Author Archives: daniel

The cycle of generosity, by Martha Campbell

My granddaughter, Alejandra, and I did a project together of making a small platform here on the farm.  It wasn’t completely finished when I decided that I would do my first sit from 5:30 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. just to try it out and analyze what more needed to be done before I spent some time with Alejandra on it.

As I was walking up  from my house at 4:30 a.m. I was doing quite a bit of reminiscing….. The Monteverde Friends School was started on February 19th. 1951 at the Challes Farm outside of Heredia where the original group was staying as they looked for six months all over Costa Rica for the ideal place to locate our community. As there were 7 children in the group of school age the school was started right away so these children would not get behind. Mary Mendenhall, their teacher, then went on to serve the Monteverde Friends School for 20 years.

Myself and my brother and sister graduated from the Monteverde Friends School and also my three children, Marlene, Juanita and Federico. Now my grandaughter Alejandra, who now is in the 7th. Grade is there. My other two grandchildren, Maya and Felan also, “si Dios quiere”, will also be attending there in the near future.

Alejandra came to check on me around 7 a.m. and we finished fixing up the platform so that the next morning Alejandra and I spent from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. on our sunrise meeting time together on the platform.

Today, the 15th of May, Marlene, Alejandra and Juanita and Maya spent a total of 9 hours all together amongst the four of them on the platform. Maya at 8 ½ months contributed 2 hours of that tree sitting time! Also a contribution, in Maya’s name was made to the scholarship matching donor’s fund for donors under 20 years of age.

There is a basic cosmic law –  that this a flow universe, as we give it flows out which makes an opportunity for more to flow in. As there is a saying in Spanish, “manos que dan nunca estan vacios” hands that give are never empty. This is not only a nice saying but it is true! So please help us support the Monteverde Friends School. The gift of an  opportunity for a good education is one of the most important things we can give to others…….

Martha Campbell

60 from the treetops

We closed the campaign yesterday witha gathering of friends below the canopy.

We have had an overflow of submissions in the last few days, so please continue to check this site, as we’ll continue to post videos, photos and writing.

Morning melodies at the Children’s Eternal Rainforest

What better way to begin the last day of the campaign than by listening to classical music from the canopy, courtesy of MFS students.

Thank you to the MFS 6th graders (Nati, Josué, Maisie, Noah, Diego, Francis, Ipsilan) and their teacher Nicole for helping us reach our goal of 600 hours! We’re now at 612.5 hours. Gracias a todos!

We will be celebrating the end of the campaign tomorrow with a classical music concert in Bajo del Tigre at 7 am and a countdown at the Monteverde Friends School at 12 pm. Hope you can all join us!

The most adventurous climber

You probably recognize these photos.

Yes, they are of Benito Guindon walking the annual Friends School Walkathon. Our readers by now may assume that all Monteverdeans are as adventurous as Benito. However, we want to clarify that Benito is the only one to walk the 12.5 km of the Walkathon on stilts.

So you won’t be surprised to hear that Beni has yet again outdone himself! He has contributed 32 hours to the canopy sit perched at the top of this tree on his farm!!! We don’t have an estimate for the height of the tree, but you’d probably rather not know.

This tree is also famous for a rope swing that has drawn many MFS students! But, how did Benito get up and manage to set up that hammock in the tree’s “cucurucho”, as Costa Ricans would say?

Our scheduler Daniel tried it out for himself.

We urge everyone to not attempt to climb this tree. It is highly dangerous, no pun intended.


Why am I sitting in a tree?

To be honest my night in the Joyce/Van Dusen platform with my friend Nela Moreira, April 29, 2011, was not the best experience of my life. It started beautifully. The afternoon was dry and warm, the sunset clear, Nela and I were well prepared: two sleeping bags each, warm clothes, paints, paper, brushes, fresh food, water, lights, cellular phones, nothing was missing. A quick good bye to our respective families and after a short walk in the woods we were up in the canopy.

