With Semana Santa still going strong the kids are out of school and bored just like when we were young. Semana Santa is a two week long school holiday that spans the week before and the week after Easter. Burt and I decided to take advantage of our roaming hooligans freedom and show then the area. We crammed 11 of the kids into the Exploder and took them to a secret pocket beach. Cramming 11 kids in a car without seat belts is also reminiscent of when we were young. It’s troubling. I lost a lot of sleep the night before this adventure thinking about the five minutes of highway driving, the 100′ cliffs we would walk along, and the rough Pacific ocean they would play in. I put that all out of my mind and we headed out.
Our outing was to an exposed cliff side hike up and over the rocky coast and down into a small sandy cove with milder than normal currents. Bobby Mc from down the beach drove down in her quad and met us with boogie boards and life jackets. This hidden spot is not widely known and requires either the mile long walk we chose or a two mile sand walk. Beach walking is hard. If you have a quad you can take it. Sometimes there’s a sea cave at this cove and sometimes there isn’t. It just depends on where Mother Nature has put the sand.
As usual, the kids were well behaved. Before we left I gave them some ground rules. No running on top, no pushing, follow Burt, etc. They complied. I was in the rear when the bulk of them reached to first view point. I could feel the collective shock and awe from 50 yards back. The kids were stunned by the cliff top views. I’m pretty sure none of them had been at such an exposed spot over the ocean.
Down in the sand I found the entrance to the cave. Frixicia crawled in and after about a body length of worming her way under she could stand up. She sent out the bat call and it was a melee. Five kids piled into the nearly buried cave. They took turns crawling in and out. The claustrophobes and I stayed outside. Burt watched the other kids playing at the water’s edge. Eventually my curiosity beat down my anxiety and I crawled in alone. I was fine until the kids tried to join me and blocked the entrance. I ordered them away and made as hasty an exit as I could on my belly. I’m still finding sand in my crevices.
Tomorrow is our annual singing event at the Festival del Chile y La Fresa. The kids are not singing beautifully but they are enthusiastic.
I baked two loaves of jalapeño cheese bread this week. One lasted long enough to make it to Ladies Bridge yesterday. That’s two weeks in a row where I made food instead of purchasing something. It’s a record for me. Despite this admirable streak of DIY cookery I maintain a healthy disdain for all things domestic. Burt’s role as chief feeder is no threatened.
Despite the domestic exhaustion I managed a spontaneous outing with five of the kids. We took a hike to the arroyo called Agua Para Los Cochis. The water for the pigs arroyo is up and over a ridge just south of Pescadero. Several notable things happened on the hike. The kids were quite alarmed we were driving on rough roads and hiking without Burt. They seemed to be under the impression that this was a man’s job. That gave me a giggle. Burt was resting from his first match in the three day Aprils Fools Tennis Tournament. I played good wife and spectated. The match was enjoyable but not much exercise so I scheduled the walk with the kids. Let’s have a huzzah for an inadvertent blow to gender roles.
Elvis and Olive accompanied us on the walk, too. Now for you or me dogs on a hike is normal. In Mexico most dogs never leave the yard. Many spend their lives chained to a tree and act as biological security alarms. The kids were stunned into silence when the dogs came with us. They know our dogs but were quite alarmed to find them in the car. Despite months of exposure they remain unconvinced that Elvis doesn’t plan to eat them. Of course, I never even considered this a cultural exchange moment until it was underway. By the end of our two hour hike the kids were keeping their eyes on the pooches and calling to them. They all wanted to whistle like me. I have a good sharp dog calling whistle. I tried to teach them how to do it but it was a failure. On the car ride back the kids were willing to share their seat with Elvis. Elvis, though silent, clearly adores the children. Olive hates them.
