I have avoided silence since January 31, 2010. The day my daughter was murdered. I have learned lessons, and I have worked hard to get to the place I am in right now. I feel free. I am free of abuse, I am free of negative energy in my home, I am free of judgmental people, free of machismo men who thought they could control me, I am free of everything that was keeping me confined to thought processes that were obsessively full of fear and sadness. When you lose someone suddenly this is normal. But what I did was not normal, I left my own country and changed my life completely. I will never regret my decision to do what I have done, I have evolved and I know another language.
I wake up to silence, not my iPad on a news station saying the same things over and over. This is how I would go to sleep since Misha died, almost 8 years now: cable news blah,blah, the same noise said again and again. Sad isn’t it? To think it took me 8 years to get to silence when I live in Paradise. The only sounds I should want to hear are the birds singing, the rain falling, the sound of music I put on when I make my coffee in the morning.
I could lay in bed on many days and not get up. I don’t allow myself this luxury. I know I need to get going and function. I have known this since the shock from the death of my daughter left me. I would not allow myself to fall off a cliff in despair. I would not allow myself to use as an excuse her death to become a sad human being, or to become filled with anger at her murderer. I used her death to better myself. But still I lacked silence. My brain would not quit.
I started this blog, I learned to take photos and use them to share the beauty I live in. To show my hummingbirds to the world, to show my flowers and a different way of life to all. It has not been easy but I have found the silence I crave inside my brain. With that all the photos and videos I take enrich me more than ever. They bring me to a place that I have been striving to find. Quiet. Pure and complete stillness of being, and sometimes that elusive happiness.
The hands of the old man are full of history, the face of the woman so interested in what is going on below her, the bridge I am standing on. The old man just sitting and watching. Wisdom, weathered faces, old wood rotting but still beautiful on the bridge. Beauty in different ways. I carry my camera and just wait for these moments. Moments that tell stories. Stories of life that we will never know, but we can imagine.
I came to Colombia to discover a new way to live. Life without a need for anything but my camera and my animals. I found this and more. I found out material things mean nothing to me, just give me a walk in the forest, a drive through a small pueblo, a random moment that I will never see again except through a photo I have taken. This is the way I want to live my life.
I just want to sit in an old chair and look for those moments where I find that freedom from caring about anything but living in the now. I am still working on this, but every day brings me closer to that freedom.
In order to be free we have to be willing to think for ourselves, learn for ourselves, and to live our lives as our real true selves. Being free is when you are able to get past others opinions, when you are able to make decisions on what is best for you based on what is happening in your personal life, and not worry about what others may think, say or do. Being free is making choices that might not conform to a standard expected by a majority of people, but following your instincts and persevering no matter how many obstacles you may encounter. This is why some people are successful and others are not. I have found that quitting is not an option for me. The strength I have obtained because of stumbling blocks in my journey is invaluable. I thought the one thing I lost when I moved to Colombia was independence, but in actuality I have gained it. As I progress on this journey, I learn more about myself and what I am capable of. I am able to do what I need to do to secure a life filled with my passion for nature and animals.
The gorgeous woman you see has been my friend for almost 40 years. She came to visit Villa Migelita a couple of years ago with our other sidekick from the 1980’s Janet. She wanted her husband to see what I have done after such tremendous loss(the death of my daughter) in my life. Their visit has been another turning point for me. Before they arrived I had a lot of upheaval here in Colombia. I have handled it well, but it hasn’t been easy.
Elaine’s husband Marshall was very impressed that I had started a hotel, could speak Spanish and was accomplishing so much while still learning a new language and culture. He is the kind of person who offers sound advice and has a very kind way of saying things that I found comforting, even when it was constructive criticism. I don’t often speak about the things that have gone wrong while living in a new country, because so much has been right I don’t want to dwell on the times I have struggled. However, I haven’t really had many people say to me ‘”hey you’re doing a great job!” In fact, hardly anyone says much as I move forward each day with my growing business. I have a proclivity to self talk negatively to myself since my daughter died. I try not to, but to be honest I do. So when someone I didn’t know said he couldn’t believe what I had done here with my life and my business, I was delighted to have someone validate the strenuous undertaking of creating a hotel in another country. He also said the entire time I should have Netflix come and do a documentary on my life. I have been featured in Yahoo Finance and International Living, all because I reached out to them. So maybe I will start reaching out to other venues to see if they are interested.
