Through my window I watch robins feed their young in the nest they have built under the eaves of the verandah. The window faces the forest, and is low and wide enough to give me an ample view from my bed.
The robins are industrious. Every three minutes (I have timed this) one of them lands on the verandah rail with a bug in its beak and, checking to be sure neither of the cats is lounging on the deck, glides quickly up to the nest to feed one of the three nestlings. I can’t see the nestlings – it’s too dark up there in the corner – but Rosa has assured me there are three.
Lying here, I have become more attuned to the subtleties of the changing Costa Rican seasons. Spring: the robins, along with countless others, build nests and rear their young. The forest resounds with a symphony of birdsong. Summer: the cicadas screech so loudly in the torpor of the afternoons, it’s hard to sleep. Fall: the berries on the uruca tree next to the verandah, just feathery light-green buds in summer, turn bright red, and the noisy little green parrots spend two entertaining weeks in that tree eating everything in sight and making a huge social fuss.
In winter come the wind-driven rains and cold, when my window must be closed and my husband – so rarely seen because of all the projects in his workshop – plugs in the small space heater during the day, and I need two blankets and a cat at night to keep warm. At least in this country most of the trees outside my window stay green year round, so it doesn’t look like the icy winters of the north where I grew up. Still, the rains pound relentlessly on the roof, running off the tiles in great runnels reaching out two feet or more to fall into the channels we have dug around the house to carry the water away.
My husband sleeps in the other room because of the smell. We don’t watch movies together after dinner anymore. I don’t miss them. Instead he brings me a tray here next to the darkened window and disappears. I understand how impossible it is for him to overcome his fear of death.
I have all I need in here. A tilting hospital table that serves as a make-shift desk, my computer (filled with music), earphones, notebook, pens, books. Friends come in occasionally to bring a casserole or some natural salve or scent. Their visits were more frequent in the beginning, but now they must sit at a distance. I’ve reached the age where a recommended amputation seems like a good reason to call it quits. And it’s a perfect opportunity to be alone and reflect and write, although I confess I prefer writing about the robins, who persist in their efforts year after year, rebuilding the nest, raising some broods successfully, some not. (I’m afraid the cats have gotten a few.)
A nurse comes to visit twice a day. Her name is Sandra too. She and I chat about what’s going on in town as she does her best to clean the growing wound and give me a shot of morphine. She, along with Rosa, who does everything in the house now, keep my Spanish up, and I’m glad that these two help to keep my mind somewhat alert.
I’m not as interested in reading anymore. My memory is full of good books, and it’s nice to just lie here and remember. Besides, it’s harder to concentrate. But what to write? I’ve written bits and pieces all my life, but never seen my name on the marquee (I’m getting overdramatic here – at this stage, a temptation greatly to be avoided). How does one write about the end of life? I think about this constantly. It’s intriguing to me how I want to focus now on the small things: the robins, their so-diligent caring for their young, even though some of them don’t make it; the profundity of the color green, which is such a great comfort; the full moonset that, in early spring, happens right here outside this window, waking me at night; the gurgling vocabulary of my cat as she squirms under the covers to lie on my stomach; the forgiveness and gratitude that, after such a long life, have finally come to me.
I guess that’s a big thing, isn’t it?