. While inspecting Rio Cinto, I met this one neighbor who was also inspecting the changes.

Monday morning brought clear skies, yet the road was eerily silent/void of traffic. While inspecting Rio Cinto, I met this one neighbor who was also inspecting the changes.

With two workers waiting for me to retrieve them at 8 sharp, i drove until this new roadblock changed my mind!

With two workers waiting for me to retrieve them at 8 sharp, I drove until this new roadblock changed my mind!

On Tuesday the sound of traffic returned, and I drove to town with no problems. A very large landslide had been cleared, and the municipality deserves recognition for their prompt action.  I did not take my hands off the wheel in order to photograph the mud and muck!

Rio Cinto stayed angry for several days...

Rio Cinto stayed angry for several days…

Between rains, the days are beautiful and the mornings often seem as if rain is the least-expected item on the day’s menu. By noon or one, the clouds return, and light showers prompt a change in plans.

My friend Cynthia invited me to participate in a guided tour of a private reserve, where we learned about the local plants and their medicinal uses. (Gilberto, our guide in the photo)

My friend Cynthia invited me to participate in a guided tour of a private reserve, where we learned about the local plants and their medicinal uses. (Gilberto, our guide in the photo)

Continue reading

The Drive to Town


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"Did you see that flash of yellow? What's there? "

“Did you see that flash of yellow? What’s there? “

Mindo, Ecuador –   The little Burrito Laptop displayed a stubborn temperament yesterday and refused to respond to any keyboard prompt.    Photos were waiting to be uploaded, and stories were waiting to be shared, and I could open pages via touch screen, but nothing else worked!   A cybercafe helped me connect to the world and send a fast email to say, “I’m fine – all’s well aside from lots of rain here in the cloud forest.”    I am learning to dodge the roadblocks the computer places in my way and can do basic typing.  Pardon the generic presentation of this and future posts!

Drive with me past Rio Cinto and examine the range of the moods!

Rio Cinto always offers a different mood and another facet of beauty.

Rio Cinto always offers a different mood and another facet of beauty.  This is the normal mood!

Rio Cinto

Rio Cinto after 3 inches of rain…

Rio Cinto

Rio Cinto showed a rare bad temperament this past week!  Twelve hours later, it was back to normal…

1Ker Splash


Hey, there is a new Playamart shopping center on Rio Cinto!

After the bad mood; hey, there is a new Playamart shopping center on Rio Cinto!

My drive to town was a bit longer than norm this week;   I stopped and photographed Rio Cinto’s rare bad mood, and then braked for a great photo session with two toucans that foraged near the road. Continue reading

*It Started with One Light Switch


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"What started with a light switch?"

“What started with a light switch?”

“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Urcuqui Ecuador – Sarah Dettman invited me to visit Urcuqui over a year ago to look at a renovation project of an old adobe property. Sarah and her husband Eloy planned to convert the space into a coffee shop with an apartment on the first level and the owners’ living quarters on the second floor. This past March between Semana Santa and a friend’s wedding, we drove to the site and tossed around creative ideas.

The name of the cafe, Arbol de la Vida, provided endless ideas for artistic touches, and Sarah and another friend Linnda visioned a giant tree on the wall to greet people when they stepped into the cafe. Beyond that wall was a neutral area between the bathrooms, and we discussed hanging a framed painting of a tree in that space.

Blending the actual tree with the wall via paint....

Blending the actual tree with the wall via paint….

When I returned this past week for a three-day “Time for Art!” session with the family, I was pleased to see that grand tree already taking shape on the adobe wall. The maestro had fashioned a believable tree trunk and limbs from parts of trees, and the effect was strong and powerful.

