Our Tropical Journal

Adios… in case you haven’t heard.

After 23 years at the helm, friends, I am excited to announce we are letting go, passing the stewardship of the finca to a long time finca guest, and dear friend in Puerto Rico, Sylvia de Marco.

Having lost my husband, Bill, to cancer last year, six weeks before Maria, it was too much for me to repair the destruction, and run the place on my own. Support from past guests, family, friends and neighbors through work parties and the gofundme campaign allowed us to get on our feet again, and for that, and for your continued support over all these years I am, and will always be, more than grateful. It’s been one helluva ride; the best, richest chapter of my life. I love how the finca has somehow managed to enrich the lives of so many.

Like Gail Burchard, who I bought New Dawn from 23 years ago, I’m delighted to pass the baton to a woman committed to keeping the magic of the finca alive. Sylvia will no doubt bring her special touch to the place, inside and out, and make a good thing, that much better. She is continuing our efforts to restore the buildings and pool left after Maria, and plans to be open for business by mid-December, as Finca Victoria.

Sylvia started coming to the finca over 15 years ago. Since then she became the local friend who stepped in to help — whether that was finding rare treasures in Puerto Rico, doing catering, staff training translation, emergency housekeeping; basically jumping in until I could get down for whatever calamity. Despite, or maybe because of the craziness, the finca inspired her to start her own inn in San Juan. Anyone who knows her has witnessed Sylvia’s distinctive talents in creating unique spaces and providing an awesome guest experience.

Sylvia is not only a local gal, but she brings all the right things to be the next steward of this little corner of the world. I know it’s the right thing for the finca, and think it’s a good thing for Vieques. All told, what I would have thought would be mixed feelings, aren’t mixed. I am truly happy for this change. Part of our arrangement includes time for me at the finca…Way too hard to imagine. Maybe I can finally enjoy the place like you all did – on a real vacation, relaxing!

Because of that, I don’t have to get all mushy, or say “adios”. I care too much about this place to ever just disappear. Besides, with any luck, my graphic memoir, Duct-Taped Dreams will be finished before long. I’ll keep you posted on the lafinca.com blog and fb. In other words, I’ll be around, and hope you will be too. It would be great to see you at the finca! you can follow the new finca on instagram, @finca_victoria.

I can’t express my thanks well enough — for all that you’ve shared with me, all that I’ve learned and loved along the way.

In peace, gratitude,
and finca magic, siempre, corky


Work. Stay. Love.

I’m home and almost settled after three weeks at the finca. Three weeks of lots of work, and lots of wonder; of being overwhelmed for days on end by loss and joy, both.

I don’t know if I’ve ever returned from a trip — anywhere — with so many folks asking to hear about how my trip went and how Puerto Rico is doing. Everyone seems to want the direct connection; they want clarity around Puerto Rico and all that is all so unclear in the media; unsure what sources to trust. They want good news. They want it to be better than the news reports, or our pictures indicated. An overarching genuine care, sadness and frustration is clear across the board.

I wish I could report that it’s all okay now; that the media or the photos exaggerate the negative. The the fact is, though, it’s still tough going — in many ways — for many; for whole communities. My heart breaks for those as damaged as the finca was, without other resources, or other homes and lives to grab hold of elsewhere. Despite our losses, I know we are among the lucky ones. I am writing from my sweet cabin on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. We have electricity, a working hospital, a reliable police force.

I stand in awe and deep respect for everyone on both islands, Puerto Rico, and Vieques, who refuse to give up; who give and give of themselves in the rebuilding. Island wide efforts help restore homes and neighborhoods. Businesses and restaurants are re-opening. The community is slowly coming alive. So, the very shortest answer is, as usual, yes! Go!

If you want to help out physically, there’s plenty of volunteer work. If you just want a vacation, that helps too. The island needs visitors — like never before. And interestingly, our “finca-style” sort of traveler is exactly the sort to be able to laugh off the bumps in the road; whether its the gift shop that can’t take credit cards, or the smaller offering’s on the menus. Big damn deal. Go!

If you want all the trimmings, come down and and stay elsewhere — Hix House, Hacienda Tamarindo, Casa Amistad, on Vieques or the Dreamcatcher House in Ocean Park (on the main island, on your way). But, if you can rough it a bit, like a bit of adventure, the finca, or more specifically, our new smaller sized “finquita” is officially open, in a less than official way… but whole-heartedly waiting for you.

Right now, instead of renting out any accommodations we’re only offering work/trade stays, where you “pay” for your stay by helping to repair and clean up around the place. As sweet as we’ve gotten the houses and cabins, it doesn’t seem right to charge anyone yet…not while you still have to look out over the debris field that used to be the main house. If you’re interested, there’s info on our site, lafinca.com.

Either way, through work parties now, or hopefully, “regular” rentals next winter, we can house up to 15 folks (based on double occupancy per room). Our caretaker, Jahwit, is usually around to point you to the morning’s priority projects and tools for the job; or later play some awesome reggae jam under the stars. Because the stars, the frogs, the beaches…they are all still there.

