Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Fog of Disconsolation

It was my hip that woke me and spoke of rearranging myself so it could decompress. Rolling over to my belly and propping myself up on my elbows I slid the window open to peer out into the desert sky. I took a deep, slow breath of the slightly moist fragrance of the desert. Desert air is not fragrant in the sense of the tropics, but fragrant in the sense of the desert, a mix of green, dry dirt and manure. I even smell coyote. I can imagine your noses wrinkling at the mention of that but suffice it to say I’m left with words to describe an experience. Try and describe the taste of a ripe mango or a sour patch kid candy. The experience is so much more than the speaking of it. The same holds true of one's faith. How to describe the comfort of surrender and the gift of His word and will in one's life? How that type of comfort feels….. The use of words cannot really touch it and a person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. So my friends with the crinkled noses, you’ll just have to trust me on the fragrance of the desert air. It is sweet in its own way.

Looking to the east I see no light yet and have only the sweet promise of the sun rising. This in itself is a reassurance we all too often take for granted. I am unable to see the constellation of Scorpio this morning due to an unusual fog bank lying low across the horizon. As I rouse myself to move out of the camper bunk, I move straightaway to the furnace. It has been rather temperamental this year and with this cold dampness I’m looking forward to the soft whir of the furnace as it blows out that heated air that makes the camper warm and toasty. I click it on and step outside into the cold morning.

There is a northwest wind already blowing which immediately foretells a day with yet again unfavorable wind conditions. Surf check over before the sun rises. Darn this La Nina year! Slipping back inside expecting the warm greeting of a toasty interior but instead find the furnace is stubbornly choosing to sleep today. Hmm, it looks like no heat this morning either. I begin the process of layering my clothes and getting the coffee on.

About this time my husband is jostling about, focused on the furnace and why it won’t do what it is designed to do. It stubbornly refuses to crank up and even the coffee isn’t satisfying. The fog is thick, so thick you can’t see the ocean and hidden inside the hem of that layer of fog are the threads of disconsolation and worry with no reason. It begins slowly, insidiously with the problem of the heater to other worries. My dear beloved cat was put to sleep five days after we arrived here in Conejo and no one was able to contact me. Woe. The “what if” train starts to roll. We are chug-a-lugging along and then I remember to fix my eyes on what is unseen rather than what is seen. Time for a prayer, but for what? Heat? Not really, but it would be nice, right? I'm going to take the matter into my own hands and build a fire. So I begin positioning the wood in the ring. It’s cold and wet and damp. I’m able to get it to start up a bit and am momentarily a little hopeful but it dissipates into a smoldering, smoky, damp, ugly mess. No crisp, warm and crackling fire this morning.

Meantime, grumbles from the mate who is still attempting to get the furnace going. It just won’t crank up and spark to ignite the propane. He comes around the back of the camper with an assortment of wires. I ask him what the wires are for and he explains he is going to get it to spark and I should prepare myself for a loud explosion. Woe and panic. He’s serious! I had a inspirational book beside me near the fire. No, not to use as starter for the fire but for me to use as starter for my spirit. What with all this stuff going on I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I open it randomly to a page that suggests I tell God exactly how I feel. “I can’t be quiet. I am angry and bitter. I have to speak!” So I begin my silent tirade to the Lord, expressing my fears, my discomfort, how I need his help, keep us safe, keep my sons safe. I need to speak with them but how? He can change it all; I give the reins back to him. I need Him! So many worries. I’m about to drown.

I douse the fire with water and give it a few stirs. The smoke mixes with the fog in a cloying cloud. The morning wasn’t pierced with a loud explosion and the heater still sleeps. So we sit in the morning fog watching our breath hang in the cold, damp air. Moments later I look up and see a patch of blue through the gray. The fog slowly begins to lift. As it lifts I spot a friend’s truck on the bluff checking the surf. Robert hops on his bike and rides along the dirt path to the sea looking much like a Mexican peasant. The sky becomes bluer than gray. The sun begins to pour warmth on the morning. The coffee tastes better. My companion returns with the news that our friend has a cell phone with a signal and we can call home today. The rest of this day was blessed and golden and rich. Oh, and by the way, the heater started working too

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fire Ring

The Fire Ring

It was on a walk that I came across the fire ring. Long since abandoned and left by some travelers to this area. A small stack of dried wood in one pile and alongside a smaller pile of wood pieces used to get the fire going. It looked incredibly peaceful, a monument to a time where people had gathered under the stars either in solitude or in the company of others. I imagined the evening, the time of coming together and the circumstances.