What's real and what's paint? (Acrylic)

What’s real and what’s paint? (Acrylic)

My eye went next to the blank wall between the two bathrooms, though there was one little-but important obstacle in the way of placing a painting in that space. The light switch had been placed dead center in the wall. Only a few seconds passed before I suggested a creative compromise: “Let’s paint a big tree and design the light switch into part of the tree… “ Sarah gave me one of her classic, “Are you sure about this?” looks, and I added, “It could be its belly button!” and then she looked even more doubtful. I asked if there was a remnant piece of plywood or some kind of building material that we could use…. (No, but they would buy something) Added to the shopping list were about 100 tiny mirrors…


Three or four coats of white paint later – and after tossing around ideas with Sarah, I began painting the ‘whimsical’ ceibo tree. Sarah and family were working on a mosaic project in the loft area that overlooked the main area where I was painting. As their mosaic grew, so did the tree.


After the basic form of the tree was finished, next came the deep blue swirls of color, painted ‘just wide enough’ for the little mirrors. I worked late into the night so that it would be ready for a protective water-based acrylic sealer the next morning. (Sarah’s first task of the day!) Although I slept later than everyone else, it was still fun to witness their reactions to the finished painting!

After coffee, everyone glued mirrors to the swirls of color, which gave the tree a more-powerful presence. The maestro, who was working in another area, fished the wires through the painting and secured the panel to the wall.





The finale, of course, was placing the light switch and confirming that it worked! The tree represents the combined energies of all who helped, and hopefully it will radiate that good energy to all who pause to admire it!









The ‘normal’ lens on my camera malfunctioned several months ago, so all photos are taken with the lens used for bringing far-off subjects closer. I stood on the scaffold to take a few photos then took a few more from the loft. With or without a final group photo, everyone was pleased with the results!
(Imagine a group of smiling faces here!)

Would you enjoy using this light switch?!

Would you enjoy using this light switch?!

*The title of this post came from another impromptu project, ‘It Started with one Light Pole.” Hmmmm; I wonder what will come next in this series!






Leon Rodriguez – A Piano Maestro in Mindo!


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Returning to Mindo after a challening week, I was pleased that I had just enough time to send an email to say, “I reached home plate,” upload photos for the Timeout post, and walk to the church – less than one minute away. Over the past month, I had often touched base with the world via internet as Leon Rodriguez, known to a few extranjeros as George/Jorge, had been practicing for his upcoming piano recital at Hostal & Restaurant Caskaffesu. Although he performs each week with the popular group of Andean artists (Tribus Futuras), this recital would be his local debut of his beloved classical piano.

Still garnished with holiday-season flowers, the church provided a perfect mood and backdrop for Leon’s music. Luis Alban and Susan Hillman accompanied via guitar on the opening, then weaned the spotlight to Jorge.

Luis, a maestro of the guitar...

Luis, a maestro of the guitar…

Susan shares her lovely song...

Susan shares her lovely song…

For the next hour, Leon captivated all as we sat rapt in wonder as this gentle man shared his gift with us.





Works played in the recital:

Ponchito al hombro – Carlos Bonilla Chavez (Ecuador)
Coqueteos – Fulgencio Garcia (Colombia)
Fon- ron – Ernesto Nazareth (Brazil)
Prelude in C sharp minor – Gnosseinne No 3 – Erik Satie (France)
Moment musicaux No 3 – Franz Schubert (Austria)
Maple leaf rag – Scott Joplin (United States)



Locally, Leon plays with the group Wed – Saturday evenings at Caskaffesu in Mindo and also gives private piano and voice lessons.

One can reach him via Facebook or email:

Timeout for Art: Mirrors and More

Hmmm.. Are you curious?

Hmmm.. Are you curious?

Mindo, Ecuador —- I am about to attend a concert but wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year and to share a sneak peek at a project from this week in Urcuqui Ecuador.

What's real and what's paint?

What’s real and what’s paint?

Any ideas what object this is?

Any ideas what object this is?

While waiting to leave Quito and its congested traffic, I snapped this image of effigies, sold to burn away the old year and bring in the new. I plan to make my own mosquito effigy and burn away the chikungunya and dengue baggage!

Ready-made effigies for sale for the New Year's Eve tradition.

Ready-made effigies for sale for the New Year’s Eve tradition.

I’ll be back perhaps this weekend.

