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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

5 Years in the Faraway

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

“Crazy is a prerequisite in this shit." - George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic

Are Jodi and I crazy five years into our one-year adventure in Costa Rica? Yes we are! "If we weren't all crazy, we would go insane," said Jimmy Buffet. I agree with George Clinton that crazy is most certainly a prerequisite in this shit called life. But what this funk legend wisely offered next on our most recent Swan Dive podcast (more on that later) was, "You can also fake it. You don’t have to really be crazy; people are actually happy that you can just play crazy.”

George Clinton (far left) and Parliament-Funkadelic 1970s

beach dance party
Shut up and dance

Five years is a hefty chunk in a life. And, you're lucky if you didn't get your brains thoroughly rattled these past five by the force with which the snow globe of our universe got shaken. Where were you in 2018? Have you changed? How have you changed? That five years represents over half my kids' lives; they were 8 & 11 and when we arrived in Costa Rica.

THEN ... 2018

NOW ... 2023

Looking back ...

Five years in the tall trees

The ocean breeze

The far away

The day-to-day

The endless shore

The less-is-more

Chill Lounge, acrylic on surfboard, 2022

Forest Installation, Cleveland, GA 2022

Someone once told me it's better to be lucky than smart. And, without a doubt, the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was being here, in this tiny, sparsely populated, coastal village, these past five years. Our boys, now 13 & 15, are ripening like mangoes before us, evolving from our kids to our peers. From good boys to good dudes. It's far from perfect. Our oldest is a city kid living in the sticks who'd much rather be cruising the streets of downtown NYC on his skateboard than living on a dead end street in the middle of nowhere. Tranquility is the last thing he seeks. Still, his adaptability has been impressive, his complaints minimal. He's far more chill than either of his parents. And we're trying to follow his lead, as a family. We call it BOTO - Be Open To Outomes. Our youngest, on the other hand, lives for nature. He can spend hours sitting before an anthill by himself. He keeps manuals about birds and mammals and reptiles by his bedside. To him, cities are far too "man-madey," one of the many fabulous words in his private lexicon. Still, living at the end of a steep, mountain road with few kids his own age nearby is not optimal, a far cry from our Miami neighborhood where a bike is all one needs to go find your people. I hope these past five years have taught them self reliance and flexibility, as opposed to feelings of isolation. Only time will tell.

In a yoga class today focused on heart opening, the teacher asked us to visualize our deepest desire. It’s a massive question, but my answer came instantaneously. My deepest desire is to be sitting around the kitchen table with Jodi and my sons, and we're all laughing. That's it. Basic family harmony, something which has eluded us these past few years, is my soul desire right now. Not creative nor commercial success. Leonard Cohen said it best, "It's not so much that I got what I was looking for. But the search itself dissolved." I believe I've quieted way down ... like good Tennessee whiskey. Smokier on the lips. Smoother on the finish. As a recovering Wall Street guy, I've had to totally redefine my notion of productivity. Now, if it contributes to my physical, emotional and spiritual wellness, it's productive. My daily schedule does still include at least one board meeting*. Hopefully, the calm of Costa Rica will help my children find and create harmony in their/our inner world and the greater outer world.

What is your deepest desire? Go with the very first thing that pops into your head. Let me know; I'm genuinely curious.

“Fault is the easiest thing in the world to find. So I try to get around that one and see how easy it is for me to find good shit.” - George Clinton on Swan Dive

After over eighty rich Swan Dive episodes, George is my favorite yet. At 82, in the midst of a music tour, art exhibitions and not one but two new movies about him coming out, he really showed up for us. The more boyish enthusiasm and boundless positivity he shared, the more I had to keep myself from giggling like a kindergartener. This gentleman has lived his Grammy-winning, Rock & Roll Hall of Faming life out loud, fearlessly and in technicolor. Another deep desire would be for my children to approach life with the same joie de vivre and noble character as George who, as a teenager in the 1950s, worked in a barber shop and formed a bebop band called The Parliaments (work ethic). Wrote for Motown at its zenith in the mid '1960s (that's just bananas). Saw the psychedelic rock trend coming early on with Hendrix and Pink Floyd and pivoted his R&B sound toward it (that's foresight). And, marveling at the stage pageantry in Hair on Broadway in 1969, cultivated that same eclectic madness on his funkadelic stage, hiring top set designers and the costume designer from Cats to invent his band's look (that's creative genius). Oh, and now he's finding success as a painter (that's just fun). We All Wanted The Funk, and he gave it to us, including a spaceship that now sits in The Smithsonian in DC. Thank you, George. Bow Wow Wow Yippie Yo Yippee Yay!!

“How do I define success?," George said to me, "I like to get about ten feet from behind success. I don’t want to get no closer than that. I don’t want to succeed. I want to always be chasing it … just a few feet behind it.” In other words, keep running down the dream and hope you don't catch it, because then you might need to get another dream. In surfing, as you take off, you always look down the line to where you're headed, never down at your board, which is a recipe for wiping out. This sublime mix of looking ahead while being totally present is another of my deepest desires.

*Daily Board Meeting

My son recently asked me how many places I've lived in my life for a year or more. The answer is seven: Miami, Gainesville, Ithaca, Los Angeles, Boulder, San Francisco and Playa Grande. Each of these proved mission critical to my growth. Each held drama, comedy and/or tragedy. Yet, our five years in Grande feel the most clear. Peaceful yet grandiose. The most fundamental. Unadorned. Healthy. Ticklish. The most pure ... make that, the most Pura Vida.

See you in the water.

Tranquilo ... Jodi and Kai at sunset on our street!

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