Contradictions in Costa Rica

A trip up the canal along Tortugero National Park

I experienced paradise for nearly two weeks. Every morning in Costa Rica I’d wake up happy.

And that’s despite getting up much earlier than usual.

The cacophony of birds greeting the dawn just wouldn’t let me sleep. Nor would the howler monkeys. With their loud calls seemingly so close to my window, I felt as though someone had planted my bed smack in the middle of the jungle.

But I’d jump up, no matter the hour, excited and eager to get out there and see what amazing colors and species of bird, animal, and plant I’d find today.

Costa Rica defines abundance.

For such a small country – it accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface – Costa Rica has nearly 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity. An overabundance in my book. I couldn’t even keep up with the numbers. Something like 600 species of birds – more than the United States and Canada combined – at least 150 species of frogs, over 500 species of trees.

Every day was an adventure in joyful exploration. An encounter with tremendous beauty.

Daily, I found myself expressing gratitude for this incredible earth we’ve been placed on.

But everything wasn’t perfect. Neither in Costa Rica nor elsewhere on the planet.

While on vacation I wasn’t watching the news, but I couldn’t get away from what was happening at the U.S.-Mexico border. I continued to view emails and messages from friends and reliable news sources.

So, I was aware that the caravan of Central Americans had been denied entry to the U.S., with the claim that Border Patrol had reached its capacity and was unable to accept and process the asylum seekers, most of whom were mothers and children. I knew, too, that this was a charade. The caravan had been anticipated. It had been in the news for days. There was no reason, other than political, as to why Border agents weren’t prepared to receive them.

Meanwhile, back in El Paso, my fellow volunteers were helping an unusually high number of migrants. Texts and emails were coming through, rapidly and daily, for more volunteers, as ICE delivered more than 400 asylum seekers to our “hospitality houses” during the week I was gone.

It was such a contradiction. One border outside Tijuana unable to process a little more than 100 people who had been expected to arrive while another port of entry was taking in an unexpected 100 or more a day.

I couldn’t help but think about it. I imagine a hard stone wall, filled with anger, fear, and prejudice, stacked up against some people’s hearts, to keep from feeling their humanity towards immigrants. It is this wall, I suspect, that keeps us from feeling the pain and outrage over our government’s practice of now separating children – as young as 2 years old – from their mothers at the border. Mothers who have fled their country in order to save their children. Now suffering even greater heartbreak.

It felt like such a contradiction within myself, too.

One minute I was telling a co-traveler how Costa Rica makes my heart happy, and the next, I was explaining to another how the tragic and troubling situation at the border hurts my heart.

And both were true.

I don’t pretend to understand why there is such pain in an abundant universe.

This is the world we live in: one that can be both paradise and prison, both filled with immeasurable joy and immense sorrow.

And my faith lives in the midst of these seemingly contradictory experiences and emotions.

When I ask my inner being, what am I to do, I hear that my task is simply to learn to love. Love those in sorrow and pain, and love those who wound and hurt them because of their own pain and ignorance. Learn to hold all of this suffering and let my heart feel and expand in the process. Which really isn’t that simple, is it?

But this is what connects me to the One who has created such inexpressible beauty in nature and such vulnerable hearts capable of unimaginable pain.

It may seem contradictory, but both are gifts – treasures hidden in plain sight.

8 thoughts on “Contradictions in Costa Rica

  1. Rob Morrell

    As always, thank you, Pauline – both for your heartfelt words and for your beautiful pictures.

    I could think of just two things as I pondered your words. The first lesson comes from one of your spiritual teachers (and one of mine), Richard Rohr: If we cannot sit with our pain long enough to allow it to transform us, we will almost certainly transmit it to others.

    And the second goes something like this: Love is the answer. It’s that simple – it’s just never all that easy.

    Stay faithful to your course, sister!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan Dougherty

    Wow, Pauline, this is beautiful, tragic, and profound all at the same time. You have captured the paradox of life so succinctly. it is beyond my understanding, but yet know it is true. Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to seeing you soon! Blessings, Sue

    On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, A Journey of the Heart wrote:

    > Pauline posted: ” I experienced paradise for nearly two weeks. Every > morning in Costa Rica I’d wake up happy. And that’s despite getting up much > earlier than usual. The cacophony of birds greeting the dawn just wouldn’t > let me sleep. Nor would the howler monkeys. With ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful and very timely for me, Pauline. I have been feeling the heartbreak of the world lately, and I also have been to Costa Rica and experienced the abundant and unbelievable beauty and richness. It’s a good reminder that we are always held in love, and our task is to embody and share that love with others. So glad you were able to get a well deserved vacation!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Learn to love, in spite of, despite, without judgment or anger. Definitely words to live by. God is leading us in that direction, and I will continue to try every day. I pray for you my dear, and know that you too are trying to do as He wills. Thank you for the beautiful story and images. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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