Then there was the hiking itself which was exactly like hiking with seven year-olds anywhere. Feet hurt, teeth came loose, someone fell, there was water and mud to complain about…There was: how far is it? Have we reached the top? and I ran out of waters. And then there were the rocks. I mean to tell you I never knew rocks could be so interesting. Before the hike started I handed out ball caps to protect the kids from the sun. The ball caps became rock bags as soon as we arrived. Half an hour in I was being begged to take the rocks. What luck that I did not have a bag or a pocket to spare. I suggested placing the rocks in a pile for later. The kids slavishly carried 10 pounds of rocks around until their arms gave out. Then they would drop the pile and start over again. Every arm load ended with them begging me to help carry the rocks. I held firm. There are rocks near the car, I said. There are rocks in the road, I said. There are rocks at home, I said.
When we were on our last march uphill and headed to the car, Janexi yelled from far behind, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.” She was carrying 8 rocks. I yelled, “Drop the rocks, kid.” She dropped the rocks and caught up. Happily no tears were shed. I held her hand the last stretch. After 4 miles and two hours of walking we landed safely back at the car. The kids demanded the promised rocks at the car. I found out I was a liar. The rocks sucked where we parked the car. I did what I could to dig up a few to salve the betrayed rock hounds but I felt like a bad girl for promising rocks where there were none.
We’re planning another walk this week. I will not have a bag. If I had had a bag I would have had 60 pounds of rocks to carry and then the commotion of sorting out who’s rock was who’s.
Burt proceeded to win all his tennis matches. Today, after his last match, we headed north into the countryside. The desert is full of birds in the uninhabited areas. Migration is in full force. Large flocks of sparrows would get up and fly away whenever we stopped. Burt and I reached a new wetland called Boca Carrizal. There we found some snowy plovers, a willet, and a great blue heron. On the way we saw thirty more species of birds. It was a good day.
The guests are gone and we’re back to our regularly scheduled week here in Pescadero. Until Friday. Friday upheaval awaits. Mimi is off to Dad and SG’s house. Olive and Elvis will join a pack where the human leader is named Pickle. Burt and I will board an overnight flight to Ecuador. The neighborhood kids will have to run amok without us.
I cut Burt’s hair today. A few too short shaves with the electric clipper and now he always asks for a scissor cut. Annoying. I like the shaver but I gave him a good clip despite wishing I had the magic buzzer. Afterwards Burt held Olive and I hand trimmed her face and secret spots. Olive is growing her hair out and sincerely hopes it is never cut again. Like a mother of a kid with long hair I tell her she has to do a better job managing it but she likes it matted and riddled with stickers. How she gets on with a woowoo full of spines I do not understand. This spot cleanup was a kind of winter detente. When we get back from Ecuador she’s going in to see the professional trimmer at Doctor David’s house of anxiety.
In other news we had a special guest teacher in yoga these last three days and today I can barely muster the energy to get out of bed. It started out easily enough on Monday that I hardly noticed we were doing more and deeper work. Yesterday I thought well that was a nice pushy workout. Today I thought why am I here? It was like boiling a lobster slowly. By the time I realized what was happening I was already dead. In short: excellent yoga week.
My dad is still here hanging with his girlfriend SG. I generally will refrain from reporting on this fun love affair. It’s there’s to blog about. But here’s a brief story of caution. Two weeks ago SG swallowed a fish bone. It felt like it was caught in her throat so the day after the meal she visited an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor). The ENT did not see a bone but noticed a small cut. He thought the bone might have cut her esophagus on the way down. He advised her to take it easy. About 4 days later SG noticed a swelling. Right away she got in to another doctor and this new doctor sent her to the hospital in San Jose del Cabo. The hospital is an hour away. Long story short here: the next day SG had surgery to remove an abscess from her esophagus. She was in the hospital for 5 days. The surgery was 2 1/2 hours long and left an 8″ scar. My grandma was right. Swallowing a fish bone can kill you. The surgeon thinks the bone punctured her esophagus and left behind some bacteria. The puncture closed up and an abscess of ucky stuff developed. I’ve had some cats with these types of infections. SG was wearing a drain just like my brawling kitties. Mimi used to regularly give and get nasty infections. She was quite a pugilistic feline when she was younger.
Today SG got a clean bill of health. We are all relieved to hear the good news. The love birds can get back to their regular activities. Yay, SG.
