Being from Canada, southwestern Ontario to be specific, meant enjoying four distinct seasons. After eight months of living a mere 8 degrees north of the equator, my internal barometer was clearly out of whack. I recall in some of my early English classes that students would query about various elements of living in a frozen, white landscape for 5 months of the year. I remember distinctly a session where my memory took me to a time when I was about 10 years old. It was Halloween and my mother was loading the dishwasher after treating me to one of my favorite dinners – pancakes and mini sizzler sausages from Schneiders. What struck me at that moment was how vividly I remember the smell of fall. Yes, the smell. There’s a very distinct moment when something in the air changes and your very being says, “Ah yes! Autumn!” Anyone from that latitude can close their eyes now, take a deep breath, and recall the aroma of the leaves, the crisp breeze, and the knowing that the season had just changed. I described to my students that very moment, and the one that also comes for winter, spring, and summer. The same can be said for Costa Rica. There is a moment when the rain falls in just such a way that the jungle and greenery opens and releases a welcoming perfume into the air that announces the introduction to the season. Equally, there’s a certain evening every December when the wind blows just so and you feel it in your very core that the summer has arrived and you can safely hang your umbrella in the closet.
After my visit for Christmas in Canada in 2006, I flew back to the heart of great weather in Costa Rica. Though I’d later become a greater fan of the rainy season, there is nothing quite like January in Pura Vida. Leaving Canada became easier the second time around, but arriving in Costa Rica had a little surprise for me that pulls up the corners of my mouth every time I think of it. Landing in San Jose and strolling off the plane I took a first short, then deep breath. The smell. It wasn’t just the smell of summer in Costa Rica, the cool breeze so starkly contrasting the frigid temperature felt hours earlier in Toronto, or fresh air after spending hours sealed in a metal tube with a few hundred strangers’ exhalations. It was an emotional response that traveled with the scent into my lungs that had a one-of-a-kind quality. I actually felt like I was back home. Incredibly, and almost with a sense of guilt that I’d abandoned my native land, I had no choice but to embrace this sensation. After 6 years of living in Costa Rica, countless plane rides in and out, the smell is the same today. I’m right where I belong until my nose tells me otherwise.