Yep. The finca still has its magic beauty and peace; its way of bringing wonderful people together. And this past stay, without electricity (refrigeration, hot water, fans) was no exception. Total strangers become friends when working long hard days together to help rebuild, repair, remember and re-think. I did a lot of the latter.

Just what, and how, am I going to deal with all this? I really don’t know yet, but it’s step by step, poco a poco. I don’t know what Puerto Rico’s, Vieques’ or the finca’s future looks like. Not sure what I’m going to do with that manuscript of mine. What do you do with a book about a place that only half exists anymore? I don’t hold on to future plans too much nowadays.

I do know that our place will be built on love; family, and friends, old and new. That much hasn’t changed. And thanks to you all, love is easier to find, and more reliable than most other building materials in Puerto Rico these days. You’re welcome to come be apart of it, corky

after & before. knowing & going.

The last time I wrote it was before we knew anything. To think of the sweet innocence; having no idea of the devastation of the finca, of Puerto Rico, the hardship for thousands, and the current administration’s unconscionable neglect of it all. Who could have imagined any of it?

Now, after four months, I’ve found my footing enough, to write.  I can usually talk about the finca without getting choked up. Tears still push behind my eyes. And, seeing photos of the main house; any of her little corners of magic that don’t exist anymore,  that still does me in. I have a hard time fully comprehending that the big open air kitchen with all those hanging pots, and the hammock, right out by the hibiscus isn’t there. So much like death; so hard to “get.”

But, gulp. I’m going down in late February. Finally. I’ve been unable to go by an almost unimaginable string of losses, before, and after the hurricane. My husband Bill, who many of you knew, passed away from cancer last summer, six weeks before Maria. I won’t write about that here, but Bill didn’t live to see that Casa Nueva, the house he designed to withstand hurricanes, did just that. He also doesn’t know a month after the hurricane, a smaller home we’d bought for me in Washington State, was burned, not quite to the ground, but close enough to keep me here to deal with for the winter. (I’m counting on you to know I’m not writing for your pity — I’ve actually had enough of that.) Life has smoothed out. I am pretty zen — I guess. That’s what I hear.  I’m lucky to be surrounded, and supported by love —  of family and friends. — I just thought you should know why the captain of the ship, we call la finca caribe, hasn’t been back yet.

Remnant of the main house’s compass rose floor tells us which way is

I am gearing up; both excited, and fearful — bracing for what I know will be dreadfully hard. It’s one thing to lose a place, a thing, or lots of things, but to to have to paw through the wreckage, sorting it into piles of possible building materials, trash, memories, and dreams.  Oh that we be so lucky to find anything still worth saving — even a blue shutter. God give me strength. Every floor we painted, every tin roof we repaired, every sheet we folded, every mug we hung, every love note from guests tucked into the collage of the front desk. Yikes. My kids wouldn’t let me do this alone, so I’m bringing along a crew to help.

Despite our earlier announcement the place was completely ruined, most of the wooden cabins are in fact are still there –in varying degrees of damage. The main house is completely gone. Well…actually, that would be easier. It’s there, but shattered and scattered over the property. Scott and Bill’s guess is that the 217 mile an hour winds went under the house, and turned her over. It’s the only thing that explains washers, dryers, and stoves, and everything else, strewn wide and far.

Although so many ask, it’s still way too early to know what our long term plans are. For now, our priorities are repairing what’s left and cleaning up the debris. Then we can take stock. We’re starting to organize work parties for the loving guests, hardy souls and inquiring minds who’ve been asking.  We certainly need any help we can get. If you are a self-sufficient self-starter, whose fantasized about being Indiana Jones or a red cross rescuer and you don’t mind roughing it with generators and minimal other comforts, then email me at manager@lafnca.com. But know that you’d be coming as a friend, not a guest, on your own, and have to rent your own car etc. Alternately, if you are coming down and staying elsewhere, let me know if you want to come by to help for a day or two. We have a friend living on the property who can likely point you to projects, and even maybe some tools. So please, you’d have to let us know in advance.

Our better half today.

Our dear managers, Bill and Scott have moved into Isabel, and are managing Casa Amistad. To say that I wish them well and will always be grateful for all they went through and did for the finca, doesn’t come close. I’m just so glad they found work at a great place on the island they love so much — that even has a little electricity!

I miss the finca. And part of my missing it, is missing you. Without the place, I’m left without a way of seeing you, of sharing the love with families, friends, the school, and all other community, groups. I’m still trying to figure out a way to stay connected in news way. For now, I’ll write here every so often, and maybe I’ll get my book published. I finished it the month before Bill was diagnosed. it ends on the happy note, that after 20 years of love, sweat and tears, “I’m the lucky lady who got the finca.”

So, don’t hold your breath for that. I’m still looking for time to write the epilogue. Writing to you came first.

With deep gratitude and great memories,


PS. Here’s a debrief from my son on the state of affairs on Vieques and at the Finca, at New Years. Nothing official — just his thoughts…

“All in all, Puerto Rico and Vieques are in MUCH better shape than I imagined. It clearly got REALLY bad there, and it took three months of hard work, but the locals and the geography are back on their feet. With 3 ferries running now, there is gas at gas stations, food and beer in grocery stores, the people are frustrated and tired and optimistic, and businesses are re-opening. However, the consistency of the ferries have been a problem, so I would suggest flying and not relying on them for transport. Casa Nueva and Cabanita are in great shape, nearly rentable (minus water and electric :). The bad side, is that Casa Grande and managers cabin were essentially 100% destroyed. Honestly, the worst destruction I found anywhere on the trip, and locals agreed it was possibly the worst on the island.

