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A Retreat for Creativity and Craft

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I’ve admired the Harmony Hotel’s commitment to sustainability and tranquility, and their love affair with this sleepy town since I started coming to Nosara in 2011. One of the things I love so much about Nosara is the way this town provides for the people in it – how the heat forces a balance between work and relaxation; how the sweet smells add calm to a surfing lesson. A couple years ago, I was brainstorming retreat ideas at the Harmony Juice Bar and realized that despite the plethora of retreats  in and around Nosara, none offered the right creative component.  I was curious how different crafts and disciplines could play off each other in a workshop environment: would a yoga class in the morning influence flower arranging in the afternoon?

When the Harmony Hotel stepped in to host Peartree’s inaugural workshop, it all came together. Last November, the first Pura Vida Peartree workshop was launched, combining creativity, physical activity, ocean marveling, and human connection. We turned the yoga/surf retreat paradigm on its side, injecting flower arranging classes, macrame lessons, and shibori tie dying into the week’s curriculum alongside jungle vinyasa and Guiones surfing, of course.

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Our students were able to experiment with locally-sourced Costa Rican product including mokara orchids, anthiriums and local fruits like passion fruit and papaya to create tropical pieces with a loose, whimsical flair.

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We had fun styling each student’s arrangement, collaborating and taking photos so that each student could go home with a portfolio of his or her own work.

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Our week culminated with a beautiful styled Tico dinner at the Harmony’s Restaurant that brought together the creative courses of the entire week. We divided the group into teams to work on portions of the evening’s decor. Some people worked on the macrame installation (lead by macrame wizard Emily Katz). Others began work on the table’s flowers. We rotated throughout the day so everyone could touch all parts of the design. Teachers stepped out of their disciplines to work in new spaces; even our yoga teacher (the incomparable Emily Shapiro, a Nosara fixture) had a hand in the creative makings of the evening.

My favorite part of the evening was when everyone began eating the papayas straight from the table after dinner. It eliminated the museum-like quality some styled events portray and instead got to the core of the workshop’s motivation.

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Nosara holds a balance of personal and community space unlike any I’ve ever encountered. The people that connect with Nosara forge that connection from different beginnings, and with different ends in mind.  But if they do fall in love with being here, as I have, there’s a unifying sense of place, of collaboration and kindness, where each person’s passion can support and elevate another’s.  The students at last year’s  Pura Vida Peartree were each creating for their own sakes, for their own enrichment and enjoyment.  But the collaborations are what elevated each of us, myself included, and the results were beyond my expectations.  I’m so thrilled for the next round of Pura Vida Peartree which will be held at the Harmony November 11-17, and over the next few weeks I will be writing more here about the different workshops we’ll be featuring this time. For more information, please email me at: info@peartreeflowers.com


Liza Lubell is the owner/founder of Peartree Flowers in New York City.

Life Lessons Learned in Nosara

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I always remind my students to be clear in their intentions, and even more so in Nosara. I have seen it time and time again here: intentions, desires and future hopes spoken at the sunset gatherings, over the beachside fires, or after Yoga class at the juice bar are first actions in setting the wheels of manifestation into motion.

It happened to me. It wasn’t my plan to actually move to Costa Rica. I returned to Nosara in 2009, like I had so many times before, for a couple of weeks of decompression. I was preparing to close my Yoga studio in North Carolina and needed a moment to pause and renew my energy.

At the end of my personal retreat time, I accumulated a nice tan, new adventures to hidden beaches, renewed energy, and a job offer from a new retreat center seeking someone who did exactly what I did. I expressed my intentions of teaching Yoga Teacher Trainings and retreats, and the next doors opened.

I returned to NC, and within the following 3 months, I handed the Yoga studio keys back to the landlord, sold my house, and returned again to Nosara to lead my first Yoga teacher training immersion.

In 2010, Costa Rica became my home and in the six years since, Nosara became my teacher. It took some time to unwind my old ways of operating and adopt a new relationship to a different, more sustainable way of living. Through the journey of it all, I feel much younger, wiser, healthier and grateful.

These are just a few threads of the lessons I have learned while living in Nosara:

1) Slow down. Slow way down. When we drop our pace, we drop into the earth element a little deeper. It is slower in vibration, and brings our awareness to the aspects of life that are at our foundation: support, resources, trust, safety and security.

