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  • Me and a coworker had to travel to Cañas, a small town in Guanacaste, a province to the northeast of Costa Rica, to interview a local writer and a singer that brings a second air to folk tunes. At first, I was more interested in the young musician, as he seemed more willing to share some life stories and tell us how he's been crafting his newest songs.

    In the outskirts of Cañas there are plenty of farms and sugar cane plantations that, while they certainly look great as you're passing by, hardly seem inviting or a place you'd stop by for a picnic. We took a detour for a river that ran around the largest plantations. We'd been looking for a nice and quiet spot for us to set up the interview and take some pretty pictures, but had found little but dry, desolate farms. The riverside bushes were full of all kinds of noises, so the audio wouldn't come out right. Trucks were passing by or bystanders would start shouting. We gave up on the river and returned to the road.

    As we drove past the abandoned and crumbling houses, the singer dominated the conversation. The writer spoke little and slowly, barely revealing anything personal and refusing to abandon political topics. I thought we'd never get the intimate kind of talk we wanted for our article and the photo stories.

    Suddenly, the writer stopped the car by a road that led to the farmhouse and the stables far from the main road. The wind blew through the canes and made it hard to listen. It seemed to be a greener spot. He took my hand unexpectedly and said "There's something I want you to take pictures of". The other two remained by the car, looking listlessly to the vast, quiet landscape.

    He walked fast ahead of me, and yelled "Be quiet! Don't move too quickly!", but that was exactly what he was doing. Despite his running, however, he hardly raised a noise, and then I realized there was some animal he didn't want to scare. The roar of trucks threatened to do so, but he slowed down and crouched behind a bush. I came closer.

    "Look. White herons. The most beautiful sight on this land", he whispered. "I first saw them when I was about five, when looking out from the window of our old house, which has long since burned down. My mother sang to me some of the songs the young one (the singer) now knows by heart. These things don't die", he said. I took many pictures but did not answer.

    "Herons fly around in circles sometimes", he began once more. "My mother used to tell me to leave Guanacaste and never come back. She said I'd never go past the plantations if I stayed. She said so many things I can't remember... Maybe that's why". I didn't ask. I just looked through the lens.

    He spoke about memories of his old town. He spoke of the poetry he learned from old men. The smell of corn and of cane. The sound of the river and the racket herons cause when they leave the bamboo-filled shores. The first time he made love, in the back a rusty red truck behind a bar, at midnight, December 1977. The friends he had lost through the years.

    He told me not to miss a single heron. I had to photograph every one, even if they flew too fast, he said. "Our eyes won't last forever, you know?".

    [The audio recording is the writer reading the first paragraph from one of his stories]
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