Red, Secret, Sun Bay complex, Esperanza beaches and the navy pier are open. Water is murky and some places/times has smelled slightly, but people say it is improving rapidly. The locals have played a major role in cleaning the beaches but it will take time. The beaches are all re-shaped, ie the wave breaks and slope of the sand are different. There are a handful of restaurants open, with good food with fresh fish. Several are expanding which is good to see. Mikey is rebuilding the Chez Shack dance floor at Tin box, and adding 80+ seats. Electricity is on for 20 hrs a day in Isabel II, but this is just FEMA generators running a microgrid. Water is on in most places. Locals don’t seem to trust the government and so most people are boiling it before drinking..

Remember to check Facebook for news, and — for those of you who don’t use FB — our page is public so you don’t need to be “on FB” to read, and stay in touch!


I am going to try to write. It’s all I can do, after giving money and answering this morning’s batch of sad, worried questions and fretting my way through the little bits of news.

I’m beyond distracted. Like so many of us with loved ones in Puerto Rico, I’m in the unreal world of not knowing. Today is the fifth day of not knowing how the guys are, or what the place looks like. How much of it is still standing.

Maybe the gate is still standing…

It is surreal to be sitting in a little cabin in Washington state on a beautiful fall day, with a fresh bagel and a latte, totally comfortable, while I think about Scott and Bill, our beloved managers. I think of them and all our friends and neighbors on Vieques living without utilities, public water, communications of any kind, gasoline for generators, roads that are passable, or much available food and services on the whole island. And my heart breaks for their hardship and loss. No refrigeration for weeks now, and now no ice for the coolers.

And then there’s the forecast of how many months it will be for some of those to be restored. And the photos of houses throughout the island that may or may not be indicative of what the finca looks like now. Again waiting unknowing. We may have lost it all. Or maybe just a lot.

I have lost it all before. So that part doesn’t really bother me as much as the suffering of my friends and neighbors on Vieques and Puerto Rico. That’s when the tears start flowing. They’ve suffered and suffered and suffered. Economic, political, oppression, corruption, alleged Zika scares, and now what…how do we describe Maria? Natural disaster doesn’t do it justice. Island wide apocalypse? I don’t know. That’s the problem, after four long days of waiting with phone on, nervously checking for any calls and tiny bits of updates, bits I don’t know much of anything.

One thing I do know is the love so many of you have for the place. Everyone of these four long days is filled with concern and support from guests who want to know how the guys are, where to give, what to do and if they can come down to help in the clean up and rebuilding. Sharing the place with such great folks is what the place is, and has always been about.

So….in response to your questions:

Re Scott and Bill, between virtually no communication still and impassable roads, we’ve yet to hear from them but that’s the case for most people on the island at this time. Scott and Bill’s welfare is our highest priority and updates will continue to be posted to our Facebook page.

Re winter reservations, Thanks for your patience. As soon as we know enough we’ll get back to you.

Re work parties, yes! stay tuned we’ll be organizing down the road.

Re immediate and direct giving to the islandhttps://www.gofundme.com/viequeslove

For more info or messaging email is better than Facebook or anything else.

Your reaching out lightens my load. My load today is the weight of unknowing.

La Lucha Continúa

This is so tough. In addition to the grim issues facing us, just learning how to balance the required responses, with life, is hard. Life. Remember life before this takeover/election/inauguration? Remember spending time thinking about what to cook for dinner? — how best to finish that quilt for a grandchild? Choosing the right paint color has lost some appeal these days.

From one of our kid guests

A favorite guest letter from a little boy we taught to catch tarantulas.

Like most of us, I’m drowning in emails, calls and letters; trying my best to share the truly most important articles, petitions, and bits of information, helping to organize small, or attending large, community meetings. Granted, other than the finca, I’m retired, so I find days filling up, and overflowing, with it all — and with no end in sight. This afternoon I’m listening to a national call from the ACLU, about forthcoming lawsuits. The other day, we listened to an Indivisible/Move-on/Working Families call with over 25,000 others. I have to say, it’s encouraging to hear experienced professionals share very pragmatic strategies and tactics. Yesterday I wrote postcards with a group of women over coffee. All the while I’m wondering — am I doing enough? Too much? Not enough? And you’re likely wondering how does this have anything to do with the finca?

It’s interesting. Yesterday I was starting to spin out and bog down from it all. When do I get to get my glasses fixed? When do I stop feeling overwhelmed with dread ? Sitting at my computer, determined to get something done for myself, invariably, my fingers continued to click on links. Insidious news stories keep creeping up the right margin of my brain. I’m supposed to check on a technical glitch in our site, but, instead of the the next horrendous news item — I press on our reviews.

