Now more than ever, it’s important to find some rays of sunshine in your day. The restrictions have meant most of us are staying at home, and rather than gloomily mulling over things yet to pass, I’ve found it’s better to remain positive. Losing my job was a blow, but I have more time to appreciate the things that would only receive a cursory glance before.
With less people moving around, nature is already extending its boundaries. Our school, which closed three weeks ago, has reported jaguar paw prints 10m away from my now empty classroom. At home, the turkey vultures that circle this valley have started flying much lower. So low, in fact, their wrinkled pink heads and two-tone feathers are clearly visible.
Swallow-tailed kites, usually soaring on the thermals way above us, have started flyovers in groups of three. Their iconic split tails and monochrome colouring is striking, and for such large birds they are surprisingly graceful.
One day, Tom saw the swoop of a long tail outside as we were cooking together. The brilliant colours and red eyes were unmistakably that of a blue-crowned motmot. Sitting in the wind and trying to position its long tail comfortably, its feather sprayed upwards, showing a paintbox of mustard, turquoise and electric blue.
As I was washing up, some birdsong drifted through the open window that I’d not heard before. It wasn’t the harsh rasps and clicks of the grackles, whose black feathers shine like oil spills in the sunlight. It wasn’t the catcall of the tanned squirrel cuckoo. It was delicate, and spilled in phrases that gave the illusion of multiple birds singing together. Rather than running for my camera, I closed my eyes. I was content just hearing it.
Over breakfast, the sporadic lopsided flight of a giant Morpho butterfly caught my eye. It was about the same size as my bowl. Blue then brown, blue then brown, until it was out of sight.
Another day, I heard three emerald toucanets croaking nearby. Scanning the treeline, I could see boughs shaking in the breeze. Then, a sudden flash of a yellow beak and royal blue, followed by green feathers that burst into umber at the tail. Three of them hopped around hesitantly, until they disappeared back into the forest.
Although all the white flowers from December had blown away, some fuchsia ones recently popped up on the trees. Our resident tri-coloured squirrel, with plumper cheeks than when I saw him last, rustled the leaves before perching and gobbling up the remaining petals.
The capuchin monkeys that used to visit us, sometimes in a small group of three, or a large troop of around twenty, swung by earlier this week. The dogs barked at the pair of intruders, and they stopped to study us by our high windows before jumping away down the valley, using their long tails to balance on impossibly thin branches.
The small banana tree that sits above our house has sprouted mini green fingers. The waxy flower, once a rich purple, has faded to lilac and is peeling to the ground. There must be forty or so tiny bananas growing quietly, and I had never noticed them before.
Wild flowers, white and flushed with soft pink, sprung up out of the ground seemingly overnight. After just three days in the relentless sun, they began to dry up, curling their petals that were now fringed with brown.
The rhythm of nature continues, regardless. I’m finding solace in the fact that there is happiness to be found, if you only stop and look.