I was walking down the street at mid-day. It was late in the dry summer season, and the sun was right overhead, blazing hot, ready to fry the skin of anyone who lingered in the glow for too long. It was heat that could wound as easily as heal. The afternoon before I had gone to the playa, walking at full stride through the sun-baked sand, bouncing and grimacing like some beach loony, making little noises of pain until I reached the shoreline and immersed myself in the sea. Twenty-four hours later the bottoms of my feet still tingled. This flaring sun could do the same thing to your face or back or shoulders in the time it took to eat lunch. Pedestrians sought whatever puny shade they could find in the center of town. Indoors, people hunkered down near ceiling fans or hid out in air conditioned offices. Life went on under the sun in a distorted, hazy, slow motion dance. Days and days of unabated heat could make one crazy, or at least desperate for a change in the weather.
And then it happened—rain fell, a substantial rain, the first in months. Just as there are two seasons—Summer and winter, verano and invierno—in Costa Rica, likewise there are two times of year when I become officially sick and tired of the season. The first heavy rains came precisely at the same time I was cursing the dust and relentless intensity of the heat, like a microwave at high noon. Early April was the time for the skies to open and bring relief. Six, seven months down the road—the dark afternoons of October, early November– and I would be cursing the mud and the clouds and the endless precipitation, and the fact that I had to pay a guy 40,000 colons every month to chop the wild grass that sprung up all over my property.
Of course, another reason to be thankful for the break in solar activity is that, yes, it is 2012, the end of times year as predicted by the Mayans on their long count calendar. The Mayans were keen observers of the sun and even the most skeptical among us might occasionally admit that it could be something more than mere coincidence that freakishly high temperatures and intense solar storm activity are part of the daily menu in the first months of this year. Personally speaking, I am not sure of the significance of the Mayan calendar happening to stop on December 21, 2012. Maybe the high priest in charge of plotting the calendar died and had only gotten as far as that date. Maybe they were too busy trying to salvage their culture in its final days to worry about continuing a calendar. There are still Mayans living in Guatamala and Mexico and I have yet to hear any dire predictions from their corner, likely because they are too busy with day-to-day survival to put much import in something done centuries back.
I was recently informed that Nostradamus also predicted our demise to occur around this same time, to which my first thought was, “Is there anything that Nostradamus isn’t alleged to have predicted?” His writings can be interpreted so many ways that you can likely give him credit for predicting the space shuttle, every war of the past five centuries, Twitter, Flipper the dancing dolphin, and the fact that I drink two cups of coffee when I arise from bed in the morning.
It is easy to forget that we are but a speck in the vastness of the ever-expanding universe, living on a planet that has gone through numerous meteorological cataclysms in its long existence; the notion that Planet Earth will one day be sucked out of its gravitational field into a cosmic black hole, or blown to bits in a collision with “Planet X” or destroyed by a meteor or scorched out of existence from the effects of endless solar storms certainly seems plausible. In the meantime, the rains are here, so I am going out in a while for a short smoke and a long drink to celebrate not only the cooling relief, but also the fact that life goes on for another day. Cheers!