December 31 .. The last day of 2010.

Sunrise, Sea of Cortez, December 31, 2010

Last day, last sunrise of 2010.

Woke earlier than usual : 4:00 AM and what to do. Sleep filled and nothing left but to meditate and greet the new day in darkness.  Poured hot coffee and savored the quiet.  A crescent moon lingered with Saturn clinging to its sphere.  NASA reporting storms on the ringed planet .. new information on how things in the planetary world are created.

All the dogs come for morning treats, and still it’s dark.  They chew, I sip .. and then I give it over.  The hint of light coming from behind the island beckons me.  I tie the laces on my shoes, grab the camera and off we go, down the long beach toward the distant point.

The air is chilled and the wind still from the WSW as it has been for days.  The sea has been strange with this blow.  The beach houses block the wind right at the waters edge, creating surreal glassy pools, while just beyond the roof lines, ripples fan out toward the island and the open water.

The seabirds have been luxurious. Terns, cormorants, grebes, egrets, herons, an osprey .. pelicans, boobies, gulls, sandpipers, marbled godwits, sanderlings, lesser yellow legs.  As if everyone has come to celebrate the end of the year.  Even the dolphin have moved closer in the shallows, savoring the small bait fish that swim nearer to shore.

Estuary at Dawn

At the edge of the sea, and running westward to the Pacific, lies the gorgeous extremes of the Baja desert.  Dry and subtropical on the eastern shores, the climate and plantlife are part of the Sonoran region, a part of one of the the largest and hottest deserts in North America.  Tall cardon, a relative of the saguaro cactus stand like tall sentries amidst mesquite and paloverde trees.

Estuaries are common on the eastern shores, with wading birds in wild variety and large numbers.  Migratory birds, such as the Arctic Tern, make use of Baja for their winter home.

Buster and I walked into the morning light, solitary figures on the long stretch of beach that spreads north from town.  We walked for over an hour with not a single person in sight, but plenty of heron, egrets, pelicans and cormorants.

Heron gliding northward along the beach.

The squawk of the heron as Buster flushed him from the shallows echoed down the sandy shoreline. He landed again and again, only to pick up his wings again as we grew closer.

Finally, the sun slipped up behind the edge of Isla Carmen in a beautiful – if not momentary – display of color – before tucking behind a bank of clouds. We turned back toward home. I was thinking coffee … Buster was thinking dog treats.

Buster leads the way on our morning walk.

So began the last day of the year .. Filled with gratitude for all that has come to us, all the experiences, all the learning .. the friendships, the adventures, the joys, the challenges and the successes.

 

Wings & Wonder

The sky ablaze this morning with 60 or so vultures, circling, searching. What has died? What is about to die? Joining the fray, a Magnificent frigate bird, his long lanky body with split tail stark against the chunky vulture bodies. As they continued to swirl, a lone red tail hawk joined the sky born dance. Similar in size, in their silhouette against the sun, he was almost hidden, except for a distinctive wing formation and different soaring/flapping pattern. Soon, more vultures, another frigate bird and the sky was bird bird bird … and then gone. Whatever they had hoped for or sensed, had scurried deep into the stark desert landscape, and the winged ones dispersed.

Egret in the shallows

Yesterday on our early dog walk, one of the ‘resident’ egrets fished the estuarian inlet near the house.  While the dogs played, I sat on the side of the water watching the tall white bird hunt for tiny fish trapped by the tidal flow.

In the desert it seems, it is bird life that is most obvious.  Their appearances at all times of the day and weather remind me of the mysteries of life, the magic of flight .. the dreams of Icarus.

Buster learns to SUP (minus the P)

Talk about a water dog!  I think sometimes that Buster must be part Spaniel.  It’s now to the point, I can’t take the SUP board near the water without him climbing on board.

These pictures were shot at Coronado Island, where friend Alex had taken us for an afternoon of picnic and water play.  I packed sandwiches .. and between paddles, we ate, drank some beers and just enjoyed being alive amid turquoise waters and friendship.

While paddling the dark lava rocks that ring the island’s shore, Buster and I encountered schools of Cortez Angelfish that numbered in the  hundreds.  Their dark black bodies with white and orange stripes presented a bold contrast to the amazing blue of their watery world.  A stellar day .. or is that a good sea of a day …

Day One

Palm Grove

Woke before the sun.  To match the approach of winter, she shifts her arc farther south, rising over the middle of Isla Carmen.  This morning, the skies were crystal clear, not even a breeze ruffled the surface of the Sea.

Walking north, the great heron stood – nearly as tall as me! – fishing on the shore.  Beyond him, the white egret, his cousins the fluffy egrets and a small herd of sanderlings shared the shallow feeding grounds.

I inhaled deeply the sea air.  Put my hands in the water and reminded myself to devote more energy to whatever means I can muster to both protect and enhance all the seas.  I feel my life path shift beneath me … I open my arms to the challenges of re-crafting a life beyond the mid-point.

This is day one of my move to Loreto.  The small city is now my residence; a change from my retreat.  Although in some ways, I suppose having my home as a retreat is actually quite awesome.  As I type from beneath the palapa on the beach, a flotilla of pelicans and blue footed boobies dive bomb in formation, the second set of feeders to entertain me this morning in these shallow waters.

Yesterday’s flight was late in departing Los Angeles.  A hilarious combination of a stuck gas valve, missing flight crew, changed planes, and then a push-back device that broke and could not be detached.  By the time the Horizon Air flight arrived in Loreto, the Mexican shippers I had hired had come and gone.  Gratefully, my neighbor Diane, had told them just to put the boxes in the space between the house and the garage.  The driver, Javier, called in the evening to confirm that I had arrived and that everything was okay.  Back to that leap of faith .. the trusting of those I had never met and only dealt with on the internet .. to delivery my belongings intact.