Clarksdale, Mississippi -Tornado Update



Leaving Lake Chicot, Arkansas and crossing over to Greenville, Mississippi  (2014)

Being offline most of the time, I usually scan the subject of emails to get a gist of what’s happening in other parts of the world. Headlines of a tornado that hit near Clarsksdale Mississippi got my attention, as I once lived in Clarksdale and several other Delta towns in that area.   John Ruskey at Mississippi River Dispatch/Quepaw Canoe Company sent this report to his subscribers this morning:

Christmas Eve Eve Tornado
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 328
Posted Monday, Dec 28, 2015

                             We’re Okay, but Here’s How to Help

“Thanks to everyone who has been calling or writing in concerned about how we’re doing after the Christmas Eve Eve storms, one of which produced an unusually long-lasting tornado that swept a diagonal path 145 miles across northern Mississippi into Tennessee, reportedly staying on the ground the whole way. We are okay in Clarksdale, but outlying areas in the county got hit hard. Homes and airport were damaged near Clarksdale; emergency crews said about 25 homes are severely damaged in Coahoma County, and many more have minor damage. An entire subdivision was wiped out in the Bellevue area. No loss of life reported in Coahoma County, but nearby Benton and Marshall Counties got hit hard with multiple deaths reported.

Several of you have wondered how to help… Thank you! See below news story from CNN for ways to help those who have suffered:

Mississippi communities destroyed: Mississippi was hit just before Christmas and many injuries and deaths were reported. The governor has declared a State of Emergency. Many communities have been damaged and in many cases, families have been left homeless. If you want to help, the Mississippi Emergency Management has ways to donate or volunteer on their website. The small towns of Holly Springs and Clarksdale, Mississippi, are among the hardest hit. The Mississippi Red Cross is providing shelter, food and supplies and you can make a donation here. If you live in the Holly Springs area you can drop off aid at the Eddie Smith Multipurpose Center, 285 North Memphis Street and in Clarksdale at the Civic Auditorium at 506 East 2nd Street.

Direct Relief is sending medical supplies to the region and is just one of many organizations getting ready to respond.

(Click here for story From CNN News)

The tornado was visible from the Hopson Plantation, the Shack Up Inn, and must have come across the Sunflower River somewhere south of there, maybe in the Dublin/Roundaway area. Clarksdale narrowly missed being hit by the tornado. It passed within five miles of town. But nearby communities were hit hard. Belleview especially, we’ve heard that 25 houses were destroyed in the county and many more damaged. And the rain was torrential. We got 6 – 10 inches of rain in a short intense burst of storms, and now all the fields and drainages are full of water, and the Sunflower River rose 10 feet in about 6 hours on Christmas Eve morning, and is now flooding big time, the highest its been since 2011 I think, judging by the muddy water creeping across the parking lot at Quapaw Canoe Company.

Update from John around noon Dec 28th, 2015:

1) I just got a report of one person died in Coahoma County as result of the tornado (details forthcoming)

2) Sen Robert Jackson shared this report from Quitman County: “We also have many families who lost their homes in the Marks area as well and need your prayers and assistance. Call Don Green at Ms Delta Council for Farm Worker Opportunities. 662-627-1122.”


The Mississippi River near Greenville

More from John:  Mississippi River Forecast- The entire Lower Mississippi and Middle Mississippi River Valleys have been experiencing heavy rainfall in these same storms, with flood walls being closed and the big river rising above major flood stage in St. Louis, and forecasted to crest around 48.5 in Cape Girardeau on Jan 2nd (which is at record height — as high as it got in the catastrophic floods of 1993!). The forescast for the Lower Miss is not as dire, 57 feet at the mouth of the Ohio River (Cairo, IL) on the 5th of January. (This is 17 feet above flood stage in Cairo), but it is expected to crest at 41 Memphis (7 feet above flood stage), at 43.5 in Baton Rouge on Jan 19th (8.5 feet above flood stage) and at 17 in New Orleans on the 20th (which is alarmingly high — the levees protect NO only up to 20 feet).

Whew! 2016 is going to be an interesting year on the Lower Miss!

