Short & Sweet – This is a Test!



Mindo Ecuador –

This is a test – only a test – to see if the video (below) makes you smile!   That’s my friend Cynthia in the center, and she participates in a drumming circle each Saturday night in Mindo.

Cynthia radiates happiness as she interacts with the locals, no matter if she’s on the coast or the highlands or in the cloudforest.   I think that the music is the icing on her happiness cake – what do you think?!

If it’s possible, leave Cynthia and her friends a note on YouTube – or share the link via your social-media options!


Spiraling through Good Times and Bad


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Creative Ops with Corn1

Creative Spirals with Corn

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”  Carl Sagan

Hi from Mindo, where I’m here for a short time then back to the property.    Some of you ‘saw’ where Ecaudor was rocked last night by two more back-to-back earthquakes;  yes, the Mindo area rattled, though last night only one radio station mentioned the quakes which were 13 minutes apart.     Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Showing Works in Progress


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Butterflies - Acrylic in Progress

Butterflies – Acrylic in Progress 8.5 x 38″

Some men, like a wet dog, sprinkle a shower of advice over you when you are least prepared for a bath.   AUSTIN O’MALLEY

While perusing lots of serious quotes about advice, this one (above) made me laugh;  I hope that it gave you a chuckle as well!

This painting of local butterflies evolves a little each day.   There are times when I am tired and don’t have 100 percent concentration, but I try to discipline myself to pick up the pencil or brush and dabble.   There are about a dozen paintings in various stages, all waiting for my attention!

This painting evolves without the aid of preliminary pencil – I study the butterfly in hand or else a photo,  dip the paint brush in a watered-down color and wash in the basic areas.   The fine details evolve with each new layer of  washes, starting with watercolor style and then thicker and finally meticulous attention to detail.     Most every evening  when I push back and eye the painting from afar, I think, “There’s no way this is ready to be shown for Timeout for Art!”

Getting reference material can be challenging!

Getting reference material can be challenging!

Even though this will evolve into a strong painting, I know that’s it’s hard for many people to see an unfinished painting and see it as that – a painting in progress.  There are times, like when we look our worst and answer the knock at the door, we wish we’d had had a warning. Continue reading

June Solstice – from the Equator


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Sunrise over the Ridge - Mindo (Rio Cinto) Ecuador

Sunrise over the Ridge – Mindo (Rio Cinto) Ecuador

Have you done anything special for your Monday Solstice? Hop over and enjoy the morning with me at the A Little Blue Bird Told Me site! It’s been a great day, starting with sunshine and finishing with gentle rains.


Thank you so much for such entertaining feedback on the Smiles, Mirror and Serendipidy posts… Your comments warm my heart, and hopefully soon you’re due a worthy reply! For now, I need to return before dark catches me on the muddy roads!

See you later this week!

Timeout for Art: Mirror Mirror on the Wall!


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Mosaic Mirror for Palo Santo Cafe - before the earthquake...

Mosaic Mirror for Palo Santo Cafe – before the earthquake…

” Looking outside ourselves for our lives to change is like looking into a mirror and waiting for the mirror to make the first move” – Christen Lynn – Sourcing the Life you Love…

Pairing art with mirrors is a fun and rewarding way to inject personality into your home and gardens.  When Barbara and I painted signs for the trails,  the entire process was fun, from discussing possible names for different areas to tossing around ideas for signs.

We had ideas for many more signs, but we were far from the nearest Playamart and scrap pieces of wood for more signs!

Water is the mirror of nature...

Water is the mirror of nature… St. Francis of Assisi

Painted by Barbara!

Painted by Barbara!

Mirror design doesn’t have to be whimsical.   After studying the ceramic designs in the bathroom, I added this border to the mirror. (below)


Mirror mirror on the wall…

Tromp l'oeil design... Which is real and which is paint?

Tromp l’oeil design… Which is real and which is paint?

The above mirror frame was painted last year when I visited Jim and Julie at their property where I am now living. Not only does the mirror enhance the bathroom area, but I am also transported via memories to our time together.  Julie is still in the hospital in Nebraska and will see this post.  (Hi Julie!  Get well Pronto!)

The following photos represent diverse options for using mirrors in your home and gardens. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Timeout for Smiles



Before the Earthquake: Double smiles - He has new boots AND is thrilled to watch over his cousin's new motorcycle!

Before the Earthquake: Double smiles – He had new boots AND was thrilled to watch over his cousin’s new motorcycle!

“If my heart can become pure and simple like that of a child, I think there probably can be no greater happiness than this” Kitaro Nishida (From The Little Zen Companion)

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 birds daily designs are drawn with cracked corn, and the birds slowly erase the designs! The frog usually hides behind the rain gauge.

