Hello fellow "shelter-in-placer"ers. I am going to blog a little out of order (Mariah & Ethan, your engagement post is coming!). No, I'm not going to pretend like I'm a consistent "blogger", although I would like to change that for the future, and maybe this is the time to start.
So, just to address what is on everyone’s mind. Corona. And not the delicious-and-refreshing-perfect-for-a-hot-summer-day-kind of Corona. The virus. This very lethal and contagious virus that is sweeping the WORLD one contaminated droplet at a time.
I am bringing this up, because I was hired to photograph a yoga retreat earlier in the month by my favorite yoga studio in Burlington (or, maybe ever), Sangha Studio. A non-profit and donation based yoga, they offer accessible yoga to our community in an extremely welcoming atmosphere. There are so many amazing teachers and so many different styles of classes, there is absolutely something for every body here. Definitely check them out! And if you are unsure about yoga or don’t want to go alone, I will go to any class with anyone if you’re even remotely interested. Yoga is the very best thing I have ever done in my life and is always the best thing I do every day. Sangha is offering donation based classes via Zoom while this whole situation is going on. Support your local businesses and fellow community members in this crazy time. Check out their website or Facebook for more info. And I promise you, you will only feel better after doing yoga. Always. I promise.
Making the decision to leave for Costa Rica on March 14 was not an easy one. We were getting more and more information about the virus and that international travel was something they weren’t banning, but were not encouraging. I was scared to go and not be able to come back into the country, I was scared if I didn’t go, I would miss this amazing trip and opportunity, I was scared to know that if I traveled internationally, I was told by my part time employer I wouldn't be able to return to work for 14 days after coming home (which, as we all know, is a moot point now) and losing that chunk of money. But with all these fears I went to the airport and got on that plane and made it to beautiful Santa Teresa and was just relieved as all hell when I saw my fellow yogis at the beautiful Otro Lado Lodge.
Equipt with enormous amounts of hand sanitizer and sunblock, we made the best of the trip and took in new information as things were brought to light. We walked to the local markets, explored stunning and powerful waterfalls, surfed the waves of the amazing carribean oceans, and ate the most delicious fresh food (casada!). Morning meditations and daily yoga classes reminded us to be present, be focused, and to take life as it comes and goes just like the waves whose crests refuse to stop kissing the sandy shores.
As the week went on and more information started coming in, we had group meetings about the situation. If we wanted to leave early, how to support each other, etc. Caitlin, one of the founders of Sangha (not to mention a badass human and amazing yoga instructor) so beautifully reminded us that this is the time when our on-mat yoga practice comes off the mat, and we put those yoga practices to practice in real life. Breathing, being, mindfullness, ease through challenge.
And it was a challenge. Personally, I felt a constant struggle between enjoying myself and this priviledge I have as a photographer to have such a gig. To be in literal paradise, with like minded individuals, the perfectly ripe fresh fruit at your fingertips, sun and beach and perfect sunsets every single night. Amazing yoga classes and guided meditation, and surfing lessons. But also recognizing and keeping up on the reality that was happening back home, in Italy, in China, all over the world. The guilt that I was not socially distancing, going about my day as business as usual, and knowing that I needed to change my behaviour and wasn’t at the moment. I felt scared for my return home traveling through crowded airports with tons of other travels coming from who knows where. We were prepared with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, but the smallest slip and who knows what could happen?
On Friday morning, some of our last mornings before heading home early, a group of maybe 6 of us were doing quiet meditation on the beautiful sandy beach of Santa Teresa in a small (but not too small) circle. Maybe 5 minutes into our meditation, we were approached by a man yelling something like “Hey! Excuse me! Hey! English?” Since I meditate with my eyes closed, I wasn’t sure who he was addressing at first. Upon opening my eyes, he was standing close, towering over our circle. He started screaming at us for being on the beach, for being disrespectful, young and uniformed, and for not being 2 meters apart and how we were the problem. And then he left. It was jarring to say the least. Jarring since we were deep in meditation, jarring since the experience was so real, jarring in his condescendence. I understand. Maybe he has someone back home (he was French) who has died or has been seriously affected by this virus. Maybe he was right; weren’t on top of each other, but we were maybe only 4ft apart from each other. But it was real. And yes, this whole situation is real and scary. But it also made me think that you don’t know someone’s situation or why they are acting the way they were. He obviously didn’t know the group of us had been with each other for almost a week, and if one of us had the virus, chances are we all have it. He probably saw us at gringo spring breakers, just living it up, saying “fuck you” to it all. Anyways, I practiced some loving kindness towards him after he left and we resumed meditation. A lesson to always be kind to others and not assume things. You never really know what another person is going through or where they have been. So let’s just try to be gentle and come from a place of non-judgment and compassion, ok?
Even with all that, we enjoyed the trip as much as we could. I met a ton of new people, some of whom I had only seen in classes, and we helped and supported each other through all of this craziness. The “mock” class we had prepared for yoga pose photos never came to fruition with all the distraction of the virus, but I was able to photograph the trip as a whole, from my perspective. I didn’t include (or to be honest shoot much) evidence of the virus as it didn’t seem people were too concerned. Pura Vida, the pure life, is their motto, and it isn’t wrong. But the reality of what is going on is serious, and it can be controlled, but we need to just hunker down and stay inside for a little bit. We live in this amazing time with all of this incredible technology where we are so easily able to be connected with each other. I’m sure I won’t forget what was going on when I was in Costa Rica in March of 2020.
In closing, I just wanted to leave you all with some beautiful photographs of a beautiful trip I was so fortunate to go on with so many beautiful beings. I think it’s important to be well informed and prepared, but don’t forget about the light of the world too. So if you’re feeling anxious, just close your eyes and take in some deep breaths. Really feel how you take in air, where it goes to in your body, if you’re holding it anywhere and then relax that, too. We are all going to be okay.
From my heart to yours,