For more photos of the Lower Miss and more reading, go to

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
is a service of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Clarksdale, Miss ~ Helena, Ark

John Ruskey/
Quapaw Canoe Company
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
291 Sunflower Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614
cell: 662-902-7841
office: 662-627-4070




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More Holiday Red!

Holiday Red!

Short and sweet, this post spotlights some of my favorite ‘red’ images as I extend my best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday season.   Thank you for your support for my drawings, paintings, whimsical art and for my epistles, stories and serious writings as well.

For those who have time to venture back to old posts, here’s how my Ecuadorian friends observe Christmas in the town of Jama.  (Manabi Province/Ecuador)

and here:

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clausette!

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clausette!

Siblings Cira and Fernando (Left, Middle) greet their unexpected European friend!

Siblings Cira and Fernando (Left, Middle) greet their ‘surprise’ friend from Europe!

P1620608 christmas eve christ child greeting mama y lider

Un beso para madre!

Now let’s turn back to more images in red! Continue reading



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Dawn awakenings in Ecuador's cloud forest.

Dawn awakenings in Ecuador’s cloud forest.

Most every morning I awaken with a plate-full of dreams still lingering in my psyche. They war at times with lucid thoughts, and I question, “Where do these thoughts come from?” (Perdon, but “from where do these thoughts arise,” just doesn’t flow well!)

(Ecuadorian Thrush) As I inspect my awakening thoughts, the thrush is the official Inspector of the Gardens.

(Ecuadorian Thrush) As I inspect my awakening thoughts, the thrush is the official Inspector of the Gardens.

This morning a cyber headline from last week played over and over, much like a banner running nonstop across a viewing screen. “Monsanto charged with Crimes Against Humanity” and I wondered just what crimes are named or if it was a headline to prompt visits to the site. Without being online for the ease of a search tool, I decided the most-obvious reason might be connected to Agent Orange and its use in the Vietnam War.

In 2011, Bob Ramsak of Piran Cafe wrote about his visit to “Thanhxuan Peace Village, or Lang Hoa Binh Than Xuan, an orphanage, school and clinic in Hanoi set up specifically for victims of Agent Orange. It was also the last time I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star before an appreciative audience.” Continue reading

Timeout for Art -“The Chemicals of Inspiration”


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Where's the toucan?

What’s making that croaking sound?  By George, it’s a toucan!

Now that I am living in the cloud forest near Mindo Ecuador, I am distanced from urban areas and spend most of my time in blissful solitude. Every so often someone will ask, “Aren’t you scared?” or “Don’t you get bored?” or even “Are you sure you are happy out there?”

Sometimes I smile  (smirk?) and reply, “I’m not wired like most…”

The toucan calls for me to celebrate the day!

The toucan calls for me to celebrate the day!

Even when very young, I preferred the sky as my roof and a fallen tree as my chosen furniture, and I’d seek out my favorite places in the woods and sit for half an hour or more before moving to another area. I craved the hushed quiet of the wilderness, though the nuances of subtle sounds filled my hours with joy. The wind whispering through the trees provided the most-constant soundtrack as I admired and inspected wildflowers that dotted the landscape. I learned to stomp on the ripened fruit of the ‘Maypop,’ and I sometimes tweaked my attention to a sudden splash in the water, which might have been a fish or a snake or a falling limb. I explored the thickets for Brer Rabbit, though I always failed at sneaking up on prehistoric-looking softshelled turtles basking on sun-drenched banks.

I preferred the quiet solace of tranquil waters - and still do!

I preferred the quiet solace of tranquil waters – and still do!

Rio Cinto always offers a different mood and another facet of beauty.

Rio Cinto always offers a different mood and another facet of beauty.

