Tag Archives: John

Boruca in the Rain Forest

Jaguar and hummingbird rain forest carvings, Boruca, Costa Rica, August 2021

In August 2021, John Plocher, Paul D. Goodman and I enjoyed a lovely vacation at Cielo Lodge in GolfitoCosta Rica during which we were delighted to visit the indigenous artisans of Boruca in their mountain village. We brought home two carvings to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of our daughter and son-in-law, Jessica Dickinson Goodman and Matthew Holmes. In a prior blog, I wrote about the Boruca carvings in balsa wood of nature, particularly jaguars (symbolizing male power and protection of the tribe) and butterflies (symbolizing female power and beauty). The symbolism of a butterfly and a jaguar to celebrate a wedding anniversary seemed right.

This is to consider another aspect of these carvings, the faces in the rainforest. In both the butterfly carving by Gabriel Leira (above) and the one by Markos Boruca (below), you can see a brown face with yellow, green, blue, white, and other colored lines highlighting the features. Our indigenous guide told us that these faces represent the Boruca people who are also part of the forest.

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Mexican Alebrijes, Boruca Masks of Costa Rica

Our family just returned from a lovely vacation at Cielo Lodge in GolfitoCosta Rica where, among other discoveries, I learned about the indigenous artisans of Boruca. The Boruca folk art wood carvings remind me strongly of Mexican Alebrijes. Many years ago, I started a collection of Alebrijes when I was a member of the Board of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco. Alebrijes are fantastical folk sculptures often originating from Oaxaca. They are carved from copal wood and other materials, then painted. Many times it is the carver who signs the piece but the painting is often done by the whole family. Many people were introduced to Alebrijes as spirit guardians in the 2017 Disney movie Coco.

In the Boruca village, our indigenous guide told us that the carving wood is from the fast-growing balsa and designs are often inspired by traditional masks from the Danza de los Diablos ceremony. The annual ceremony celebrates the Costa Rican tribe fighting off the Spanish Conquistadores. Devils are a common theme in Boruca carvings but there are also images from nature, particularly jaguars (symbolizing male power and protection of the tribe) and butterflies (symbolizing female power and beauty). The bright blue Morpho butterfly is a favorite.

Insect Alebrijes by Tribus Mixes, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Lovely Costa Rica

Rainbow from Cielo Lodge, Golfito, Costa Rica, August 2021

John and Paul and I just returned from a lovely, restful vacation at Cielo Lodge in Golfito, Costa Rica. We had planned to be there for ten days but American Airlanes stranded us for two days in Dallas, Texas, on our way out (and then refused to communicate online or by phone, or reimburse for hotels or rides) so we had a shorter vacation. We got to see a remarkable number of Costa Rican plants and animals (here is my partial list), as well as visiting the indigenous artisans village of Boruca. John even got to explore what is left of two old trains from the Ferrocarril del Sur line in Golfito. The food at Cielo Lodge by Chef Cesar Chinchilla was excellent and we were very well cared for by owners Nicole and Keith Goldstein. Daniel Fonck, the staff naturalist, and manager and gardener Catalina Torres answered endless questions patiently.

This trip was to belatedly celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Even though Costa Rica is at the top level of Covid-19 danger (CDC Level 4 – Very High), we felt safe. The eco-lodge is isolated and when we were in public, most people wore masks indoors and washed hands before entering any building. Before going to the airport to return to the USA, we took BinaxNow Covid-19 home tests to be sure none of us had caught the disease during our travels.

On the way home, we were able to see something of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, escorted by local guide Guiselle Sibaja. Of special interest was the Mercado Municipal De Artesanias, where we found the shop of Edgar Deo Alvarez of Guanacaste – Chorotega who makes traditional indigenous pit-fired pre-columbian-style ceramics and stone carvings.

Click for Video: Spotted grey dolphins, Golfito, Costa Rica, August 2021
Click for Video: Red eyed green frog, Cielo Lodge, Golfito, Costa Rica, August 2021
Click for Video: Coati – eating at Cielo Lodge, Golfito, Costa Rica, August 2021
Click for Video: Blunt headed tree snake, Cielo Lodge, Golfito, Costa Rica, August 2021

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Dogs and Birds

At the end of March 2021, we adopted Bailey from the San Jose Animal Shelter. She is a mostly Malinois (a type of Belgian Shepherd) who is just over a year old. That is, Bailey is a teenager in dog-years. She is smart and active and curious, so John is spending quite a bit of time socializing and training her. In the afternoons our two 10 year-old dogs (Redda and Gilroy) are happy to sleep in their kennel, away from her energetic puppy demands to play.