Walking back to our camp, which is a good distance from the ocean this year, as we wanted to enjoy the feel of the high desert and arroyo. We are perched on a small vista and our view is wonderfully panoramic. The sounds of the ocean are not the dominate force up here but is more the secondary melody of music,, the backdrop to the sounds of desert life. On this vista voices carry from places undetermined. The sounds of quail, osprey, frigates birds, and coyote are mixed in with the wind and sea. It isn’t as damp as being right beside the sea. Another plus is the mouse population seems a bit more tame as well.

I fancied in my mind my fire ring and thus this day, since the surf was small, I decided to spend my morning designing my fire ring and collecting wood of various sizes to adorn and use in the evenings. I had no idea what a peaceful experience this would be. Since we are in the desert there are multitudinous boulders ranging in size from pebble like to boulder size. The colors are many, varying in reds, to purples to slate to brown and black. I chose to create a multi colored ring showcasing the various rock colors of the desert vista with some choice sea gems sprinkled about it. When I was satisfied with the ring my sweet mate had created a rope sling for me to carry the wood in. I had foraged this rope the day before when we were fishing. I had no idea of its use to me when I dragged it back home to camp but have found that many times the discovery of items or offerings from the sea have proven to be very useful.

I made several trips from the sea to camp. One plastic bag held the smaller chips of wood and the rope sling the larger. I balanced this on either side of the bike I rode. It was the gathering of the wood that was the sweetest, most delicious experience. The absolute simplicity of choosing wood and using it for something was so satisfying. Just the using of what is around you to create something, like an evening fire is hard to convey in words, at least for me at this point in my self expression. I found myself thinking over what I read that morning in Scripture. I found myself singing songs of devotion to God. I found myself thinking of the people I love and the ones who strongly influence my life. How God has gathered them up to me to keep my spirit in Him strong. How in this simple act of gathering wood for a fire could my faith grow? I don’t know, maybe because my mind wasn’t filled with all the trappings of a world gone awry. Removed for an hour from the spiraling funnel of a world oblivious to its connection to a Creator.
With the ring completed, the wood gathered I wait for the time when the sun is drawn into the sea. Oh, the sweetness of the evening fire is yet another story to be told one day, perhaps…

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And this happens every day

I ‘ll see better when the smoke clears inside my head
And I can listen when the screaming doesn’t repeat everything I’ve said
All that remains is me and who I am at the end of the day
And this happens everyday…
This happens every day…
Toby Lightman

We’ve been at Rancho Conejo a full moon’s cycle. I’ve seen the morning tides high and the tides greet the dawn low. I’ve played in one of the Lord’s greatest playgrounds and came out unscathed and restored. I’ve felt the wind blow with fury heavy from the northwest and felt the gentle whisper of the wind off the desert combing back the surface of the Pacific yielding perfection. I wasn’t able to fish her waters but I prayed for fish and fish was given. I’ve praised God, pleaded to God and loved God. I sang sweetly to Jesus with my dear man on Christmas Eve in the still and dark of the night and knew where the light was. I cried when friends moved on. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a variety of people who share the same love for an area of the Baja peninsula that remains to this day barely touched. Too rugged for most but delightfully secluded for some. We found a wonderful location to store “Evie”. What a blessing she was as she carried us through this magical vacation. My mother’s namesake, I knew we were safe, she is with Him and He is with us.