As an adult, I adapted when necessary, but I have always been my best when alone with nature. My senses come alive, and I merge with the subtle rhythms. Years ago when I spent a month in the city, I asked my birding friend, Michael Godfrey, “If I feel starved for connection with nature, what must the Indians feel when they’ve transplanted to the concrete jungles? How do they survive?”
Michael’s reply was a sobering one, “They don’t. They die a little each day from soul rot.” Continue reading

Sun and Shadows


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This photo freezes a display of stunning light and shadows last year at Canoa Beach Hotel. (Ecuador)

Todays assortment of images reflect my response to Otto Munchow’s post, “Let the Sun In.”       A gifted photographer and teacher, Otto stated, “Light is one of the most important factors that influence the quality of a photo.”  He followed with, “There is no such thing as bad light, only suitable or not suitable light for whatever you are trying to express. ”  His post offers pointers for photographing in the harsh mid-day light.


View from the dining room...

View from the dining room… 10 a.m. light…

This plant hitched a ride to the public road via a large limb that fell.  After watching it for several weeks, I decided that the road graders would one day consume it, so with no guilt, I transplanted it to a space where it would be treasured.

This bromeliad hitched a ride to the edge of a public gravel road via a large limb that fell to the ground. After watching it for several weeks, I decided that the road graders would one day consume it, so with no guilt, I transplanted it to a space where it would be treasured.  Several of its canopy mates joined it – friends for life!

As I read his post, I thought of the ‘Plant Rescue Garden’ (pictured above) at my friends’ property in the cloud forest near Mindo.  During certain hours, the sun stretches its fingers into the deep shadowed area and showcases several of the plants.  The light is very dramatic, and I almost always reach for my camera and try to capture what makes it so special.  Just how many photos does one need of the happily-transplanted bromeliads, begonias and orchids?  For me, they serve as reference photos for those rainy days when I’m housebound and looking for inspiration for paintings.

A begonia lived on the tracks of an old excavator that was about to roll for the first time in years.

A begonia lived on the tracks of an old excavator that was about to roll for the first time in years.

Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Reflections from a Bamboo Cabaña


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Watercolor Study of Artifact

Who created this artifact? Man? Woman? Several People? What purpose did it serve? How many generations lived and died before this artifact was discovered?  Did they have complex language skills?  Who found the artifact, or was it looted from a grave or washed downriver? Who steered it into the museum’s collection so that I could one day admire and study it?    (Watercolor Study — Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez/Ecuador)

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

This quote from Einstein’s Living Philosophies prompted me to pause and consider my life, the lives of my friends and loved ones and the casual strangers we meet each day.     I pondered every man-made article  ‘built upon the labors of people both living and dead’  in the room around me.  I wondered about the nameless people that affected my particular point in life at this very moment.  Who whacked the bamboo that now serves as the walls of this cabanya?  Was the hard work of construction mixed with sweat and shared laughter as the workers saw the vision take form?

Working hard or hardly working?!

Working hard or hardly working?!

Continue reading

Another Sad Loss – Bye-Bye ‘Foothills’ Babs

My Life in the Foothills has Passed Away –    Babs (Barbara Beacham) was great at hooking me every so often with fiction stories that I thought were true, so I first thought this might be another one of her masterly-written short stories.  I quickly realized that the post was written by her grief-stricken husband.

Barbara was a gifted photographer and loved sharing the beauty of nature with her readers.  She had a sense of humor and was a tireless cheerleader, even when my online time dwindled to sporadic visits to her posts.   She was also an artist in the kitchen – a true Renaissance woman.

In August, she participated in the Butterfly Safari and requested “… let us land at that spot on that quiet lake, near the lily pads and reeds to watch the flitting around of the very colorful dragonflies.”     She even gave a positive ‘Flip Adviser’ testimonial regarding the landing!. .. “I loved this trip! All the colors in so many places. Thank you for hosting and allowing all of us to board the magic carpet. Hugs to you chica for also making it to the lily pads! ^..^ P.S. The landing was not bad at all!”


For you, Babs…

I missed seeing her late-August post written while she was recovering from pneumonia.  Today Was a Good Day.

She revealed to us in September  more details of her battle.  She said to me, “How bout when you leave the coast you make a trip up here and I can hop on the magic carpet. I think sitting in the warm water off the coast somewhere in your neck of the woods, or close by, would be very relaxing.🙂 Are you game? ^..^”

A very dear and brave woman will no longer grace the WordPress community with her unique and always-positive presence.   Goodbye, dear Babs.   You will be missed, and perhaps you’ll tag along on some of the magic carpet journeys as an invisible copilot.