That’s where you come in. Our guests. I spend the next half hour drenched in finca love, reading a handful of sweet notes from folks who’d stayed just this winter. A magic healing balm. To read about how much guests love the place always feels good, but I read more. I noticed people wrote about the shared main house kitchen, how they made friends with other guests, how they’d never done that before, and how the place lent itself to openness and sharing. And that felt more than good. Like we had done something that mattered. If we can do anything that helps brighten your stay, great. If the finca can change the way we work with, interact with new people, or travel more openly — all the better.

Now let’s be clear, I’m not at the finca, right now. Scott and Bill T are at the helm, working their _______ (flip flops?) off this winter. Bill P and I have to be in the States for medical stuff, so I take no credit for being the consummate hosts that they are. Heartfelt thanks, and great reviews go out to them! We are up here, remotely trying to manage the final steps of the solar array, paying the bills, finding groups to lead workshops. It can feel pretty removed from the place. But suddenly, reading these kind words —  I am not only back there in the palms and sunshine, I’m part of a bigger effort that is built on love. Love of people — all people, of the planet, of honesty, of creative self-expression, of community. And it’s in Puerto Rico, a place, at least comparatively, missing racism, anger or pretension; a place of love and tolerance, where warmth seems to come as much from my neighbors as it does that strong sun. A place that has taught me so much, like looking every person you walk by, in the eye, with a “hello” — at the very least. The place we’d be if only we could. Thanks to this crazy online world, and the folks who take time to share their sweet memories and good wishes,  I get to share in the love vicariously.  And that helps me find the balance I need.

Who knew? Who would have guessed that a hotel review can be one more way of sharing the love? Like saying “buen día” to everyone you pass by, ride the elevator with, or share the main house kitchen with. Who would’ve known that just being kind — in the littlest ways — could matter so much?

“La lucha continua”, as they say on Vieques,  — the cause, the struggle lives on. Sprinkling kindness into the mix sure helps.


(( My Tropical Journal is my not-so-regular blog — on lafinca.com. la finca vieques, the oldest, maybe only, dedicated eco-resort on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. We’re a cluster of five handmade houses and a sweeping rustic villa for groups, families friends, romantic getaway offering a more community alternative to mainstream inns or the separateness of airbnb online rentals. No-chemical pool, three acres of natural landscaping & fruit trees (we love to share!) and a score of hammocks…and you have the coolest place on the coolest island. #caribbean eco resort, #back packer hotel, #eco travel, and #off the beaten path to boot! Learn how to escape. The magic of la finca vieques eco resort.#green travel, #group travel #gay friendly, #family friendly #slow travel… giving all inclusive a whole new meaning! ))

To birthdays, solstice, & the light returning













It’s an interesting sort of birthday this year…

All I really want I can’t have…I want the electoral college to save our nation, the suffering in Syria and every where else to somehow end, and Bill’s cancer to go away.

Consequently, I’m having a hard time figuring out quite what to do to celebrate, or how. Usually by now I’m blasting the house and neighboring jungle with my favorite tunes, as we cook up a big dinner for friends. This year few friends are here yet and I can’t find the cable that connects my iPod to the speaker.

Luckily, Tito our gardener came by with Buchi, his friend with a backhoe. They wanted to talk to us about how best to push back the jungle. They brought us homemade coconut and guava arepas. Suddenly all was not lost. I had a birthday breakfast. And, in fact, it’s still a beautiful day, from my favorite vantage point, the swing on the deck of the main house, where the palm fronds rattle and dance in today’s warm winds; where Smidge curls and purrs next to me in the sun, and clouds glide steadily across the Caribbean headed west and north, like we will Thursday. Way too soon.

They say we never know how much something means to us until we’re about to lose it. Like our health, like losing our winter down here this year — and of course possibly our democracy, free press, speech, climate science research et al. not to mention the federal wildlife refuge here on Vieques.

But what about our sense of humor? Joy? Celebration? Have the scoundrels figured out how to take all that too? I want and need to be stronger and better than that — for the kids and grandkids I’m coming home to, and all my favorite young friends. I have to be that fun old lady…if I, and the rest of us who are ascending into that third chapter, don’t, who the hell will? Who will light up their lives?

Speaking of which, there’s a Lights out Inauguration Day protest I’ve been asked to support. For some reason — that one I just can’t get in to. I can’t stand the idea of sitting in the dark that day and night as we tumble into this uncertain future. Times are dark enough. I want the lights and music on and blaring! I want friends over for great food and wine and laughter.

Guess I better find that cable.

Happy solstice friends, and any all of everything you celebrate. With love, corky 

(( My Tropical Journal is my not-so-regular blog — on lafinca.com. la finca vieques, the oldest, maybe only, dedicated eco-resort on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. We’re a cluster of five handmade houses and a sweeping rustic villa for groups, families friends, romantic getaway offering a more community alternative to mainstream inns or the separateness of airbnb online rentals. No-chemical pool, three acres of natural landscaping & fruit trees (we love to share!) and a score of hammocks…and you have the coolest place on the coolest island. #caribbean eco resort, #back packer hotel, #eco travel, and #off the beaten path to boot! Learn how to escape. The magic of la finca vieques eco resort.#green travel, #group travel #gay friendly, #family friendly #slow travel… giving all inclusive a whole new meaning! ))

Different Ways to Escape

La Finca

La Finca

Remember that post…way back last winter, when I proclaimed “This is where and how it would happen?” Ahhh. Such confidence. Such naïveté. Even at my age. I showed my little makeshift desk in the quiet corner of Casa Nueva, drenched in that first sweet honeyed-morning light, surrounded by the day’s early twitterings of birds and bugs. Things that the finca offers up so beautifully, like the warmth itself.

