When my sons were one and four years old, we sold everything and moved to Costa Rica. Yes, we did it. Gave up suburbia in the U.S. with it's safety nets and green, over-watered lawns, to live in the jungle. What possessed us? A desire to try something new, live the Pura Vida lifestyle, and madness.
We didn't know we were mad until we attempted to live with the locals. It was then that we discovered what Pura Vida, pure life, is really like.
Sure there was a beautiful river across the dirt, chicken pecked road. It was a deep turquoise green. The boys and I went daily to play, splash and pretend we didn't live in heat bordering on hell temps. All was fun and games until that week of torrential rain.
Turns out the rain was so severe upstream, that it decided to bring down an alligator for show and tell time. So now our play zone was an unusable petting zoo.
Then there were the absolutely fascinating ants. To study them in a far away classroom, they're remarkable. Could hold my ADD mind for hours. Living with them is another story.
There are the fire ants. Those little hellions are drawn to human ankles for a loving bite. But the bite for us two-leggeds feels like zaps of fire. Horrid enough to experience daily, but even worse when it is your children getting bitten.
Oh, and the ants so small they are barely seen. Those can get through zip lock bags. How do you keep food sanitary if they can even get into a zip lock?! Refrigerator, of course. ALL opened food containers were stored in our fridge. Made for one heck of an overstuffed appliance.
Ant stories could take on several blog posts. To get the full jungle life effect, we should be discussing the amount and size of the ticks, cockroaches, and mosquitoes. But I want sweet dreams tonight. Not a head filled with life's little monsters.
Before we moved back to the States for less Pura Vida and more libraries, public drinking fountains, and to teach the boys what escalators at the mall are for, I got the idea for a book series.
While hiking in the jungle, my oldest son loved to be first on the trail. He thought there was nothing more fun than pretending to use a machete. Holding back vines and branches, he led the way for us dependent adults.
It was on one of those walks that an accompanying friend told me that he had a Scout personality. He enjoyed helping others--still true to this day.
Hmmm. Something about that name stuck with me. In fact, it leeched on. After being back in the land of concrete, I started writing about a ten-year-old boy, Scout.
Eavesdropping in on the kids at my son's school, I wrote in their dialect. Striving for fifth grade humor, I wrote and wrote. So many bloody words spilled like a biting, hungry vampire, my head hurts just thinking about it. Ouch.
From these not-so-great stories, some good things were revealed. Scout had a quirky, borderline whiny personality, and an unusual penchant for getting into crazy situations. He had a friend named Matt and came from a circus family.
However, after months of writing Scout stories, they never got above barely humorous. Nothing that I would venture to publish. Until, Ellie.
One day, while Scout and Matt were goofing around, he ran into an elephant. Literally. He was running down the sidewalk and crashed into a a female gray fattie.
Don't distress yourself about offending the new character. She relishes her stout side.
I don't always know when a new character is going to pop out like a Star Trek ship coming out of hyperspace. But Ellie was ready to be born. She planted her body on the sidewalk, in the path of a running Scout.
As soon as we met her, I was smitten. Her attitude, boldness, charisma, and wild streak were too much for me to resist. I knew I was turning a blind spot on her borderline wickedness, but I was addicted at the first, "harumff," from her trunk.
Scout and I invited her to his stories, and to live in his backyard. It has been a love/hate relationship ever since. Drama Queen eloquence and galloping humor.
Thus was born Scout and Ellie.
From there, the stuck in the mud, confusing stories I had been writing, became laughable and ready for publishing. Alas, a token for my troubles.
Ready to read the stories that started in the pura vida jungles? Thought you would be. Here is a link:
Post your thoughts on elephant behavior in comment box below. Ellie is an avid reader.
Smitten by an elephant