“My Life in the Foothills has Passed Away”

I extend my deepest sympathies to her loved ones.

Love, Lisa


Timeout for Art: Ancient Man’s Best Friend?


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Watercolor study --- Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez

Watercolor study — Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
― John Steinbeck

(Ecuador)   Allow me to introduce you to a new watercolor study, inspired by an artifact in the Bahia de Caraquez museum.     I don’t think it reflects the emotion of contempt, but it seems happy and makes me smile.

Several years ago I was allowed into the Museum’s special glassed room filled with artifacts.   A guard accompanied me while I admired various pieces and was allowed to photograph a few.  The director of the museum has given me permission to return to this room so that I can capture the likeness of artifacts that the public never gets to see. This precious artifact (above) is one of my favorites.

Museo Bahia de Caraquez

Museo Bahia de Caraquez – Bahia de Caraquez/Manabi/Ecuador

Now that we’re receiving afternoon rains in the cloud forest, I work on the gardens in the mornings and switch to art when the rain chases me inside!   This past week I even remembered to take a few photos while I worked!  (Although I do not like working from photographs,  I will be able to adjust colors when I return to the museum for another work session.) Continue reading

Timeout for Art – For the Birds!


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Aracari critiques my work!

A colorful aracari critiques my work!

(Mindo Ecuador)

Let’s start with a few birds that highlight every day I am on Jim and Julie’s property!

Quetzal often laughs over my shoulder!

Quetzals often laugh over my shoulder!


A male and female quetzal perch on a tall tree on a hill near the house.

About a 30-minute drive from Mindo is the hub of “Los Bancos.” I was there last week to pay the car tag fee for Jim and Julie. After an hour’s wait in line at the bank, I was told, “The system is down,” and was dismissed.

I stood there with mouth agape, pondered my choices, and quickly decided, “I’ll go to the Mirador Restaurant and not let this bother me!”

Patricio, the owner of the Mirador Restaurant and Cabanas, has great hospitality skills and always has time for his guests. Not only is the food exceptional, there are stunning views to the valley below as well as an ever-changing cast of birds that visit the feeders near the tables.

(Aracaris) These stars often make an appearance at the Mirador Restaurant.

(Aracaris) These stars often make an appearance at the Mirador Restaurant.

Patricio’s nephew greeted me and said, “I saw you in the bank. That was a long line!” He could not help with suggestions for paying the tag fee, but Patricio came along and assured me that I had all month to pay it.
“I’ll try again in another week,” I smiled, then sat at a table near one of the bird feeding stations. Continue reading

“We have a rookie in the house”


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"It's here.. it's back.."

“It’s here.. it’s back..”

El Matal/Jama Ecuador –  Around  4:30 this morning, after peering into the pre-dawn seascape from my balcony perch at my friends’ home, I tipped downstairs and wondered whether to awaken Lesli or Becky or both.   If I knocked on Becky’s door, the dog might start barking, so I tapped lightly on Lesli’s bedroom door.

“It’s here,” I said as if I were a child announcing the devil peering through my window.  Or perhaps a dragon or some malevolent creature from a Stephen King novel.

Becky opened her door.  “Are you OK?” she asked.

Seasoned veterans, they’ve learned the nuances of sounds that the ocean makes as it gauges its daily appetite.  “It’s OK right now.  We would hear the sound of the bags if they were falling.”



“But it looks like it’s reaching Paul and Cinzia’s house.   It’s —“   I felt so silly, but my friends turned on the outside lights, which confirmed that the bags were in place.  We stepped outside and stared quietly at the waves.
“What time is it?”

“I think around 4:30, “I sheepishly replied.

Becky checked the tide charts and said we were about half an hour from high tide.

Lesli, in her dry sense of humor, stated, “We’ve got a rookie in the house.”