We have dogs not only as pets but also to warn us when there are trespassers on the Guadalupe River bank that is our back property line. Several times a week there are homeless or random people who think (despite the signs and fences) that our yard is some kind of public park. Some of these transient neighbors decide that our ladders, bikes, tools, or other stuff are just what they need. Our dogs earn their keep by making our yard less accessible to petty thieves and unwelcome sightseers.

Bailey is sweet and cuddly, loves to run fast, jump in her water trough, and try to drink from the hose. Gilroy is teaching her to play fetch but while she will take his ball, she does not want to give it back. On the advice of a dog trainer, we are nose training Bailey – that is, giving her the task of hunting for treats using only scent – to engage her mind. We have to enforce daily naps so Bailey does not get over-tired.

At the same time as managing the dogs, our 15 year-old cockatiel birds (Guapo and Sparky) have developed health issues. Guapo in particular has been falling off his perch. Our vet suggested that we raise the floor of their cage. We also added cotton pillowcases for padding to make his splats softer. Guapo’s tail feathers are already starting to grow back.

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Master of Arts Graduation!

GTU Commencement poster 2021-05-24
GTU Commencement poster May 2021

On 19 May 2021, I was graduated (virtually) with a Master of Arts degree from the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California), followed by a second graduation on 23 May 2021 from Pacific School of Religion (part of the GTU consortium) with my Master’s hood and a Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change. My thesis title was “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners”. This will (eventually) appear in the ProQuest dissertation and thesis database. Thanks for the loving and patient support of my family, friends, and community. Hooray!

26 May 2021 Update: I am honored to have been accepted into the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program of the Berkeley School of Theology! I am very interested in BST’s new cohort theme of “Racism/Prison Renewal/Reparations.”

Katy Dickinson graduation by John Plocher, 23 May 2021
Katy Dickinson graduation by John Plocher, 23 May 2021

6 June 2021 Update:

Katy Dickinson GTU - MA Diploma and hood, May 2021
Katy Dickinson GTU – MA Diploma and hood, May 2021

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Wissa Wassef Tapestry from Egypt

Katy Dickinson with Reda Ahmed’s tapestry

To celebrate my finishing writing my Master’s thesis, John surprised me with a large tapestry from the Wissa Wassef Art Center, Giza, Egypt. Normally for a big family celebration, we would go out to dinner or maybe on a trip, but during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, that is not possible.

The title of my Graduate Theological Union MA thesis is “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners” and I will defend it before my committee next month. I finished the last of my required classes in December 2020 and if all goes well, I will graduate in May 2021 with the GTU – MA and a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Change from Pacific School of Religion. I will continue my studies at GTU in the Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate program.

In 2010, our family visited the Wissa Wassef Art Center outside of Cairo (in Harrania Village, near Giza) where we bought a small tapestry and two books. I am glad to have a second of these lovely works of fabric art!

Our first Wissa Wassef tapestry is a small master work called “Around the Pond,” woven in cotton by Mohamed Achour in 2010. It presents fish and birds with palms and flowering plants around a small body of water.

Our new Wissa Wassef tapestry is undated but is probably much older than the first, even though John just bought it from a store in France. It was woven by Reda Ahmed in wool and cotton. Looking at our 2010 pictures, I realized we saw Reda Ahmed weaving during our Wissa Wassef visit. We hung the tapestry last night and it may take months for the textile to settle into its new home above the stairs. The weaving presents a large blue tree with red flowers, with a smaller tree and bushes as well as birds, weasels, and a lizard. I am thankful for this lovely and generous gift. The lively images and cheerful colors make me happy!

Note: Nothing pictured is for sale. Please do not ask.

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Good Year for Cactus

Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, and terrible air quality, my cactus garden has been happy this year. Several species which usually only flower once a year have bloomed again. The local honeybees are delighted to roll around in the pollen of huge flowers. There was enough prickly pear cactus fruit that my daughter Jessica made syrup from it, and John made pancakes to celebrate!

More on the WP668 railroad caboose.
Updated 21 Oct 2020.

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