I say now, sort of numbed by the news. Wrapped in a thick sweater, looking out on a chilly grey post Election Day… I am not at the finca, I’m at our little homestead on the Olympic Penninsula. A world, and now almost a lifetime away from Vieques la finca, and that post back in January. Of course the election has turned me upside down, inside out. Sending this out now seem sort of ridiculous. But…I’m determined to try and regain my footing, carry on and get to work. Writing does that for me. Connecting with our finca friends really helps. I want to get our Love Trumps Hate offer out to you. So, onward!

The good news is — it did get done. Not there, and not then, but I wrote the flippin’ book. My 250-page graphic memoir manuscript is sitting here next to me. After 5 years, that feels pretty darn amazing. I’m a starter, big picture gal, and a chronic team player. To finish a book, you have to keep going, relentlessly, go into the detailed weeds of odd, maybe neglected garden patches you had maybe hoped to be done with. And you are most completely, alone. None of these are very comfortable for me.

But if there’s one thing that is easy for me, it’s loving the finca and sharing her stories. The finca has always felt like a fourth child of mine. Like any proud mama, I can brag endlessly about our award winning, little Caribbean eco resort, and the number of stars she earned on Trip Advisor this week, or the blog she was mentioned in. How she’s so friendly, she’s eco-friendly, gay-friendly, family-friendly. Heck, our little la finca makes friends with everyone who comes to visit. Yep. Just get me started, and I’m hard to stop. So out the stories poured.



It didn’t happen last winter as I had pledged, though. Within weeks of that blog post Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My silly book became the very last thing on my mind, and a morning routine to call my own, the last thing to happen. But over the past 10 months as he has fought both the tumor and the chemo, life has settled down for us. Now we can breathe, laugh, even sail, relax, work, garden and hike, again. Bill is doing great. We continue to learn a lot, and life is good despite our sharing it with cancer. I have managed to carve out time for myself again. In fact, the writing has been my salvation; focus, escape, and reward. So what do I do now? Now that he’s feeling better and the writing part is done? Guess I like to complicate things. It’s going to be a graphic memoir, annotated, almost finca scrapbook… So now I dive into all the visuals. It’s my hope that when it’s done, done, you dear reader, one could pick up the book and escape into the finca just reading it, like I have, writing it. Give me a few months, and maybe you’ll be able to do just that. If not…there’s the sure fire escape route. Come on down! We will be there late November, and as always, we’d love to see you!

(( My Tropical Journal is my not-so-regular blog — on lafinca.com. la finca vieques, the oldest, maybe only, dedicated eco-resort on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. We’re a cluster of five handmade houses and a sweeping rustic villa for groups, families friends, romantic getaway offering a more community alternative to mainstream inns or the separateness of airbnb online rentals. No-chemical pool, three acres of natural landscaping & fruit trees (we love to share!) and a score of hammocks…and you have the coolest place on the coolest island. #caribbean eco resort, #back packer hotel, #eco travel, and #off the beaten path to boot! Learn how to escape. The magic of la finca vieques eco resort.#green travel, #group travel #gay friendly, #family friendly #slow travel… giving all inclusive a whole new meaning! ))

Swingin’ high…and Sometimes low

Even time in a hammock has highs and lows. Even life here in “Paradise” (a term I actually never use to describe this complex little island of ours) can get down right challenging. Seems like no matter where we live these days, the challenges are harder to escape. They’re environmental, political, socio-economic, racial, and educational.

it's how we roll...

it’s how we roll…

Human rights, common sense and courtesy seem almost relics from the past. As my neighbor, (who’s fighting three kinds of cancer) said, as she stopped to see how Bill and I were doing. “Name me one thing that isn’t broken these days!” as she laughingly bemoaned the state of the world. The answer was easy. The flowers in her hand she had grown and was bringing us; they weren’t broken. They were perfect. But still, I know all too well, what she’s talking about. Remember when finca blogs and posts were about our cute cats sprawled in the warmth off the deck, or the evening cheeping of frogs and crickets, the laughter of new friends — our guests — in music jams or charades games up at the main house? Lately our posts are geared to get you to sign this or that petition; to save Vieques National Wildlife Refuge land, or Puerto Rican public beaches from being sold to developers, or to let know you know about the “bail out” (another term I don’t use to describe that travesty). With all this going on, I can forget we are in the vacation business; the business of helping people have FUN. Sounds a little silly and superficial for these trying times. But ya know, maybe carving out time to laugh and relax is more important than ever. AKA vital. Last year my son asked me for some help with this “whole meaning of life thing.” After a few days, it came to me: maybe it’s just: FIND JOY (and if you can’t then) CREATE JOY (and when you do) SHARE JOY. (And if you can’t get started — then ask for help!) It’s simple, but I haven’t found anything that makes any more sense. It dawns on me that this little formula is at the core of being an innkeeper at the finca. We love to share the joy. So, voila! The answer to what ails ya! Now’s the time! Go on, or plan, a vacation to the finca!

