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Sunset Dance


March 2, 2001 Most days around 5pm we drive down to the main beach at Manuel Antonio, in Costa Rica to watch the magnificent display of colors splash across the sky at sunset. We try never to miss it. Today I head towards the bar while John takes Emma and Nick, one in each hand to the waves. Nicholas drags his boogie board and proudly sports a shark tooth necklace around his neck. Sweet Emma skips as they go, shovel and pail dangling from her little arm.

The bar is roughly put together, no better than a lean-two really. The place smells a mixture of rotted fruit, alcohol and fried food. Several men are lined up, some drinking coffee, others rum or guaro, the local drink made from sugar cane. I get there and notice that I am the only woman around. I feel it. Eyes on me. Four bartenders move around purposefully behind the bar making all sorts of beautiful smoothly blended concoctions of coconut milk, rum, bananas, and pineapple. I opt for our usual. “Dos margaritas, por favor.” I say. The bartender looks up at me, his large brown eyes and soft skin speak volumes. He just nods his head. I watch intently as he prepares the drinks. The squeezing of the fresh bumpy orange limes, the straining of the seeds from the juice, the pouring of the exact amount of tequila into the shaker are all movements he carries out tenderly, effortlessly. Time passes. There is no rush here. Straws, cherry, wedge of lime. He raises his eyes, and slowly, proudly pushes the drinks across the bar to me. I take a sip. Strong, sour, and so good. The man next to me stares at me. I look over to him as I pick up the drinks to go. More warm skin, deep brown eyes. He mutters something incomprehensible. I just smile and walk away.

John and the kids are playing in the waves. Emma’s little arms are out-stretched to greet the water, to greet her world. John’s hands around her waist she screeches with pleasure, unafraid as she lunges into the waves. Nicholas tries to get the hang of his boogie board. Still a little clumsy he struggles with the timing of it. Sometimes he’s gets it right and you can just tell from the grin ear to ear. They play like this for a while, back and forth in the waves, a waxing and waning of laughter, of anticipation. I glance at a couple sitting together in silence, holding hands, gazing at one another intently, oblivious to the explosion of sunset colors in front of them. The man is a local, she a foreigner, maybe British or American. I wonder if they know one another well or whether they have recently met here in Manuel.

The sunset is now suddenly very rich, overwhelmingly red. I feel an urge to turn around and set me eyes on the jungle green and palms at the edge of the sand. Incredible. The edge of the beach appears as bright as a lima bean and is now combined with shades of pink in the setting sun. One large palm leaf leans over gracefully as if beckoning a hand to dance, my hand. Two birds play way up in the sky, one trying with all its might to catch up to the other. Finally it does and then the other playfully, teasingly scoops down and suddenly flies away.

Maybe it’s the strong drink, or the intensity of the sunset but I am suddenly struck with the intimacy between people and the natural world. Together we affectionately and without reserve exchange emotion and energy. It’s an unspoken, unbidden giving and taking and I am totally overwhelmed at how rich and full it all feels. It is as if life reaches out even when you don’t ask it to. It’s just there greeting you, playing with you at every turn, asking you to dance.

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