The first hours of the morning are sacred to me, and I perfer to spend them in silence as I wean from an active dreamworld to the expectations of the day. An always-changing cast of winged performers flit through the living stage.  This morning, as I write from the comfort of the front balcony, a cheerful wren forages along the branches of a Pico-Pico tree just long enough to have its image caught on camera.


Hello Wren!

A dozen or more swallows perform an aerial ballet across the pure-blue skies. One crisp-yellow butterfly inspects the landscaped area near the ponnd. At times the butterflies move with such precision that I think they are birds! Scanning the vista below, I spot a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird perusing the morning’s floral department while deciding which will provide the prized nectar for the day.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird takes a timeout from the flowers!

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird takes a timeout from the flowers!

While admiring the hummingbird, I spot a large bird streak past the house and realize it was a Collared Aracari! Continue reading



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Moon over Cinto Ridge

Moon over Cinto Ridge

“Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.” -Glauco Ortolano

( Mindo Ecuador )   –  Just before dusk last Monday, I drove to town to make a very-special telephone call.    Alejandro had urged me to contact him, but until this moment, our communications had only been via internet.

I stepped into the phone ‘cabina’ and placed a call that would greatly alter the rest of my evening.

“Hello Alejandro?   This is Lisa from Mindo-Cinto.”   I wondered if he would remember me, and then I added, “I have a snake in a bucket for you.   Black above and white below.  I just emailed the photos.” Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Intense Concentration


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“Hi!  Remember me?” (See Timeout- Let’s Draw a Toucan)

“It takes 100 per cent of your attention and focus, backed up with years of drawing experience, to train yourself to paint what you see.” Steve Childs

Mindo Ecuador –


Simple washes of color… Remember when using watercolor to let one area (yellow) to dry before beginning another (black) or they’ll run together and make a big mess!

Sometimes several washes of color are more effective for building texture and depth.   The cecropria limb started with light washes of blues and greens, and the lightest areas were saved while darker pigments brought form and texture to the painting.  The tree limb needs another session when I can work from life and apply the subtle details.

The second application of yellow, appliied after the first had dried overnight, brings more life into the toucan.

The second application of yellow, applied after the first had dried overnight, brings more life into the toucan.

Toucans are quite social, so the study has a few support characters!   The next image shows the small painting.   With watercolor, one tries to save the whites, as in the spots of light on the eyes.   One mistake many people make is to try to rush the painting, and they are rewarded with a dark color running into a lighter one.   Placing the dark pigment (Paynes gray + burnt sienna + ultramarine blue) in the eye area would be a fatal mistake if the green pigment had not dried.    Moving to the tree limbs – or even to a different painting is the best option.   Taking a break or putting the painting in the sun or waiting until the next day are other options. Continue reading

Update from the Cloud Forest


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Sunny Afternoon in the Cloudforest - May 26, 2016

Sunny Afternoon in the Cloudforest – May 26, 2016

Thank you, everyone, for your concern not only for those affected by the earthquake, but also for my friend Julie, who is fighting cancer.   I am watching over their property here in Ecuador’s cloud forest until it sells.

I hope to visit Jama soon, which will be heart wrenching yet necessary to move forward.  It will help to see the damage, visit with loved ones who continue to endure the stress, find out what people need most – and how to help – plus learn what hotels, restaurants might be open.  One friend shared details about the community of Jama:

“You will not recognize Jama. Almost every building is marked as being necessary to be torn down. Doctors Without Borders have donated what looked like hundreds of tents in Matal. However still many people live under makeshift plastic.”

She mentioned other groups/businesses that are helping, but I will wait to share those details after learning more and having photos to pair with the stories.  There are surely many beautiful untold stories worthy of  a larger audience.

Idyllic Jama - from 2012

Idyllic Jama – from 2012

The soundtrack in my head this week is Jack Johnson’s song, “The News.”   He sings, “Why don’t the newscasters cry when they sing about people who die.   The least they can be decent enough to put  just a tear in their eye…”

Linda from The Task at Hand provided a slice of humor between her words of concern last week.   In her comment about last week’s strong earthquakes, she added, “What amazes me is that I hadn’t heard one word about this on the “news.” Everything here was related to the loss of the Egyptair plane, or the interminable, ghastly, insufferable presidential campaign. (Hmmmm… I think my opinions are showing. Remember when we used to worry if our slips were showing?)” Continue reading

More Earthquakes…

Tall building: Museo Bahia de Caraquez - (Ecuador)

Tall building: Museo Bahia de Caraquez – (Ecuador)

May 19, 2016 – Ecuador

The opening exposition for my recent paintings was scheduled for May 18 at the Museo Bahia de Caraquez.   Because of last month’s earthquake, the show was postponed until a later date.


That  original date was the International Day of Museums, and I would have been ‘hanging’ the show on the 17th, spending the night at the museum and preparing for that evening event on the 18th.

On Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, another strong earthquake rattled many Ecuadorians out of a deep sleep. My friend Cynthia was spending a few nights at the Rio Cinto property, and we spent the next hour in the pickup truck as we pieced together live radio reports to find more information. The 6.7 earthquake hit the same area as the one that devastated the coastal area a month ago.

We realized that one’s Spanish skills improve when listening with acute attention to rapid-fire Spanish on late-night radio. Lots of callers were phoning the stations to report their experiences. After listening for over an hour, we decided to retreat to the house and go back to sleep. For the next two days, we hoped that all was OK on the coast. Now online, I see that two more earthquake hit that same day:

Recent Quakes-Bahia de Caraquez —-

I am not sure if the above information is correct, and all’s fine here in Mindo. I send my empathy to those on the coast, as you are surely wondering, ‘When will this end?’

All is fine here in Mindo/Rio Cinto, but wanted to send an update.


Timeout for Art – Let’s Draw a Toucan!


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OK, aspiring artists! Sharpen your pencils and get ready to draw!

Hold that pose!

Hold that pose!

“Drawing is rather like playing chess: your mind races ahead of the moves that you eventually make. “— David Hockney

While scrolling through the photos taken over the past week, I critiqued the series of toucan photos with a disciplined eye.   Four are shown below; “A” shows the personality of the toucan. “B, C and D” were similar with subtle differences, but one seemed stronger to me. Which is your favorite? If you were about to draw one of the four, which would you chose and why?

Which would you chose to draw?

Which would you chose to draw?

Two of the eight or so photos were my favorites, and I toggled between the two to decide which one would be the best candidate for a painting.  The two photos are below:


Toucan B


Toucan C

“B” bird seemed relaxed in its environment.   It also seemed heavy on the right side, as if an invisible line was pulling the bird toward the ground.   “C” seemed to tap into its survival sense, and though I was almost hidden from the bird’s view, it seemed to sense a foreign presence. “D” pose amused me; like many humans who are suddenly aware of a photo about to be taken, this bird lifted its beak just a bit and displayed a classic profile. Most likely, it was definitely aware of a foreign presence, and it was preparing to take flight! For a painting, however, it looked too perfect, although I really liked the backwards “S” curve of its throat and neck.

Toucan D held a classic pose, but it seemed too perfect...

Toucan D held a classic pose, but it seemed too perfect…

After appreciating the toucan’s body English, I tried – through a teacher’s eyes – to decide what made “C” more pleasing to my eye. It appeared more balanced.   My analytical skills automatically stripped the images into basic shapes and directions, and I realized that I should slow down, decipher my methods and share a few easy ways to stay on track when drawing. Continue reading

Global Big Day – Let’s Count Birds!


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This little Olive-crowned Yellowthroat allowed an extensive photo session before resuming its day!

Rio Cinto – Mindo Ecuador: This little Olive-crowned Yellowthroat allowed an extensive photo session before resuming its day!

From Ebird:  “All you have to do is submit the birds you see on May 14th to eBird, and you’ll be a part of the global team! Wherever you are, your sightings can make a difference.”

Mindo Ecuador – My friend Cynthia and I were comparing bird stories this past week, and we both agreed that the local birds seem to be in a frenzy of activity!  Maybe they’re excited about the upcoming Ebird – Global Big Day?   Don’t let your own special birds be ignored.  Give them a voice on Saturday, May 14!

The Streak-headed Woodcreeper took a vacation from lower elevations and visted the cooler climate of the Cinto property!

This Streak-headed Woodcreeper took a vacation from lower elevations and visted the cooler climate of the Cinto property!

The Blue and Black Tanager took a vacation from higher elevations and visited the property this week!

The Blue and Black Tanager took a vacation from higher elevations and visited the property this week!  Poor photo, but it documents that the Blue & Black T was definitely on holiday vacation!

You might have a unique species in your backyard;  without taking time to inventory your feathered neighbors, how will they be acknowledged?

The VIP for the week is the Black Solitaire, but its cousin, the Andean Solitaire, hangs around for its daily count!

The VIP for the week is the Black Solitaire, but its cousin the Andean Solitaire hangs around the thrushes and tanagers for its daily count!

The Beryl-Spangled Tanager is a beauty! What special birds lurk in your backyard?

The Beryl-Spangled Tanager is a beauty! What camera-shy birds lurk in the shadows of your area?

Create an Ebird account and get ready for Global Big Day;  start HERE.

Black Solitaire (Bird) – Causes Quite a Buzzzzz


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'Black Solitaire"

Black Solitaire- Entomodestes coracinus

Perhaps it was an omen, because six hours after the bird appeared, the earthquake turned our world upside down.  Aside from a flash of white on the side of its face, the black bird would have passed without catching my attention.