A recent joyous 60th birthday at la finca

A recent joyous 60th birthday at la finca

Perfect except, for one thing. Zika. Yep. Now, just when you would think folks would be more than ready to escape, they’re avoiding Vieques and Puerto Rico because of Zika. Can’t say I blame them. The media makes it sound, like we’re swimming in the stuff. Meanwhile, the last I heard, there hasn’t been one official case from Vieques. The one friend who had it, over on the main island, said it was a mild week-long flu. Of course there’s the chilling possible birth defect link, but no one seems to know how much of a link there is. I look, but can’t find real answers. I’m not saying the media, or government sources are wrong, or that I know better. Hardly. I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Nor do any of our Vieques friends and neighbors.

All we know is that poor Puerto Rico is hurting. Tourism is pretty much on hold right now. We wait. Some island businesses have already folded. All of us are struggling to get through; cost cutting every hurting pinch of the way. We were hoping Congress might have done something before another recess; but no such luck. We’re stuck with waiting…

There’s a hospitality mantra: “Never let ’em see you sweat.” That’s because we don’t like to burden anyone with our woes. We like to keep your fun, FUN. So I’m sort of breaking cardinal rules, by letting my hair down … But how can I not? We don’t want anyone to come down and worry about Zika — that wouldn’t be any fun at all. But we do want you to come. So…how about this? If, for whatever reason, you aren’t worried about Zika, here’s

FIND JOY & 50% OFF ALL FALL for you, your friends and family. Seriously! A stay at the finca for HALF OFF! Now to Dec 15th, or

SHARE JOY in the new year with a super insider’s good-buddy rate, on any five-day house or cabin rental. You just need to call us for rates and details, at (787) 741-0495. Oh…what if it was that easy? What if we could all help CREATE JOY! and that, in turn, helped create more!

Hope you can come on down and see how high the hammock can take ya…even in these trying times. And, if not now… Let these crazy times lighten up soon! — c

doing good business

It’s sort of funny to think of aging hippies as business people, but we can be. As “radically left,” and dedicated to the common good as I strive to be; as off-beat and casual (aka quirky, wacky) as I hear I am, I’m figuring out I’m a business person, an entrepreneur — by choice, by avocation. (There’s nothing that says you can’t be both. Both Main and Wall Streets might work better if there were more alternative businesses around, but I digress…) I realize now that I thrive on making concepts come alive, and I love connecting people. I’m starting to recognize that that’s what business, at its best, may mean — at least for me. Of course, with the finca, being my favorite lil’ business around, I’m all the more excited about new business we are drumming up; the growing number, and kinds, of group stays we’ve been hosting. It’s good — in all sorts of ways — business.

Yoga by the pool: tamar melen photography

Yoga by the pool by tamar melen photography

A few blogs back I asked folks if they might be interested in leading a group workshop or retreat at the finca. Too vague. I got a handful of noncommittal responses in return. So I decided to go a bit deeper. I started reaching out online to people who lead groups, in anything I could think of — yoga, writing, watercolor & sketching, bird watching, paddle boarding, or drumming (etc etc etc) and introduced them to the finca, as a place they might want to check out for the future. That worked out great. The leaders are delighted of course, because the participants have a great time, and because they were able to either make a little money, or pay their travel, food and lodging for a week at the finca, and usually all of the above.

As I saw how relatively easy it was to organize and pull off these successful group retreats and workshops, I started seeing opportunities for friends, colleagues, and neighbors, who could, and dare I say, should, be leading their own. I decided to keep going, and go deeper. And that has been really fun.

First was Elizabeth, a writer/professor at SUNY. Elizabeth was editing my book when we started talking about the benefits of writing retreats. From years of teaching, she has scores of online and classroom students. She mentioned she’d love to do a memoir writing retreat week with them sometime. So what now? It was an on-going dream she’d had for years, without any idea, when, or how…it would ever happen. So voila! Why not now? I helped her with some basics on structuring it, (ironically this was just as she was helping me structure my book) a few marketing ideas to get the word out to her students, and some travel logistics. The next thing you know, she’s filling Casa Grande, and hosting her first writing workshop. That was last year. This June, Elizabeth will host her second retreat; with more students than last year’s, and some repeat participants who didn’t want to miss out. That says a lot, but it’s not uncommon. elizabethdcohen.com

Then I started thinking about Vicky, our Spanish teacher, at our local community college — up in Port Townsend, Washington. Vicky has taken a couple of her students with her to Spain. I’ve told her about a Spanish language week we’d enjoyed so much in the Pyrenees last year. Bingo. It dawned on both of us, that together we could pull off a great immersion-like language “camp” for intermediate Spanish students, centered on Vieques — and its natural and cultural history. We worked together to plan the week’s activities, organize the food service and what all else. Vicky held her first week this last winter and has just released the dates for next year’s. Think she’s pretty well booked (some of her students called last year’s “The best vacation ever,” so word has gotten out) but if you’re interested, check out SpanishLanguageCampVieques

bird watching at the beach

Our first Spanish language camp

After years of watching groups from the sideline, whether they’re writers, yogis, divers, or marine biology graduate research students, I’ve learned about what it takes to make workshops really work — easily, wonderfully for all concerned. I judge our success rate by the numbers that sign up for another the next year. Sometimes it’s the same participants who want to return for more. The group often expands over the years with more and more folks signing up.