2) Enjoy. Around here, the phrase, “Pura Vida” is a constant reminder to enjoy life in its essence. It’s not just about enjoying the good life, but rather, all of the threads of our experiences are meant to be honored.

3) Honor the elements. Here, so close to the equator and far from concrete and too many approaching headlights, we can sensitize our awareness to feel the effects of the elements. The ocean’s capacity to purify coupled with the sun’s ability to recharge and renew our energy can do wonders for resetting the system and discharging stagnancy.

4) Don’t take anything too seriously.  In Costa Rica, importance of family and quality time far outweigh the need to get ahead on the corporate ladder. And, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Nicoya, CR is one of the 5 Blue Zones of the world, where inhabitants live the longest, with a lower percentage of chronic disease and higher level of happiness.

5) If it can’t get done today, there is always mañana. I have learned to be patient. I can’t easily jump in a car and head to the corner megastore to easily obtain the items that make life easier. I have learned to need less and simplify more. I have felt the difference in my body and nervous system as a result of this patience, simplicity and acceptance.

6) Love what you do and never work a day in your life. Pura vida…

And, here I am, 6 years later, still learning from the land, elements and culture of Costa Rica. I am ready to share more of the life lessons of my practices of Yoga, breathwork, meditation and sustainability and longevity principles in our upcoming Yoga Immersion. This never feels like work, because it is what I love doing!


Ashley Ludman will facilitate The Harmony Healing Centre’s inaugural Yoga Teacher Training, May 12-June 4, 2016.  For more information, visit www.ashleyludman.com.

The Remarkable Trees of Nosara

Cecropia

Cecropia

I recently wrote a short post about the great bird-watching day we recently had in Nosara—while on a hike with the deeply knowledgeable Felipe, a conservation biologist studying biodiversity in Nosara’s tropical dry forest. But birds weren’t the only fascinating part of our day: we also learned a lot about the plant species, especially trees, that thrive in this unique and challenging ecosystem. With its long dry season, the trees here have some remarkable adaptations.

When you’re in the tropical dry forest, the first tree you’ll probably notice is the Kapok (Ceiba pentandra), sometimes called by it’s genus name, Ceiba. Kapoks are among the largest trees in this area and they have a very important role in the ecosystem. To survive the long dry season, kapok, like many others, drop their leaves to conserve moisture. But the kapok has an extra trick: its brilliant green bark allows it to continue to photosynthesize without leaves. Mature kapoks also store water in their trunks, and you’ll often see individuals with handsome bulging trunks. Kapok fiber, from the tree’s large hanging pods, is used by humans for a variety of things, including meditation zafus—and was previously the main filling used for life vests until replaced by synthetics. I have also noticed that parakeets seem to love the kapok’s seeds, and it’s a treat to see them hanging from a pod, picking out seeds and tossing the fluff to the wind!

Balsa

Balsa

We also saw balsa trees (Ochroma pyramidale), which any of you who have ever built models are probably familiar with. My father, brother and I would make fins for the model rockets we built when I was a kid from the extremely lightweight wood. Felipe suggested that these fast growing trees, which are an important early colonizer species, could be grown to make high quality natural wood surf boards!

Early colonizing and fast growing species are especially important here, when one is thinking about how to ‘rewild’ land that has been previously cleared for development or cattle. Of course, it’s even better when these species also support wildlife with shade, leaves or fruit. Other important early colonizers Felipe pointed out to us include the Capulin (Prunus salicifolia), a close relative of common northern cherry species, which produces cherry-like fruits that animals (human and non-human!) can eat—and the Guacimo (Guazuma ulmifolia), which has seeds that behave somewhat like Chia, the popular ‘superfood.’

Cecropia trees are also very fast growing, and have huge leaves that howler monkeys absolutely love! Apparently, they just slurp them down like a leafy tortilla. Finally, we learned more about the Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), the large, beautiful tree which gives this province of Costa Rica its name. We learned that ‘guanacaste,’ is derived from the word ‘ear,’ in the language of this region’s indigenous people, the Chorotega. Guanacaste seeds, from their eponymous ear-shaped pods, also have natural saponins (soap-like compounds), so since we all want to be kinder to Mother Earth and the fragile watershed here in the dry region, we’d like to propose that we start making a local, effective guanacaste soap! We are grateful for the inspiring day we spent with Felipe, who left us with so many good ideas about how humans can be better stewards of our natural environment—remembering that we too are animals and are inextricably part of the fabric of the natural world.