We had about an hour to enjoy the daylight


in the tree, which was just enough for Nela to initiate a nice painting of the landscape, and for me to try to paint too but I am definitely not an artist so I chose to take photos instead. So far it was fun, the installation, tying up our bodies and things to the platform, organize ourselves in such a tiny area where each move needs to be thought about and secured, not to mention the breathtaking view on the forest and the feeling of being alone in the world. Adventure.

When the night arrived I saw a sky that reminded me of the Sahara, with thousands of stars watching us. Not a single cloud in the sky, which is quite unusual in this area. I did not know it yet but this was the omen of a scary, restless night. Soon after starting to admire the splendid sky and the shades of the trees in the starlight we understood indeed that the wind was going to be very strong that night, and it was.

First I pretended to be brave, and tried not to think about the platform moving along with the trees and about the gusty wind trying to push me towards the edge of the platform standing some 50 m above the ground (well, it was perhaps not as high but it felt that high at night, in my sleepy and confused mind). Second, I pretended to be brave, didn’t say anything about my feelings to Nela and never admitted I could not sleep. If I stayed all night in the tree, it was neither due to my bravery nor to my love of lonely wild places in the nature. The truth is that I was not sure whether the Joyce/Van Dusen family still had those big dogs, so I chose to stay in safety in the tree where at least I was tied and not in real danger, rather than intending to walk through a private property potentially watched by big dogs who didn’t know me and perhaps were hungry.

That was before Liam’s encounter with the Jaguarundi. Had I known this, I wouldn’t have worried about big and nice doggies.

So I am there in my tree, trying to sleep but awaken by the wind every ten minutes or so… Listening to the branches crack. Asking myself what I am doing there, and why. Thinking of Monteverde Friends’ School, and of this crazy challenge of sitting in the trees for 600 hours – only Monteverde people can imagine and make such things real. Thinking of how much this little wooden school in the forest has become an anchor point in my life, even if my boys don’t have the privilege to study there. Because, yes, attending MFS is a privilege. The children and young adults that are attending, or have graduated in MFS are special and incredibly gifted. MFS is not just a school; it is a culture, it is peace, a different way of thinking, the place where so many talents can express themselves and thrive, the heart and the soul of a kind, warm, friendly community I personally consider as unique in the world. MFS is also the place where I like to sit and breathe, smelling the comforting scent of the old wood, feeling a benevolent presence in the walls, a peaceful sensation, love. And during that night in the windy canopy I felt so happy to contribute to the campaign despite the long sleepless hours. Thank you so much MFS for all what you gave, is giving and will continue to give to this world in the future.

Marie-Cecile Beal


Rowan and Willy

Rowan Eisner and Willy Bach spent the night at the viewing platform of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Rowan has helped the Monteverde Monthly Meeting, including helping to lead Children’s Meeting, and most recently beautifying the school’s playing field. Willy is a peace scholar.

It looks like they had many visitors!

They heard long-tailed manakins and a rufous and white wren. Enjoy their calls!

Mau and Nacho’s poem

Mau and Nacho spent an entire night in the forest canopy and wanted to share their poem here:

Lying down, with the sky resting on us
The black guan decides to depart
Towards the endless risk
As soon as he lifts his claws, our ground tumbles as if god himslef shivered
Nature’s orchestra invades the atmosphere
With its neverending, beautiful tunes
Cicadas begin with their Mambo Number 5
While frogs are the first to invite their partners to dance
The distance to the ground is an endless fall
With the wind is pulling us away, while raindrops in our faces
We get ready to enter pure nature
While the sun glimpses at us with reproach, and goes to rest

Photo credit: Niko Walker/Jackson Sales


7th and 8th graders rise with ropes and jumars

Note: photos are from the 7th and 8th grade tree sit.