“What in the world was that?” I wondered, and as soon as the bird perched in the Bromeliad Tree straight in front of me, it soared away to a lower level on the property.  Club winged Manakins and half a dozen species of Tanagers kept me entertained from the nearby canopy until that flash of white caught my eye again. Catching it via a few poor faraway shots with the camera, I wondered what in the world bird that could be

That evening I studied the reference books and thought, “Hmmmm. Black Solitaire… New bird for me.” Continue reading

“Heartache Came to Visit”


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Jama Ecuador
Inspired by Jewel’s song, “Hands,” the video at the bottom of this post honors the beautiful spirit of the people of Jama, El Matal and La Division Ecuador.  Read the lyrics and then experience the essence of the people of the Jama area via the video.

Ximena working during a night shrimp harvest...

Ximena Cevallos Diago checks figures during a night shrimp harvest… (Ximena’s husband Carlos is wearing the white sombrero in the GoFundMe photo.  He is the one who made the drive-through-Jama video, now linked on that site.)


If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I will not be made useless
I won’t be idled with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken
P1350031 boots little boy farm

Poverty stole your golden shoes
But it didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

P1700175 JAMA 3 story house peace white

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters

I will get down on my knees and I will pray
I will get down on my knees and I will pray
I will get down on my knees and I will pray

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

P7130607 teeth little boys el matal

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken

We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s mind
We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s heart
We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s eyes God’s hands
We are God’s hands God’s hands We are God’s hands
Songwriters: Jewel Kilcher,  Patrick Leonard

Some say that the newscasters have already moved to newer stories, but I am greatly  touched by your continued support and empathy for the people of Ecuador.

The internet keeps dropping offline and staying off, so I’m hitting “Publish” while possible.   Until the end of the week, Thank you again!   Lisa

Remembering their Kindness – The People of Jama, El Matal & La Division


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The Quadrado family couldn't hold back the ocean, but they sent workers to help friends at Playa El Matal.

The Cuadrado family couldn’t hold back the ocean, but they sent workers to help friends at Playa El Matal.

Jama Ecuador – When Hurricane Katrina slammed into Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, I was living in a remote area of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province. A slow internet connection allowed me to watch the eye’s path, although no one can predict the temperamental whims of a hurricane and it’s final choice for landfall. As with the earthquake in Ecuador on April 16th, gathering information was painfully slow via internet news stories of Katrina’s destruction. The first time I saw live television coverage of Katrina’s wrath, I watched for about thirty seconds before bursting into tears. For that story, see: Ode to 668 East Beach

Christmas Eve in Jama 2012

Christmas Eve in Jama 2012 – The little cowboy didn’t like his pony!

As the days and now weeks go by after the earthquake ripped through a section of “my” beloved Ecuador, I am often reminded of Katrina. I wonder when it will be possible to return, to see the destruction, to visit the many loved ones, hear their stories, give them comfort as they salvage what’s left and bravely move forward. I also have my own personal inventory to face – of all of the items in Casa Loca, most people inquire about ‘the floor.’ Who knows how that Magic Carpet endured the stress of the earthquake and its aftershocks. When I am able to return, I will share those stories. I assume that the exhibition scheduled to open at Museo Bahia de Caraquez in two weeks will be postponed until much later in the year.

If wishes were magic carpets, we would fly!

If wishes were magic carpets, we would fly to help those in the earthquake-damaged areas.

Most likely every single person that experienced this earthquake can recall minute details of the moment the earth began to grumble. As each day comes to an end, I take a fast inventory in my mind, “Where’s the flashlight? My basic essentials? -Contact lenses, saline, hair brush, tooth brush, passport, camera, laptop, chargers…” and I wonder if everyone else anticipates that 7:00 PM hour of remembrance. Continue reading

Polar-Opposite Landscapes


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There’s an awkward feeling while I tend to my friends’ property near Mindo Ecuador while I think about the people not too far away on the coast as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. I worry about their drinking water and a fresh supply of food and of a dry place to sleep at night – and mosquito-free as well. I think about the children, and how they must tremble when another after shock rolls thru the earth. I drink in the visual beauty that surrounds me as my heart aches for those that I love. I wish I could offer comfort and give them silent strength just by being near. The birds seem to be more abundant, or perhaps my focus is more intense on noticing my surroundings and not taking them for granted.

What follows are a few favorites of the 110 birds I’ve spotted on the property. How I wish I could send some of that beauty to help ease their pain.

Scaled Fruiteater?

Scaled Fruiteater?  A first for me, and it flitted from branch to branch a few feet away from where I stood-froze and admired its unique patterns of color.

White-throated Crake

White-throated Crake — There were two foraging in the mid-morning sunlight..

Continue reading

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