Colombia has agreed with me. I know many still judge why I left the United States after my daughter was murdered. If you are really interested go back to the beginning of my blogs and read. It was a dreadful time in my life and I just couldn’t make any progress, I felt my personal growth was gone. I made some difficult choices. That is all we can do in troublesome situations. We should be the first priority for our well-being. If we are not, then we can’t show a good example to our children, family or friends.
I keep plugging away with my business. I have had a couple of people work with me, but I have been the one driving the business forward with my social media sites that publicize how Colombia really is. Me alone. I have done this, and I am not really that great with these things, but somehow I have figured out how to do more than I thought I could. I have created a following of people who never knew how wonderful and beautiful Colombia is. The days of old are gone, and Colombia is thriving. The government is really focusing on the tourism industry. So all the hard work I have done over the years I have been living here is starting to pay off. People from all over the world are discovering what a bio-diverse and gorgeous country Colombia is.
So with the lovely words of my friends husband inside my head still, I am feeling pretty good about my life in general. I have learned to deal with unpleasant situations without allowing them to affect my daily life. I know I can handle anything anyone wants to throw at me, I will catch it and throw it back. I will no longer allow others problems to change my way of thinking, I will continue to be the person I am. Yes, I am kind, I am compassionate, and I am strong. Perhaps, the only thing that has happened from my struggles here is that I am less trusting. I am losing that vital part of myself. I have found it is not in my best interest to be trusting, as I have been taken advantage of. Lessons learned and filed away for now.
So I will continue on with my love of Colombia being shown to all. If Colombia has changed it’s image from a turbulent past, so can I. I can become the best person I can be while living a life in Paradise. You see I know Misha is with me in every endeavor I undertake even the ones that are really difficult. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do make goals for myself that I try to follow, this year is to let go of fear. Ever since Misha died I have that fear thing inside of me. I am always waiting for another horrible situation to arise. I have to stop that. I have not allowed her death to stop me from creating what I have. I have to stop the negative talk and start the positive talk inside my head. I need to be proud of what I have accomplished and continue to achieve.
So with that I am going to do my best to make Colombia a great tourist destination known around the world for nature lovers like myself. I am going to continue my journey of living in the now. I am going to be the free spirit I have always been, but I lost for a little while after my daughter’s death. I am going to try to say I am happy, because I really don’t say that much. I do say I love my life, but I have had trouble with that happiness thing. It seems elusive still, but I am working on it.
Postura showed up at his house and she never left. He let her be. He thought it was a fluke, a wonderful visitor who just came for the mango, and other fruit trees on his farm. She was friendly and started to live in his trees. He never bothered her, but she came to him often. Eventually, Postura made her home at his farm in Colombia. She lives free, she lives without constraint. She decided he would be her human.
She travels around the pueblo of La Buitrera de Palmira, Valle del Cauca, Colombia and is often seen perching in the trees of the park. She goes to other farms, and they tell her human they have seen her. She never lets anyone touch her but her human. She adores him so much it can only be described as unconditional love. She laughs, she talks, she says Spanish phrases. She now recognizes me when I visit. She shows off like a trained bird, yet she isn’t. She is so intelligent and without any conditions she stays on her human’s farm.
Where did this special parrot come from? She must have known humans during her lifetime.
The beauty of her perfect feathers while grooming herself
Magnificent beauty of her open wings
I know animals have a spirit sense. I have many special visits from hummingbirds that I believe come from the other world none of us know for sure exists. I am certain when I get visits from hummingbirds they are a sign from the Universe and the souls I have lost in my life. They might not be there for me to pick up the phone and talk to, but they are still with me. I believe Postura is that for her human.
I have a dog who would not accept a person who came into my life to help me with my business. It is unfortunate how she could not, would not accept this person. He left recently. It was amazing the transformation in my dog! She is so happy and carefree again. I have to take the quiet and often non verbal signals of animals seriously. She was telling me something and I needed to listen. Because you know what, she was right!
All of you who follow my blog know my Orion the Dogo Argentino. He is not feeling well today. He has been bitten by a fly and has skin problems from this. Actually, he has worms under his skin in two places. UGH and gross right? But remember I am in Colombia and he is a dog on a farm. I didn’t know about the other place on his foot. He came to me this morning and was panicked. I followed him because I thought he needed to go outside to use the bathroom, but no, he went to my truck and wanted to get in. He never goes in the truck unless to the vet. He told me in his own way “I need help!” I have the veterinarian coming this afternoon. He will take care of this and I talked to Orion and told him the same, he is sleeping peacefully now.