Here are a couple of pictures from our hike to Puerto Viejo or Old Port. When this area produced commercial amounts of sugar cane the shipments left via rowboat at this port. Large shipping vessels anchored off shore. There are bits of old infrastructure to admire such as the stone quay and dry set rock fences and roads and even the remnants of a turtle cannery but I am always blinded by the dramatic landscape. Here the last vestiges of the mountains crash into the sea. Sea lions blubber about on the rocks below while verdin, black throated sparrow, and a cactus wren sing courtship songs. Sometimes the wind carries the sea lion’s grunts and groan all the way up to our perch. The cardon cactii stand watch like lighthouses on cliff edges. The palo verde, nipped by the harsh salt wind, grows close to the ground with octopus like tentacles.
Traditionally visitors approached this area from the north but a recent hotel development has caused confusion (putting it mildly) and animosity about access. Guards and scary looking dogs patrol the area now and a massive amount of vital mangrove habitat was destroyed, threatening the endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat. Best to steer clear even if the road is open. We decided to see what the walk was like from the south and found it to be easy and rather more pleasant because we could avoid all views of the unsightly hotel and its environmental destruction. Yes, our heads are firmly in the sand. From where we parked and walked there was very little evidence of the massive development all around. The area remains a very wild pocket, one of the last, between Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas. Scat all around and game trails onto sheer cliff faces indicated coyotes and/or bobcats make regular excursions into the deep canyons. I hope the area stays protected.
Recently I took my rings in to a guy to be resized. Abel works in an 8′ by 8′ space behind a rack of shoes in Todos Santos. I showed him my rings and asked if he could resize them. He wondered why since they appeared to fit fine and I explained that when I exercise my fingers swell and recently they were swelling so much the rings hurt my hands. I was worried he wouldn’t be able to resize them because one is white gold and the other is palladium but it was easy. Right then and there he put them on a thingy and beat them with a hammer. Beat, check, beat, check. Twenty minutes later they were cleaned polished and just a little but bigger. Thank you, Abel.
We drove down here with a 5 pound bag of bird food. Burt was feeling tolerant of my whims. Usually he says, “Too much. Buy it there.” I only bought it because I was afraid I would forget to buy some here. As soon as we were situated I put out some seed. It was a cheap bag of food and nobody came. I tried a couple of locations. Nothing. All the other bird features were busy but sugar water only attracts a subset of feeder birds and I wanted to see more varieties. I despaired. Maybe my food was spoiled or just not to their tastes?
Last week our friend Bobbi asked us to come to her place and help her identify her birds. It was on our way to her house that we spotted the pair of cara-caras sitting in the dead palm. As we sat there on her porch and watched a veritable flock of birds dining ten feet away I realized my mistake. It wasn’t the food. It was the location and type of feeder. The bowls were too exposed and the table was too close to our trailer. I made one small change. I placed the food in a piece of driftwood and hung the driftwood on the fence. The feeding station is two feet further away from our trailer and higher off the ground. The next day there was a seed eater on it. A very shy cardinal flitted in and out taking a seed at a time. The day after that four new species of birds were in the yard: Black headed grosbeak, house finch, phainopepla, pyrrhuloxia. Yippee skippy!
Moral of this story, same as all the rest: Don’t give up.
Yesterday our friend and guide Esteban took us up to his sister’s ranch. The rustic farm is about an hour from El Pescadero and located on the edge of an arroyo. This trip materialized the way so many things happen here. Esteban stopped by to say hi. Burt said let’s take a trip to the mountains. We think Esteban said, “Do you want to see my sister’s ranch?” I think we said yes. We are not entirely sure if he asked or if we asked or how we wound up agreeing. Turkeys were mentioned. We made a date for an excursion.
Yesterday we arrived at Esteban’s house a few minutes late. He was surprised. We were very punctual according to him. This was after we called to say we would arrive an hour late and we arrived an hour and ten minutes later than originally agreed. Oops. We try so hard not to be prompt and we always fail. We are continuously arriving before our hosts expect us all over the world. This fashionably late thing is beyond our skill set. We couldn’t even start our show fifteen minutes late as all musicians are expected to do.
