Napa Valley Taize

Notes from the Baja desert.

January sometime...maybe the 11th?  Now on the beach in La Ventana campground still reliving our kayaking adventure, just Rich and I and two native guides along the Sea of Cortez, sixty-five miles from Loreto to Aqua Verde via islands in the bays:  Danzante, Isla Del Carmen, Isla Cosme.

Big 'real' kayaks these were, different than what I have known before.  Wrap around skirts, luggage holds, rudders.  Ours was the double, although we could have switched it out for two singles at any time, however given their weight, loaded and overflowing over the tops of the holds with non-perishable items strapped on, plus 15 'dromedaries', each holding twoanahalf gallons each, a gallon each for us each day, made the kayaks sit really low in the water, and our virgin voyage after saying goodbye to Antonio our taxi driver was into the the 14-15 mph wind (ascertained by  R&R's collective wind widsom!) onward to Isla Del Carmen for the first night.  All to say, super heavy boats (four of us struggled to pull it onto the beach each night, until it began to lighten as we ate from its holds...) and big swells threatening to wash over us, made it a slightly intimidating beginning and I realized I was just fine in the double.  It became our legs over water.

Such beautiful waters.  The first and the last windy days resolved into glassy calm, so benign that sometimes we wished for a tailwind.  Still, clear water and silent coves waiting for our imprints in their sandy beaches, and exploration of their fishes with our masks and snorkles.  Hiking, wave surfing, clamming for dinner became the afternoon activities til Don Julio hour, portioned out tablespoon by tablespoon with limes and salt.

The moon, of all things became the recipient of our night time complaints.  Twelve winter hours of night time guaranteed our periods of sleepless moon watching as Orion and the stars of the whole winter hexagon (Capella, Procyon, Betelgeuse, Aldebaron, Sirius, along with the stories that accompany Cassiopeia.  Perseus who after slaying Medusa married Andromeda, while Athena who became jealous of their beautiful daughter Cassiopeia, chained her to a rock so Cetus the monster whale could eat her, but was distroyed by Medusa's head, so the whole family fled by flying off on Pegasus, the winged horse.  Check it's a story the sky tells every winter's night) followed moon's light and insisted upon invading the folds of my sleeping bag pulled tight around my face so that only my nose was visible.  Even then the light would not be diminished.  Daylight at night it was.

Besides the waters, we explored the nooks and crannies along the coast.   Just after arriving at Corrizalito beach Julio Romero, owner of the rancho, trotted up all cowboylike with mules in tow.  So of course we swung up and set out to tour his ranch.  We visited his dams, wells, promenades of palo verde (remember that wispy white barked tree) colorful striations on mountain crags and peaks.   I broke out in De Colores when I spied all the colors and Julio filled in the harmony, a surprising and spontaneous joy.  When he left that day I called out "De Colores", and he responded in kind.  We didn't see him again, but some days later, on our final trip up the harrying road out of Agua Verde, we stopped by his rancho Cosme, and his sisters and mother cooked us lunch while we quietly explored their environs and sat with his papa and babies.

It's what we initially came to Baja for, so many years ago.  Seeking a different landscape, waters, people and silence. Time to breathe and recreate, to challenge our fears, and rediscover ourselves in this incredible home of a universe.

P.S.  We're on our fourth day windsurfing now...and Joanna's tears on the beach for Rich's physical healing still touch me.  Today Rich's smile is infectious.

Later:  Jan 18...Tony died today.  He came in from a really epic day of windsurfing...talked with Rich a bit, excited about his life; the way he had been saling, his loss of 38 lbs., his bike ride in the morning, and then walked into his sail shed and died.  We were witnesses to one who fully lived right up to the moment of death.  The desert light was vivid blue and white.   A beautiful day to die, filled to the brim with living and freedom.  We are astonished.

I'm remembering John the Baptists' words that carried us during our Advent season.  As John came charging out of the desert, not unlike this one I wonder, he reminded us that our baptism seals us as Christ's own forever, so, he exhorts us to prepare the way for God, who comes to make straight the paths in our hearts.  Every morning as I run up the arroyo into the desert I'm jigging and jagging, dodging cholla and cardon, that there  IS no straight path through a desert, nor into my life, I realize.   Yet I wonder, it seems that if one were going to establish a kind of straightish path into a life, rather than  it being a physical task, it might have to do with thought and energy and breath and attitude, like focusing on breathing and becoming still in order to relax, gain energy and release the energy forward into the fear of what might be ahead.  To lean in softly with a willingness to be transformed, loving our lives, embracing our fears.

The wind into a windsurf sail is a perfect metaphor .  As the wind blows from behind to fill the sail and propel the board and the surfer forward, one leans back into the wind in order to become one with the wind, the board and sail.   In Tony's case his preparation and release was complete.

Jan. 19  Tony's wife, Sandy left today with her two boys.  Everything she owns is still on the beach.   Her campers, Tony's gear.  She's walking away from it all.  She gave one camper to Travis, so he's come full circle, from front to back to front row again, Willy Nelson blaring. 

Last evening we gathered for a small memorial in the little church now up on the hill.   More changes to the sanctuary that has been in a constant state of building for the last ten years.  The open space above the altar where the ocean could be seen and heard has been filled in with two windows and white gauze curtains.  Sandy asked me to read some scripture in English, say some words of welcome, as she surmised the priest would do everything in Spanish.  Well, he did the whole service in his best English, and then ended by singing Auld Lang Syne in Spanish, wiped his brow with his hand, and let out a huge sigh, 'whew'.  We clapped.  I whispered to Judy that we should all sing the English version, she encouraged with 'yeah', and I ended up singing alone.  "Whew'.  Step back, plan, make the path straight.  Say yes.  Say yes.

Jan. 20:  Some kind of food poisoning at Sandy's farewell gathering last evening.  Chills and cramps all night long.   In a zone today.  Still.

Sealed as Christ's own day by day by day.