When we have animals and are animal lovers we understand those signs. I highlighted that video above because you should watch it. It shows the same species of hummingbird that has visited me before, and it is going to all my special old family photos and special mementos. I know we have another side besides the world we live in. We have to accept this as humans. We need to realize that the animal kingdom sees much more than we as humans do.
Follow my blog because Postura the beautiful Severe Macaw (or Chestnut Fronted Macaw) has eggs she is sitting on right now. Maybe she has a mate, maybe not. Stay tuned.
The moment I spotted this little treasure I felt chills. It was early morning and I entered my kitchen and my eyes were drawn to this tiny feather on the tile. It is so minute I do not know what drew my eyes to it, except Misha, my deceased daughter. She left it for me. Just one white feather, like an angel wing. I stopped and inhaled slowly because a white feather that is from a hummingbird is a sign, a sacred encounter with the ethereal. How my eyes saw this beautiful little quill; so small it is about the size of a babies fingernail. I could easily have walked past it without notice and it would have blown away as I was opening the doors of my Villa for the morning.
Open doors define my life in Colombia. Not only actual open doors but the doors that have opened for me since I left the United States on this journey to a new country. Colombia, a country that many do not understand nor have an accurate account of how life really is here in the most bio-diverse country besides Brazil in the world. Colombia is full of happy people, beautiful mountains, birds, flowers, and moments. I need moments.
Happiness, unfortunately is elusive to me. I feel happiness, but rarely since Misha passed. Happiness is a gift that we need to strive to achieve, all of us. We need to grasp the split second that we feel any form of hopefulness, and keep it in our hearts. This little hummingbird feather made me smile this morning. It was like she was giving me reassurance of her love. Confirming to me that she is with me, even though not in a physical form. So now I am going to frame this jewel and keep it nearby for those days I feel down, when I have had a sleepless night which so often plaque me. I will have it to look at forever.
I wasn’t sure how to photograph this tiny plume so I put it on a crack. The cracks represent my heart since I lost her. I doubt my heart will ever be whole again, but the magnitude of these moments keep me going on with life. A life I appreciate more than I ever did before she left this world. I know what grief is, I know that I will always feel it, but I also know that I can make a life in her memory. This Villa is all for Misha. She shows me her appreciation in small ways. The little feather of a hummingbird.
Oftentimes people wonder what exactly adventure travel is. According to Wikipedia “Adventure travel is a type of niche tourism, involving exploration or travel with a certain degree of risk (real or perceived), and which may require special skills and physical exertion. … Other rising forms of adventure travel include social and jungle tourism.”
This definition is true, but it can be modified to any age group wants and needs. At Villa Migelita we get such a variety who seek the excitement and experiences that are not found in many tourism spots in this world. We constantly look and find new places to bring our guests so they can see life in nature in the Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
Yesterday we took our guests into the jungle to look for parrots. They had specifically asked us for activities that were off the beaten path and different. Above you see the parrots that flock every single day over my Villa to go down to lower altitudes and then they return to the pine trees really high in the area called Hueco Frio in La Buitrera del Palmira. We entered the jungle in my truck a 4 x 4 Toyota that is very strong, and very adaptable to climbing the great heights we obtain here in the mountains of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Take a look at the video of just one breed of the many we have in the mountains. It was magical and extremely fascinating to watch and hear the beautiful sounds they make as they fly overhead in the hundreds and roost in the pine trees for the evening. You have to arrive right at sunset to see these beautiful Macaws, or any of the other of the parrot species getting ready to sleep until they depart early the next day to go down and eat fruit off of our many fruit trees in Colombia.
We then climbed higher to see El Chalet a house built many years ago during the war but is now a wonderful place to view the Valle del Cauca and see many other species of birds. To get to the parrots you have to travel directly into the jungle and the road is narrow and not paved. We cross streams, and one side is a the view of the Valle del Cauca and the other side is the mountain that the road winds around. Quite steep, and you have to be ready for a bumpy ride.
In this photo at night you can see a peek of how the chalet had beautiful arches and great design once long ago before it became abandoned and now is a place to bring tourists for sightseeing. We were not disappointed: as we drove up there was a large Fawn breasted Tanager sitting on a fence post. For your information we were at an altitude of between 7000 to 8000 feet above sea level, or around 2.500 meters.
I could not get a good photo because it was getting dark, but we sure enjoyed the views and sounds of all the parrots and other night birds that call each other. Then off we went in the dark through the jungle back down the winding bumpy steep mountain trail.