I first learned about Monteverde twelve years ago when I showed a video in my Chicago classroom about a woman scientist who examined the variety of life high up in trees. The scientist was Nalini Nadkarni and she was conducting research in Monteverde, Costa Rica. She taught the show host, a young girl named Carla, how to ascend a rope high into the cloud forest canopy. Nalini found a perfectly camouflaged walking stick living amongst the epiphytes that hang on to this massive and predacious strangler fig tree and introduced us to the hooting growl of howler monkeys. I was very intrigued and learned about a Spanish language school in Monteverde from my friend Sharmilla, so I signed up for a Spanish class here. In the Cloud Forest Reserve, I met a tree scientist, Bob Laughton, who gave me Nalini’s email off the top of his head. The next month I joined Nalini in Washington state for a climb into a pacific coast tree canopy.


Over the years, I have vividly recalled the exhilaration of ascending the rope, the macabre life of the strangler fig, the crazy variety of insects and the thick green growth up on the ‘green mountain.’  I have also thought much about Monteverde’s integrated community, the Quaker story here and the simple way of life.

Well, as life often circles, I now find myself cheering on my 7/8 grade students as they ascend a rope high into a strangler fig tree. It is a moment to be cherished as they experience the exhilaration of the climb, the lush green of the canopy, the sheer wonderment of standing on a epiphyte laden tree limb 20 meters above the cloud forest floor, and the satisfaction of doing something exciting. Their CCVs (climbing curriculum vitaes) ranged from some experience to none. I am impressed by their maturity and confidence to attempt and tackle this physical and mental challenge with nary a word of fear. I am impressed by the flexibility and efforts of former MFS students and local residents that make this adventure possible.

I hope something about this experience will vividly remain in the minds of the kids. I wonder how calm Huayra would remain if a column of army ants marched up her leg as she was attaching a repelling device to her harness. Would Eric respond in like kind if a troop of territorial howlers threw their scat at him? In the unlikely encounter with a snake, would Ale casually escort it down with a flick of her rope?  How loud would Esteisy laugh if we had a sudden afternoon downpour?


I think about the opportunities children here have to live with a high degree of interdependence and adventure. The outdoor hands-on lifestyle builds practical life skills and a keen awareness of the systems and cycles that make human living possible. I think about the welcoming and supportive community here and almost any gathering, like this one, involves all ages.

I now spend much of my time teaching science at the Monteverde Friends School. Two years ago my wife and I moved from Chicago with our two young boys because we desired to experience a more simple, natural and different way of living. Like many families here, we walk to school, climb trees together, and are continually thankful for life’s beauty.

Mike Schaefer

Monteverde Emotions at Twilight

If you ask my sons, my daughter, & my husband what my favorite thing is in Monteverde, they would say “the sunset”.  Where I live, I see the most ominous views of the burning, molten-hot, orange-red sun as it bids adieu until the next morning, the sure sign that the day has ended and the night is taking a deep breath to begin its daily journey.  What I love most about the sunset is its aftermath; the streams of red and purple ribbons almost like fireworks that make no sounds, lovely gifts of color to take in and express gratitude for.  This is my favorite THING that is seen by the human eye.
Now, take a minute with me and delve a little deeper….  If you ask my soul what is my favorite thing in Monteverde, it would tell you something far more than an element of nature, a tree to climb to enjoy or a vista that stirs the imagination.  My favorite, most endeared thing is not even a thing.  It’s nothing you can truly touch, taste, smell or hear and yet, its influences it can be.  It is more of a feeling.  What I appreciate most about Monteverde is its spirit.  Somehow, it seems that the waterfalls, wind, leaves, and creatures hairy and sleek, all work together to inspire every being here to take a little extra care and time to love each other.  Here, like no other place I have ever lived, rests the spirit of kinship.  It is very overwhelming and so spellbinding yet, for those who live here, it is second nature and oh so wonderful.  I will forever love Monteverde for all the whispers that the woods speak, the reminders that the morphos give me as they fly nearby, and the raw, natural experience it is to see howler monkeys climbing and barking above me.  But most of all, please know that the human experience of Monteverde is the greatest treasure of all.

-Lynore Soffer