We wondered what Linda was experiencing, as the municipality did a lot of work/rearranging the toppled rocks in the area near her home and Pat’s.

“Leroy and Shirley seem to be getting more water today,”   Leslie stated, and we peered in the other direction as the water found its way back to the sea.


I don’t know how one can face this night after night, week after week, month after month – wondering if the next set of waves will break through the weakening defense.  Some of the waves reverberate through the ground and shake this well-built home.   How does one deal with the emotional and physical fatigue without having combat training?

Yes, this rookie tips her hat to the stoic ones who have been enduring this for two years.   May today bring news of hope.

“Is It Too Risky To Invest In Ecuador?”

Clear skies produce this stunning jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador's Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal)

Sunny skies produce this jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador’s Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal)

El Matal/Jama Ecuador – You have witnessed (via photos and posts) the Pacific Ocean slowly devouring the front line at El Matal.  We have watched the ocean crack the swimming pool – and then take more bites with each high tide at Pat Godkin’s home. I am pleased to introduce you to Pat via a story she wrote in September. Here’s Pat:

Pat Godkin

Pat Godkin

Is it too risky to invest in Ecuador?

One retiree’s cautionary tale

As a single woman with no pension, I was understandably nervous about retiring early and building my beachfront dream home in a foreign country.

Over the years, I had casually researched several countries, mostly in South America because of the affordable beachfront, great weather (below the hurricane belt!), breathtaking scenery and wonderful people.

As I neared retirement age, I decided to attend a seminar hosted by International Living in Quito, Ecuador. I fell in love with Ecuador, its natural beauty and its people.

The seminar was great. I met a lot of likeminded people. I was pumped! In addition, I was completely bowled over by a couple of American Developers who were selling beachfront property at the seminar. They were experienced builders and as their website promised – they would take me from start to finish. Eureka! My prayers had been answered! I immediately put a down payment on a lot.

Look how pretty it is (was, but more about that later!)

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean.

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean.

I was still working in Canada but couldn’t wait to start construction.
Fast forward, two and a half years – shell of a house, empty Ecuadorian bank account, unfinished development, two Ecuadorian lawyers and countless visits to the Fiscale (similar to our district attorney) – I was feeling more than a little naive and more than a little disillusioned.

Not willing (or smart enough) to give up on my dream, I cut my losses, found a new builder and (sort of) finished my house (lesson number 327 – don’t build a house when you live in another country or you might be very, very surprised and not in the good way).

I moved into my house February 2013. I was “all in”. I easily obtained residency and paid approximately 10,000 to ship my furniture/effects from Canada. I was here for the long haul!

P1690936 WHITE FOR PEACE 3 - Copy

Pat and others from El Matal joined locals in the White for Peace March several years ago in Jama.

Amidst all these adventures, there was some chattering about beach erosion – no worries – normal erosion is 1-2 meters a decade my research told me! “The ocean takes and it gives” everyone said. Relax, breath – so what if you are losing approximately 15 meters a year – it will come back!

Fast forward September 2015 – without a miracle (government intervention) there is a very strong likelihood that our houses will be in the ocean in the next several months. It’s not giving back. And it’s no longer pretty.

Pat's home

Pat’s home

Pat's neighbor's home, three lots beyond her property.

Pat’s neighbor’s home, three lots beyond her property.

There is little sympathy for *rich gringos* (especially from the much smarter gringos who didn’t build on the coast) and I get that, I truly do. There are a lot of people with much bigger problems in Ecuador.
However, this area has so much potential and there are people and companies poised and ready to invest millions of dollars. The economic spin off and employment it would create is enormous.

During this week's crisis, Pat hitched a ride up the street via the truck delivering the new supply of sand bags.

During this week’s crisis, Pat hitched a ride up the street via the truck delivering the new supply of sand bags.

An eminent Ecuadorian Coastal specialist has said Geotubes would not only protect this stretch of the coast, they would also bring back the beach. And although it is prohibitively expensive for the handful of us living here, it is a small investment for the municipality to make with huge returns.
The municipality is *protecting* the little fishing village next door by putting massive rocks, which seem to be sinking as fast as they can bring them in (exactly as the Coastal specialist said would happen) – it is not a good solution. In addition, the rocks have caused the direction and energy of the waves to change and we are being hammered with unprecedented ferocity.