As my sights turn to the New Year I’m eager for whatever lays ahead. Finding myself in need of a pause and being blessed to get one with a man that God has most assuredly touched in a special way and put into my life. Yes, my cup runneth over…
Vaya con Dios mi amigos

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Fish Tale

Sitting in the lineup some mornings and watching all the mullet leap around you makes a person hungry sometimes. I get this urge to build a fire and smoke me some of 'em .... It did spur me on to try my hand at fishing though. I had bought a rod and reel the last time we were out here in '05 and never got around to using it. It always seemed like when the fishing was good the surfing was good and I always opted for the latter. So this year I brought the rod and reel again, never been used and was determined to try my hand at it. Teri, my sister, is quite the fisherwoman and I've always admired her ability to rig her equipment, know what bait to use and never act squeamish as she slips the hook into the mouth of her bait and through other parts of their little bodies I can't bear to think about. She is so tough that she got a hook caught in her thumb and she pushed it through, cut off the barb and pulled it out as if it were just a matter of fact. Just the telling of that story makes my stomach roll.

They use lures to catch sierra (mackerel) and corbina (sea bass). I head out one morning with rod and reel, a container of weights and lures given to me by one of the surfers, a bucket and plastic bag to put my fish in, and a last minute idea was to bring some toenail clippers in case I needed to cut the line instead of getting the hook out of the fish's mouth (sissy). As I head out Robert suggests I put on my spring suit in case I have to wade out in the water to get a good throw out so I don my wetsuit and off I go. The first part of the trip is totally humbling as I have to actually walk past the fishermen as they are heading out in their pangas, plus the tide is high so I can't walk way around I have to slide by their boats within arm's length . "Gringo el loco" So, walking past that embarrassment, I head on down the beach to where I think fish like to live. I find a nook for the bucket and bag in the rock cliff and head to the surf to throw out a line. My sister's teaching echoing in my head from prior sessions with her, "Use your whole body, go with the cast". Okay, so here I go ... bam and splash it lands five feet in front of me. Hmm, must have gotten snagged on something! I reel it back in. I've fished before as a child tomboy so I know how to cast the line out and the second try was a beauty!!! Wow, did I do that? Imitating the reeling in with the technique I understand skims the lure over the rocks I reel and pop and reel and pop and am feeling rather proficient ... for a moment and then I noticed that all the line I was reeling in wasn't reeling in anything . Something was wrong with the reel. Extremely thankful I had the foresight of bringing those toenail clippers I walk back to my bucket, clip the line, put down my rod and start following the line out to where my lure is hung up in some rocks. Intent on getting my lure back I pull in the line and walk into the sea, much like Gretel following her breadcrumbs back home. So absorbed in this mission I didn't see the surge come swooshing in toward me knocking me down on my bootie and rolling me around in the surf like a log. Glad I wore the wetsuit ... thank you Bobby, I pick up my drenched body and just about this time a gathering of sea gulls behind me on the cliffs began to laugh, seriously, they were laughing their heads off, as were the fishermen by the fishing village and probably God Himself. I did give up the ghost on the lure but sat on some rocks and tried to fix the reel. After five minutes of that I picked up my bucket and bag that felt emptier than when I started out and headed home. Upon dismantling the reel that evening, we found that it was broken. Never used it and when I did it broke. Wonder where it was made???
So until next year .... I'll be watching those mullet jump.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where are the rabbits? - Conejo Week Two

Conejo translated means rabbit. Rancho Conejo… Rabbit Ranch. Never seen a rabbit out here. Plenty of coyotes that could explain the scarcity of conejos. Also explains why you just don’t see many cats in these parts because the coyotes like them an awful lot.

Solid week of surfing, good conditions, good size. Absolute abundance. This being our second trip into La Paz and we are also expecting a solid 10’ swell to be heading in from the west Thursday morning. I should be able to shoot some good footage that day gladly acquiescing the role of surfer to one of photographer when that much water is wrapping around the point. The community of surfers here are an interesting bunch. Nardo is our “camp manager” and lives in the small fishing village just about ¼ of a mile north of our camp. He has two wolf-type dogs, Chocolate and Boracha (translated means drunk and because she is a female it is cha instead of cho which would indicate male gender). Nardo stopped by the other morning with a handful of nim he had collected. It is a green plant with no smell, slightly bitter in taste. He boils the nim and makes it into an infusion like a tea and he rubs this infusion on the fur of his dogs and it keeps fleas away. It is also said to be good for the heart.