The journey to the rancho was full of words for trees and birds we happened to pass. Esteban used to be the forest ranger in the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve. He knows all the local beings. What we could not understand was where we were going. Eventually we wound up at a very nice, brand new country getaway. There were two workers watering the plants. The yard was nicely landscaped. I pondered how a walk in the woods brought us to some rich person’s cabin in the mountains. I have no idea what transpired but the conclusion was that we were free to visit this spot and camp anytime we liked. I conclude Esteban was introducing us to the locals. I could be wrong. It was a very nice spot. Elvis peed on everything. When I said is Spanish that he had to mark everywhere we go the men all laughed. We piled back into the Exploder and headed back out to the highway. WTF. Are we going home already? Was that our trip? During all our visits Esteban and Burt and I have a three way dialogue that meanders and is very amorphous. I am never certain if we are going or coming, leaving or staying. His manner of guiding is similar. He takes us to a trail and says, “I’ll see you later.” We walk away wondering where we are going. We always get there, turn around and walk back. Esteban is where he left us. Everybody is happy.
At the highway we headed away from town and took another ranch road towards the mountains. At the end of this road we arrived at a ranch filled with animals. Cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys…The local lady of the house was working her butt of making cheese and doing laundry. The men were sitting and talking. I headed to the kitchen and chatted with another visiting female while we watched Lupita do her chores. Burt hung with us. There were wild birds in cages singing in the kitchen. I could hardly stand to look at the starling, grosbeak, sparrow and orioles but they are well loved by this quiet woman with few visitors. The woman was Esteban’s sister. She is also very comfortable in the wilderness and trapped all the birds herself. Now I know the whole family shares our love of birds.
Eventually Esteban takes us to a trail and say, “I’ll see you later. There’s water up there.” Burt and I and the Olvis walked until we found water. It was 4:00 PM. I could have spent the night there on the sandy bank with palm trees swaying and water trickling by. There were heaps of birds but we forgot our binoculars. Both of us. We returned to the ranch. There was Esteban waiting. I asked if we could buy a turkey. How much? $400 pesos. Muy caro, I thought but worth it to reward Lupita for all her hard work, so we agreed. They asked if we want it alive or dead. I envisioned carrying a live turkey back to town with Elvis and Olive and decided dead is best. One of the men caught the turkey while Esteban filled an enormous pot with water to boil. The unlucky dinner is caught, its feet bound, and it is hung upside down. Burt cut its throat. The bird was then plunged into boiling water and plucked and gutted. Both Burt and I have done this many times but it made us nervous doing it with a cross cultural audience but some things are the same no matter what language you use. Lupita gave me some much less expensive eggs. Finally we headed home.
So it comes to my attention this morning that there are some lurkers reading these daily writings and liking it. I never would have guessed but here’s what I heard from Al, my Irish emigree to Canada and Mexico friend, “So you’re 17/31 of the way through this project. How long are you going to keep writing everyday?” I expressed a stunned surprise that Al, a man I see about twice a year, was up to the minute up to date on my blog and a slight need for a break. He responded with, “Oh no! It makes getting up easier in the morning.” Or something to that effect. Wow, what a compliment. And perhaps a slightly Irish backhanded one but I’m gonna take it at face value. I said,”If you want me to keep writing you should make a comment.” My faithful readers motivate me (thanks Pat, Melissa, Becky, Burt…). So here I am trying to get Al out in the open, too. Even if he stays in the shadows I now have him in mind as I write into the ether. I miss seeing him more regularly on the tennis court. Once we beat Burt and Leslie. Those were the day.