Coast Guard Boat seems to be stranded...

The rocks continue to sink into the sand, and the lastre is pulled into the sea.   The Coast Guard Boat  (at the former Coco Beach Gate entrance)  seems to be stranded…

We have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to protect our properties. We have written countless letters, visited countless ministries and they all seem to agree that it is up to the municipality to protect us. It’s not happening. We are slowly running out of steam. Morale is at an all-time low. We are out of options.
Sadly, we are invested in Ecuador, but Ecuador, in particular the Canton of Jama, is not invested in us.

Pat's pool..

Pat’s pool..


Pat walks to her neighbor’s home as crews work with what little beach is left.


Pat walks past her home.

Update Friday, 24 October 2015
Things always seem worse in the dark. High tide was around midnight last night but the waves pounded the pool and my deck for at least two hour prior to high tide. My neighbour and I stood on the deck and marvelled at the amount of water coming at us. And then we turned, bumped into each other and starting running – what was that noise? Ah, and so it begins…

At this rate, it could be days before the house suffers the same fate.

Pat's pool and home

Pat’s pool and home

Above story shared by Pat Godkin, El Matal-Jama-Ecuador

Postscript from Lisa:   It’s very serious here; the ocean took big bites from other properties last night.  The mayor has been here, and hopefully as the Sudden-Death Hour approaches, he will find the resources to save this area.

Pat Godkin, who evacuated her home, has not lost heart or spirit.  Hang in there Pat and all of you on the front line!

Pat Godkin, who evacuated her home, has not lost heart or spirit. Hang in there Pat and all of you on the front line!

Bad News Morning


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Late yesterday, October 28, 2015 El Matal, Jama, Ecuador

Late yesterday, October 28, 2015 El Matal, Jama, Ecuador Pat Godkin inspects a neighbor’s frontage. The ocean advanced last night, and crews are working to prepare for the next high tide.

El Matal, Jama, Manabi Ecuador

My friend Dady and I visited El Matal late yesterday out of concern for the property owners at El Matal.   The waves were dramatic, but it seemed that the worst was behind for this month.

Waves Slamming Waves - There's a force at work when the waves slam the rocks then ricochet back to sea  with equal force.

Homeowner Paul Hughes looks down the line of homes after another wave slammed the narrowing space between his home and the ocean.


Waves Slamming Waves – There’s a force at work when the waves slam the rocks then ricochet back to sea with equal force.

This morning a friend wrote to say, “We got slammed last night…” so I am sharing a few images from this morning and will be back with more updates. Continue reading

Diplomacy, Integrity and Wisdom


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Three homeowners discuss dwindling options.

Oct. 27, 2015 – El Matal, Ecuador – Three homeowners discuss dwindling options.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The multi-layered and ongoing crisis at Playa El Matal (Ecuador) often reminds me of character studies in literature.   The ocean’s change in temperament dominoes in many directions and affects many classes of people in the community.    I’ve witnessed arrogance, apathy and denial as well as compassion, integrity and diplomacy.    The homeowners display amazing inner strength, though like battle-weary veterans, they are running on reserve energy and little sleep and are in need of some much-needed rest.

How can one sleep when wondering how much the ocean will advance, one wave at a time?

How can one sleep when wondering how much the ocean will advance, one wave at a time?

Each person has his or her own breaking point, and no one knows how much reserve strength is left as the ocean continues to build toward the highest tides at the end of this week.     There have been unselfish gestures prompted by empathy and compassion, although there is an undercurrent of sadness and sorrow.

Oct. 26, 2015

Oct. 26, 2015 – Photo by Lesli Flaman


Oct. 27, 2015 – Between high-tide periods…

The waves hit with extreme strength.

Oct. 27, 2015 – Afternoon session –

The following photos illustrate the seriousness of this week’s tides. Continue reading