Posted by Jenny Kendler

Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist, social entrepreneur & wild forager who lives in Chicago and elsewhere. She is currently the first Artist-in-Residence with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Good “Bird Karma” in the Nosara Forest

Elegant Trogon

Elegant Trogon

While here in Nosara for three weeks, researching for an interactive, environmentally-engaged art project, we were lucky enough to get to hike though a nearby forest with an extremely knowledgeable conservation biologist.  Felipe López, who’s doing a biodiversity study of the area, took us through the various zones of the diverse tropical dry forest biome, pointing out all sorts of amazing things. Though I somtimes lead nature hikes and foraging walks back home, I am still learning about the amazing and very different ecosystem here in Nosara…and tried to absorb Felipe’s every word. Luckily, he is just as big of a nature nerd as I am, and we both got really excited about the amazing “bird karma” we had during our hike. We were very lucky—not just to spot—but to get quite some time to watch two of the area’s rarest, most beautiful, and most interesting bird species: The Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans) and the Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis).

The Elegant Trogon is a relative of the better known Quetzal group, and is the rarest and showiest of the three trogon species here in the tropical dry forest. Its beautiful green plumage glowed in the sunlight as it flew from branch to branch ahead of us for almost 20 minutes.

Long-tailed Manakin

Long-tailed Manakin

The tiny, yet beautiful Manakin, with it’s red and blue head markings and long tail feathers, is known to be notoriously difficult to spot—and it’s elaborate and thrilling mating display tops many hard-core birder’s “must see” lists. The male we spotted hopped around in a single tree…and if that wasn’t cool enough, several minutes later his beta male showed up! Because these birds’ song and dance courtship strategies are so complex, younger males tend to “apprentice” with alpha males, both leaning the tricks of the trade, while helping the alpha stay in top shape and defend his territory as well. We had a wonderful time watching (and photographing) these and many other bird species, and I left truly impressed by Felipe and the stunning biodiversity of Nosara’s tropical dry forest.

 


Posted by Jenny Kendler

Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist, social entrepreneur & wild forager who lives in Chicago and elsewhere. She is currently the first Artist-in-Residence with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

 

Postcard from Nosara

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The sun lights up the Pacific as surfers (and their dogs) catch the last waves of the day.

 

Restoring Our Watershed

Filmmaker Joe Foster of Dapp Design House traveled to Costa Rica to produce short films for One Fund Costa Rica, a nonprofit with the mission to support good people doing good work around the world. Using storytelling, crowdfunding, and networking, One Fund finds genuine organizations within a community and creates videos to secure funding, resources, and support from donors who want to connect with causes they care about. By creating videos and networking platforms for several organizations working within the same community, One Fund provides members of these communities the opportunity to share with, learn from, and support each other.

Check out this video about Restoring our Watershed, a nonprofit devoted to protecting and renewing the water resources and ecosystems in the Nandamojo River Valley and Watershed and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for its communities.

A Creative Gathering at the Harmony

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Earlier this season, a group of musicians and friends traveled to the Harmony to surf, relax, play music, and support local charities. Nosara and the HH provided a beautiful backdrop for a weekend of connection and camaraderie among this creative and fun group of people.  The highlight of the experience was an intimate nighttime beach concert played by artists Cam Avery of Tame Impala, Omar Velasco, Jonathan Wilson, Rodrigo Amarante, and Langhorne Slim.  Check out some beautiful shots of the whole weekend taken by photographers Anna Palma and Thomas Northcut below:

 

Hideaways

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Based in Nosara, Gecko Architecture has an emphasis on sustainable design.  The Hacienda Trinidad features green roofs to create habitat for climbing plants and to keep the building cool during the heat of the day.  The home faces prevailing winds, maximizing internal air movement; with high ceilings and openings on opposite ends of the building, air moves through freely, keeping the home naturally cool.  No air conditioning is required here: just passive ventilation which replaces hot air with a cool ocean breeze.  And with natural lighting and a view of the Pacific Ocean, this eco-home can’t be beat!