It’s fun to watch their “business” grow, as well as our own. And in addition to the array of interesting group leaders, the finca, itself, is part of the success. I like to think it works it’s magic on folks. There’s something about group stays at the finca; I’m intrigued how the place seems to make people just feel at home. Is it just the impact of the buildings? – its funky worn lumber? Or the sounds of these palm fronds in the breezes, on the roof? Something here helps folks connect with themselves, and with others. It really does become the group’s own tropical summer camp.

Last week I was explaining all this to my Goddaughter; how much I love this win/win/win thing we have going, and helping folks realize a dream, sharpen their professional leadership, or just make some money. They win by learning they can do something they didn’t know they could. I feel empowered by empowering them. The finca wins, and the guest, the participant, who has just spent a great long weekend or week in the sun, learning and playing, wins. She immediately thought of her friend Chelsea, who founded Wildcraft Studio School in the Columbia Gorge. She’d been looking for winter ideas for her peeps; her every expanding list of Wildcraft participants. As soon as Chelsea and I connected in email, we both got excited about the possibilities. She’s off now, conjuring up some great Wildcraft week at the finca. Stay tuned…wildcraftstudioschool.com/

By now I have distilled the secret sauce formula for what it takes to make a winning retreat or workshop, down to three things: — a fun, knowledgeable leader/content provider — an easily transportable subject matter or activity (i.e. sketching vs. steel sculpture, yoga vs. weightlifting) — access to a database list of your own/potential participants large enough to get you a minimum of seven, maximum of 25 participants. If there’s anything else, it’s a sense of adventure, a bit of trust, and sense of humor.

La Casa Montessori School has been coming to the Finca for 17 years!

La Casa Montessori School has been coming to the Finca for 17 years!

The leaders who are both “go with the flow” and pretty darn organized do the best. Or maybe just have the most fun. In all the amazing folks who have wandered through our doors, there has got to be at the very least a few more adventurers who are not only capable of the stretch of “hosting your own” group week with us, but who might benefit from it…financially, personally, professionally. Heck it’s a free, paid week at the Finca.

Like I said, I love having the chance to connect with people. It’s why I love being an innkeeper. If I can help you connect with other great folks, all the better. We’re building a network of friends; folks who like learning and doing in a beautiful natural place. Whatever this finca magic is, utilizing and sharing it just seems like good business.

Making work play,

When and Where and How it’s Going to Happen

At pre-dawn; dark with a wash of lightening periwinkle to the southeast, behind the lace of the silhouetted flamboyan tree, one or two last strong stars, before they bow out, and the backdrop of last cheeps and chirps.
They change at this time of day, from the all night bug chatter to birds. And these literal early birds won’t last past sun up; another shift takes over then. For this next hour the birds and frogs and crickets, and really who knows what, all make these crazy noises overlap into a cacophony. It’s a wonder most folks sleep through it. I don’t usually. I don’t like to miss this beauty, quiet, cool, alone time – when the finca is most mine.

Not of course that I don’t love to share it. You know I do. That’s what the finca is all about. But this winter, my life down here is all about my book, which for now I’m calling Duct Taped Dreams: the Story of the Finca and How We Pulled it Off. I finished its first draft this past fall, sent it off for editing, and now, with that, the holidays, the transition of moving back, and getting settled — it’s time for me to get to the revisions; the scrubbing and the reworking, akin to housework and puttering, or even daily inn-keeping. Nothing too hard; enjoyable really — in any of them, I’m working with something imageI love; either my home, the book, our guests, and the finca. All life is work. But I love it. And now, the first moments of silence for over 12 hours. Remarkable. The frogs and insects have folded up and hunkered down. The first shift of birds have had their say. The valley’s dogs and chicken have must have all been fed while I was writing…so other than the hum of the fan here in my jungle cabin, it is silent. Even just for a moment, this total quiet is so rare as to be startling, and precious. Ahhhhhh…there are the roosters. And the rattling of dishes over in the cabana. New birds are tuning up. It’s another day starting at the finca and I have work to do.

In gratitude for that, and all of this, c

Thinking of you

Ok. Do me a favor. Let me know if you still get this poor neglected blog, that I haven’t looked at in over a year. If you do, and you actually read it, awesome. I’m flattered, surprised, impressed the systems are all and working, and now I’m going to let you in on a little secret, that I’m excited about.

A very rough draft of a cover page collage idea...

A very rough draft of a cover page collage idea…

I’m actually doing it. That which many of you have asked about. I’m finally really sitting down, (as in most days, and for many hours) and writing the finca story. Or guess it’s more accurate to say “my” not “the,” as I’m sure there are many, many other perspectives and versions of this crazy place from all who’ve wandered through over these 19 years. For me, I’m just trying to answer the question y’all ask so often; the how and why behind it all.