I’m thinking it’s that same leap of faith – the one that brought me to purchase this home five years ago against the advice of almost everyone – that has led me to this move.  The palms have grown taller.  The palapa fronds and tiles changed out.  I’ve come to embrace the idiosyncrasies – like no water for a day or two – that make living in Mexico unlike living in the states.

My intention for the day is absorption and rest.  My surroundings here on the edge of the sea inform what I feel is the best of me.  It’s taken a while to arrive.

Predawn Beach Walk

sunrise

Sunrise over Sea of Cortez

Predawn clouds hang heavy over the water.  The dogs and I head north along the shoreline before the sun has crested the horizon.  It is cool, moist, and quiet.  The beach near the house is deserted. Maybe the natives are taking an extra hour of sleep on this lovely Sunday morning.

The usual ‘cast of characters’ greets us.  The pelicans, the terns, the flocks of gulls.  The sea is still in the early hour.  No wind yet ruffles the surface and one could be deluded into thinking it is a lake.

Last night, lightning storms provided a brilliant display over Isla Carmen, with bolts running the length of cloud to sea.  This morning, the left-over clouds drift as if untethered from anything.

For me, this morning is a walking meditation.  I begin with gratitude – how lucky I feel for friends, family, the chance to do creative work.  Grateful for the curious life I have chiseled out of the years that allows me to experience this very moment between night and morning.  This space on the sand next to the sea.

Sorrows slide through the same thought bank.  My brother Gly’s death just two years ago still marks a hollow spot.  Yesterday would have been his 59th birthday, and I miss him.  He was a gifted musician and a full-hearted soul who lost his way in a sea of substances that eventually took his life.

As if on cue, I notice three locals who, from the looks of things, have spent the night on the beach.  The area around their car is littered with empty beer cans, but still, they party on.  One of the young men plays a guitar and the others sing.

I think of how Gly would have liked it here.  His two great loves were fishing and music.   I wish he and I could have had the time to be here together.

I shake off the sadness and remember the joyful conversation with my sister, Claudia.  It was also her birthday yesterday, and she and her husband had taken their canoe to Magic Reservoir south of Bellvue, ID where they live to celebrate. Two years ago she had been here to celebrate my mom’s birthday and mine.  Photographs from that week brighten the walls of Casa de Catalina.

A young Mexican man casts a net over a school of leaping bait fish.  When he hauls the white line back, it is filled.  Buster and Shorty stop to inspect the shimmering silvery fish that spill from the net.  “Pescaditos”(tiny fish) I tease him, and he smiles in response.

The sun inches up over the water line and a shimmer of gold light mirrors on the water’s surface.  Day has begun its spin.  The dogs and I  finish our walk at a rocky point, then turn and head for home.  We play stick toss in the water on the way back.  Shorty’s not much for swimming, but Buster thrives on leaping into the water and retrieving what he finds. He drops his ‘catch’ on the beach and barks until it is again tossed.

As my morning meditation comes to an end, I find that I am again quiet inside, filled with a sense of fullness and peace with this life .. this finding my way one footstep at a time.

Thunder & Lightning

Cloud shrouded sunrise gave way to darker clouds rolling in from the south.  The wind picked up and the dogs and I took to the beach in search of ?? whatever we might find.  Lightning bolts zapped from cloud to sea surface and thunder rumbled across the water.  Still no rain.

We looked at shells, watched brown boobies soar on the currents and pelicans chase pangas that were racing back to marina trying to outrun the storm.  Buster picked up another feather.  Shorty tipped his white toes into the water.

About an hour later, the wind crested and the storm rumbled through.  Ampified thunder bounced between island and the peninsula and BIG drops started to fall.

It as almost as if I could hear the earth sigh.  A long time ago, I had produced a photo series called, “The Desert Dreams of Water.”  There is such magic in the desert landscape – a flash opening into scents that remain sequestered under the hot son.  The blend of sea smells and the moist landscape is nearly hypnotic.

As with most summer storms, the darkness passed – almost too quickly – and left a whitish grey cloud clover with soft drops that continue to fall.  Can’t wait to see the rage of flowers in the next week.

Dog races …

Dog Walk

One of the best things about Loreto dog beach walks : NO LEASHES!  No rules .. Just head out the door and let the dogs run.  The long stretch of beach backs up to estuaries with herons & egrets … osprey and gulls .. The desert stretches to the west, covered in cardon and mesquite, like a carpet of greens and yellows sprinkled across the dusty ground.

Down the beach, around the point .. Cormorants & grebes ply the waters .. Over head, the terns and the blue-footed boobies spy and dive for small fish … The dogs take it all in .. but mostly, they are just dogs … full of joy and play.

Lunch at Picazone

Picazone!

YUM YUM YUM .. and what a setting!  No trip to Loreto is complete without a stop at the tony beachfront restaurant owned by Alejandro and Imelda Igartua.

Relaxing at Picazone

The food is amazing – or did I say that?  My favorite are the tacones – wraps with fish, shrimp, chicken or veggies.

The two came from Cabo 10+ years ago looking for a better place to raise their two sons – Alex Jr and Diego.  They found some property way to the north of town down a long dusty dirt road.  Starting with a tiny 2 burner propane camp stove and a few tables, they have grown the property to include upstairs living quarters, as well as an expanded restaurant.  Alejandra has a full bar, is the most gracious of hosts, and makes each visitor feel completely at home.

Boaters drop passengers, then anchor just offshore.  Schools of fish add snorkeling opportunities, and Alejandro offers windsurfing lessons in his spare time!

A must stopover.  Ask anyone in town for directions ..