So today’s assignment is to consider the source of your creativity. Harumph. There’s some loaded stuff for me. I do not see myself as creative. I see myself as a doer, observer, recorder. The vocabulary of science and engineering populate my mind. I do not write songs. I do not create art. I can’t even arrange a song. I don’t even cook anymore. I play music in a trained monkey sort of way. Other people are ‘real’ musicians and artists. So if I can’t see myself as creative how do I address the creative force? I have to leave the box of what art is and focus on creation. If I look at the totality of my life I see it, my life, as a work of terrible and beautiful art. I have used that drive to create to build a life that is far outside the norms of what society dictates for the likes of me. My inspiration has been to leave behind known and secure. Secure and safe have always let me down in the long run. The sketchy choices have lead to more interesting places physically and emotionally. I see my power in the ability to solve problems. I can find resources and determine limits and comply with the laws of natures and work within all that to create a life that is uniquely mine. This is how I left behind two marriages that were suffocating, a job with no joy but lots of money, a house I loved, and a community of nice enough folks that were too judgemental of me. In return I got to live a life where I work when I need to but mostly want to and to live in places I love surrounded by people from all walks of life that take me as I am. And just like any art it takes constant effort and practice to figure it all out.
There. That should motivate you, Al. I would like to admit I have a keen eye for proportion and color. I use it when working as a carpenter or taking photos.
Tuesday morning I received an email from the family and friends in San Juancio telling me to come on up. Burt, Jen, Robin, Aldo, and Jessie had left town two days earlier to try and find so surf. I did not want to spend five days in San Juancio. Our last trip there two years ago was a festival of wind and sand and personal irritation. I could not surf, there was no wi-fi, and it was too windy for playing music or cards. We were camping in our trailer and it just wasn’t fun. For me. Everyone else surfed and had fun. I tried not to be a downer.
This year’s trip I tried to beg out. I must not have been as big a downer on the previous outing as I thought because everyone wanted me to come again. We negotiated. I insisted on staying for music class and offered to make the 7 hour drive solo two days later on one condition. I have a hotel with wi-fi to stay in. The gang was renting a house ($16 a night) but I was not interested in the frat house life. Call me old, call me cranky. I say personal knowledge equals personal happiness. I wanted a quiet space by myself after a day of group activity. So the email arrived. The email was the seal on the deal. It meant waves were good and a hotel had been found and that team Pescadero was planning stay at least two more days.
San Juanico and I appear to be cursed. First off I had a social obligation to try and manage. A women that I find irritating (talker) had found out (inadvertently by me) that I was going to San Juanico for a few days. She wanted to catch a ride. I wanted to go alone and brave the highways of Baja and Mexico in silence. Our Exploder doesn’t have a radio. I was geared up for the adventure. Group pressure (i.e. Jessie) indicated that the woman would be a fun companion. I felt obligated to let the woman know I was going. When I got the email from the crew saying come on up I hemmed and hawed and then decided to send a text to the woman saying if she was ready I could give her a ride to San Juanico. Social obligations are not my strong suit. My gut said Noooooo. My desire to not look like a complete ass-hat and say, “oops I forgot she wanted to go OR oops, she irritates me and I can’t face 7 hours on the road with her so I left her behind” won. I also wondered if I had been to hasty in assessing this person. Maybe she would make a fine new friend.
For the record I will state this woman was prompt, had her stuff packed, paid for gas up front, made me brownies, and fed me lunch. For 40 minutes I found her entertaining. She told me how she was looking for property to build a home and her process was thorough and very self-directed. I found her business sense notable. For the next 6 1/2 hours I wished I had a radio I could turn up loud. In summation: I as a thrice married, childless by choice fifty-something cannot profer advice or even understanding to a never married forty-something hoping to still form a nuclear family with the right Man. Man is capitalized because said Man must have certain qualifications to be eligible. I will not share those qualifications here. There is a two year timetable for achieving this goal. I err. I did offer advice. I suggested that living in Pescadero was not the place to achieve said goal. Single, desirable, husbandly types do not exist here without wives or walkers attached. If she was interested in the Mexican population she would have a chance, but given some of her required qualifications Mexicans were out (according to her). Anyone remember that story in the 80’s about an unmarried woman in her 30s having a higher chance of dying in a terrorist attack than finding a husband? I always want to add that tidbit to the conversation as an antagonistic footnote even though I know it is patently untrue and misogynistic.