This is what the side of the road looks like and you can see a peek of the full moon
As we slowly ventured back down we had our eyes peeled for the famous Barrenquero bird of this region. We were going very slow as they come out at night and often land right in front on the road to catch an insect. It was a full moon so we had light from the truck headlights and the beautiful moon. Then the truck just quit. No reason that we could think of because we keep the truck in tip-top shape. It had just been checked out by our wonderful local mechanic and was given a thumbs up just a week before. So there we are in the middle of the jungle, and stopped in darkness. No signal on my cell phone, my business associate did have data and was able to use Whatsapp. Then along comes our friend on his motorcycle and he quickly got in contact with our mechanic who would come up on his motorcycle. Remember, only motorcycles or 4 x 4 can travel here. As we waited I had looked at the time the truck stopped and until we would be fixed and on our way again. I was just curious as one of my last visits in the USA I had a rental car that did the same thing, and it took over 3 hours to get the help.
As we waited a truck came up with some older men. They stopped because that is how it is here in the mountains of Colombia. Everyone helps each other. They decided to try to jump-start the truck! Myself and my two lovely guests said “No, we are getting out!” Remember it is dark and we are going downhill on a bumpy road! This did not work, and the road was so narrow the jumper cables were not going to be able to be used. Meanwhile, more of my friends had been contacted including one of my dearest friends who does have a 4 x 4 also. Help was on the way! As those who are adventure travel enthusiasts know, this is all part of the experience. Also, everyone knows your car can break down anywhere in the world. But to break down in total darkness in the jungle was certainly exciting and also educational. Educational because many people think Colombia is dangerous. This story describes the actual reality of how Colombian people are wonderful, and the safety of Colombia should not be questioned now.
The local mechanic came with a new battery to replace my battery which I had just bought not even 3 months before. He determined it was the combination of the 4 x 4, the extra headlights I have in front between the headlights called explorers and the drag on the engine. We got the car up and running in 1 hour from the very beginning. Our mechanic followed us down to the local pueblo Arenillo where they were having a fun festival of the fish trout, called Feria de la trucha de Arenillo. We stopped and bought carne a la llanera a specialty of this area. We bought for all the people who helped us especially the family of my mechanic. They are really good people.
Then we went on our way after my guests toured the festival bit, and my mechanic waited and followed us. My best friend showed up with his truck and we said “thank you we are on our way, gracias a dios!” We just had a few more miles to get to at Villa Miglelita Ecolodge.
We were going to drive the truck down first thing in the morning to get the new battery back and go on another adventure. Aiyiyi. The moment we left and started to climb the truck died again. Armando came right back and they determined a belt was broken, and he brought a member of his family to take us up to my Villa. The truck stayed with him.
Now we get to the comedy of errors. It was ok up until now. We had adventure, we had my friends meeting my guests at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, we had not much inconvenience, just a little waiting. The car that came was so old and little, I have no idea what kind it was, but all cars are older here. It made it up to the steepest part and stopped. We had to get out and walk the rest of the way to Villa Miglelita. I am still laughing from this last part, although it was scary too.
He turned around and went down the mountain as our adventure continued. The full and very beautiful moon was as bright as any flashlight. We were almost to the Villa and in the road we see three cows, alas but one was a bull. Now I know I say how friendly the cattle are here. Well, this bull was in the middle of the road head down, ready to charge. Us women ran to the side of the road next to the cows. My business associate is yelling at the bull to leave, clapping hands and more. Then a motorcycle came by. The driver asked “este tauro es bravo?” I said very loudly “si bravo y necisito tu ajuda!” He turned around and with my business associate scared that bull back to the property it lives at. Someone had opened the gate, as a prank, but it was not funny!
We arrived home and just laughed and laughed at the events as they unfolded. This is life in Colombia, this is the life I live. This is what I enjoy. Even while we were looking at the mountain and trees to climb to get away from the angry bull.
My guests are still talking of the wonderful time they had even with the all the complications that arose. They said it was the time of their life. So now today we are off on a horseback riding adventure. Remember we give you what you ask for and sometimes more than you ask for at Villa Migelita Ecolodge!
Here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge we have so many birds it is hard to feature all of them. Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world! At Villa Migelita Ecolodge we now have scientists coming to classify my birds and catalog them for my area of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. I would love to say these photos are mine but they are not, they are from the scientists that visit. So if you are a birder and haven’t visited Colombia, you should! These photos I am displaying were taken at my Villa by those trained in Ornithology.
They all glow. The cover photo is a Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris), there are many sub-species. They just call this one Un halcón de carretera azul, which means the blue falcon.