For some reason, the stars have aligned and I’m taking myself, or at least this writing project somewhat seriously. The good news is, I’m having a ball doing it. (How could I not, writing about the place and all of you?) The sad part is, it’s going to take a while because for some crazy internal drive on my part — most every page will be illustrated, annotated, collaged. At least that’s the plan for now.

That’s why I haven’t written here. I was afraid writing a blog would distract my focus, but now, I’m thinking differently. At AWP, the enormous amazing writers’ conference I went to last week I heard over and over again how writing here to you in our blog, can help me with the larger project. So bingo!

But here’s the deal: I’m giving you fair warning that I’m going to be posting these silly bloggy finca missives more regularly (how’s that for vague?) maybe monthly? Quarterly? Who knows…But don’t worry, you can get out now, or whenever you want; just unsub, if you’re not interested in getting another blog in your inbox. No hard feelings, I will never know…Otherwise, come on in, get comfortable, and let me know that you’re with me.

But, you should know, by signing on, I’m apt to use you as motivation and encouragement to keep going. Not quite sure…but If I ask a question, I’m seriously looking for your input, and want it! Even if I don’t, I’d LOVE to hear from you.

All I know about this amorphous “you” that I’m writing to, is that you signed up for this blog on the finca’s site or while making a reservation, either intentionally, or inadvertently. That means, I’m guessing, you’ve probably either stayed with us, or wanted to… So I’m assuming, for those who didn’t unsub yet, that you are one of “us;” a friend of the finca and therefore a pal of mine…even if we haven’t met. Gotta say, as a writer, I’m very lucky to have met so many of you over all these years. It makes it that much more fun to be able to conjur images of you, your families, and friends, and the good times shared at the finca.

But, I haven’t had my coffee yet, so I’m going to scoot. Just woke up with you on my mind I guess…even when I’m not on my shift, there at the finca…I’m thinking of you. Thanks so much, for coming there, and being here…corky

Accidental Farming on Vieques

Right now is one of those magic, peaceful moments when things are wondrously quiet. All houses, cabanas, casitas and the whole guest house, are full, but still sleeping — despite the roosters from the farm access the valley, who seem intent on waking the world. Rustling palms muffle the crowing I guess…

Botones naps beneath the nursery, an old sink we found under the main house.

Botones naps under the nursery, an old sink we found under the main house.

Drinking my coffee, looking out into the banana grove, I see something brown and small flying amongst the branches. And then, I see. It’s just a lizard. You know, one of those flying lizards, the ones that know how to launch from who knows where, and somehow land on the slightest twig of a papaya branch. Boom…. there he is. Happy to be on the bouncing branch, like I am happy to be watching.

Honestly, am I just easily impressed — or is that really cool? Bill agrees. He has become our fruit tree guy, monitoring and picking ripe fruit for the guests. He knows the secret hiding banana bunches, and when folks are most likely to see the hummingbirds who come to visit the giant blossoms. The papaya tree alone, makes us both smile. It’s one of the many volunteer papayas now popping up all over the finca. (Thank God for green papaya salad!) We have volunteers and accidents aplenty.

Like my garlic plant; the one that’s been growing up and out of our kitchen sink-drain. Truth is, I found it a week ago, poking through the slots of the dish drainer. (Okay, I’m sure there are plenty of folks who might have spotted him earlier) but there it was, a green and growing thing! A healthy, determined, sprouted garlic clove in our manager’s cabin sink. Loved him like a pet, I did — for a week — then I finally admitted he’d be happier in real dirt (more than my sink offers) so I moved him our to my budding nursery, where I plant my baby cuttings, young herb and veggie starts; seedlings I’ve gathered from farming friends on Vieques.

I get joy from the accidental garlic, and his new neighbors, the gandule (pigeon peas to savvy northerners) tree seedlings that grow easily an inch a day. These proud and strapping young cuties are the direct descendants of the trees that line the walk into Jorge’s homestead. If you knew Jorge, and his amazing one man piece of farming heaven, you’d be impressed, trust me. His is my favorite, truly awe-inspiring, traditional Puerto Rican hill top vegetable farm on the island. We took Alice Waters up there to visit last year when she’s stayed with us. Even Alice, whose probably visited more cool farms — well, certainly more than anyone I can think of, or imagine, even she admired Jorge’s green handiwork.

When I admired the young trees, last week, Jorge snapped off a couple of pods for me to take home and plant. So maybe they’re not quite accidental, but remarkable nonetheless. (Read up on gandules all ye interested farmer types) – and here they are here, thriving in my little winter nursery pot, among the racao, the rosemary, the mint. All of whom, like the papayas, like the cocos, and bananas, starfruit and even pomegranates, have come our way through friends and neighbors, bird droppings, or kitchen sinks. La Finca Caribe is not a farm, we’re a funky old guesthouse and a odd assortment of little houses, scattered across a south-facing hillside. But we’ve somehow gathered lots of growing goodies to share, and happy guests to enjoy them with.

By accident? Some folks say there are no accidents. My mom used to say, “we’re all accidents.” Who knows?…And who knows where that lizard went? I gotta go do laundry.