When never married women that hope to be married of this age group find out I am on husband number three they invariably choke on one or two thoughts: How did she get married three times and I not once? or She’s ruining all the men for the rest of us. I did not make this up. I have had these thoughts expressed to me. It makes for awkwardness. In this instance my passenger did not seem to hold my marital exploits against me. We discussed the contractual fiscal obligations of marriage and how investing in ‘infrastructure’ without the bonds of matrimony can leave a person with no assets. She went on to detail her relationship history and then basically hit replay on her conversation machine.
We reached San Juanico just as my social niceties were consumed. Burt took me to our hotel. There was wi-fi advertised but non-functioning. Not Burt’s fault so no foul. It was a lovely room with a king sized bed for $30. I decompressed. The group absorbed the talker. One by one they filled up with her words. I could not discern if Jessie was glad or irritated by her presence. Within 12 hours of arrival I was sick but did not know it. I thought it was the group-activity flu or too much swimming. I had a headache, my joints hurt, and I had lost my appetite. Here’s how my day went: tried to stand-up surf, wind knocked me over, tried to surf, couldn’t surf, went swimming. I swam so far out I scared Burt when I popped up in front of him surfing. He fell of the wave of the day. The waves were so small you only got one or two rides in an hour and I had just startled Burt off his ride. He didn’t care. I sat in a chair and watched the team look for waves. I saw Jessie ride a wave. We all gave up and went home for lunch. I ate lunch. We retired for naps. We regrouped for cards. Oh Hell was the game of the day. I won a game. At 8 PM I was feeling like I had been run over. I begged off dinner because I was not hungry. Burt took me to our room. Burt left and ate dinner with the group. Burt returned at 9:30. We watched one episode of The Big Bang Theory. Lights out. I pooped the bed.
Yes, you read that correctly. I was so sick that poop came out of my butt without warning. I had to make toilet paper diapers to get through the night. I was on the commode 15 times with actual water exiting my orifice. Immodium the next day saved my life and allowed me to make the drive home with Burt. Here’s the summary: wind and no waves, poop in the bed, and blah, blah, blah. My best trip to San Juanico so far. It really was. The cards were fun and I enjoyed my swim and I felt better when I saw I was not alone in my irritation.
Burt is off to San Juanico today. While he and the family and a few others try to catch some waves I am here holding down the goat pen. San Juanico is about 5 hours north of here. It’s a small, dusty town known for horrendous winds and long, long waves. If the waves hold and the wind isn’t too bad I’ll drive up on my own Wednesday to meet them. Meanwhile I am responsible for feeding the dogs and Mimi and myself. Tonight a wrangled a dinner invitation from April (she’s gotten over being falsely accused of dogknapping). Today flew by in a miasma of bridge. Every hand seemed disastrous but in the end Roxy and I tied for second place out of 6 teams. Roxy pretty much carried us and I pretty much didn’t make epic mistakes. In 25 hands we only landed at the bottom 4 times. I’m not sure how. Of course this is only adding to the pressure to keep playing. I was feeling ambivalent about the game after a last place finish Saturday and then this happened. Time to eat. Ciao.
Critical time and mass are being achieved in our sweet music class. Day one was full of shy smiling kids. Most were too timid to ‘abre la boca.’ I begged them to open their mouths and let out some noise. Hardly a proverbial peep. Five weeks later they are singing strong and we’ve moved off the strictly kids songs into some more serious material. Once again I am reminded about the concept of ‘just showing up’ as a tenet of a successful life. Some one once asked me how I got my black belt in karate and I responded, without thinking, I just showed up. Meaning most success is derived from being present and participating, not from super powers or talent. So here are my singing kids. I am very proud of them. They are requesting songs and selecting dances and pounding on their instruments. And they are still smiling.
Of course this isn’t just about singing. The ability to overcome shyness and take the stage translates into success all through life. My goal is to inspire confidence and build bridges between the two cultures. I want these girls to know how to speak up for themselves and not fear big, strange gringos. We’ll keep showing up for them.