Every night at dusk we watch the whales on the horizon, some of them surprisingly close. We watch as the sun sets and watch for what is called the “green flash” which happens right before the sun disappears from sight. I’ve seen it once since we’ve been here but Robert has caught it many times. I’m glad I actually saw it once because I was getting to the point where I thought everyone was taking advantage of my gullibility. Cannot leave out the visitor Bobby and I had in the lineup yesterday. The cutest most huggable gray seal you’ve ever seen. He just popped his head up and looked at Bobby and then me as if to say “Que tal” (how’s it going) and then gave us his tail and dove down below to his playground as we stayed above in ours. Endless praise to God for every detail of his canvas.

Oh a newsflash….. Boracha had a litter last night of eleven pups. Gotta watch that drinking Boracha!!

Destination reached - Week One Rancho Conejo

This particular part of the Baja peninsula has not changed much at all. Some parts of the shoreline carry rocks where before there were none but the point break still turns out some of the finest lefts I’ve ever ridden in my life. We surfed for three days in perfect conditions with a handful of others. We were greeted Thanksgiving Day with fun surf about chest high. It got a bit bigger the second and maxed out the third in solid 6’ or well overhead surf. We also met up with some old friends in the lineup and it was a real honest to God treat to surf with them that morning. Two of our friends married and are now parents of an angel child they named Emily. I imagine I’ll see her in the line up one day in the future.

Characteristic of Conejo are the hard on shores that buffet the coast. We had a good one on our fourth day and it found us battening down hatches and waiting for it to blow itself out. There is a particular loneliness to this area that may have to do with the ruggedness of the coast where the desert meets the sea. It may also be the fact that a handful of folks are out this way too. The water is crystal clear and it seems as if you are sitting in an aquarium as the mullet jump all around you. Today I even saw a seal in the inside break, about the size of a grown man. In it’s desolate loneliness there is exquisite beauty and peace. The rhythms of the sea, wind, marine life and the people who live here are graceful in their simplicity.
So after surfing this morning in smallish surf (by Florida standards it would have been outstanding) we headed into La Paz which is 50 miles from our spot at Conejo. Once a week we’ll head here to provision, fuel, launder and connect with loved ones and then back out for another seven days. La Paz has grown and now sports a Wal-Mart that is stocked with Mexican goods with Mexican prices, nothing from China here. Haas avocadoes are going for 18 pesos a kilo and spelled out that is 60 cents a pound. I’m loving it. Give me a bag of those and two big old papayas and lime and I’m ready to head out for another seven days. We are quite content and counting our blessings. Vaya con Dios amigos… until next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travel in the Baja

I'm writing this morning accompanied by the crow of roosters and whinny of horses in Cuidad Constitution at Manfred's RV Park. This park used to be owned by Manfred and his wife who were Danish and they grew every kind of tree and catus they could get their hands on. The first year we came through in 2003, I had brought with me a camphor tree. I'm not sure what the special attachment was to the tree but it was at this point in our trip that I decided to leave my camphor behind to grow among the diversity of trees in this park. We found my camphor tree last night and she grew to be so big. We pulled some of her leaves and broke them in half and enjoyed the fragrance and the memory of our first passing through here together.

Our first day in Mexico was Sunday, crossing at the Tecate border. I was estatic. I had forgotten how simple life was here. My eyes enjoyed the people, the music, the smells, the dust and the simplicity of life for those who live here. First day we traveled to El Rosario, second day to Vizcanio and third to Constitution. Today we provision and head to Conejo, 130 miles on the main road and 10 on a graded dirt road. No more electricity or water from a spiget but instead we'll have miles of coast and mas olas. "Evie" has run like a champ!! There were multiple reasons for naming our motor home after my mom and some of them were putting my mothers characteristics of being stubborn as a mule and her desire to always finish well onto this vehicle that would carry us across the United States and 800 miles down the Baja peninsula securely and safely.

The high southern desert is lush and green this year... stunning. The tamales are as good as always as was the traditional breakfast of huevos ranchos in Catavina. Vaya con Dios