For a number of weeks we fell back into the easy routine which Mary Ann and I had become accustomed to years ago on our summer at the south end. Our days were gently filled with fishing, cooking, washing, maintaining the hut, reading, swimming and napping. We taught Michael and Kevin how to fish from the shore, casting with a conventional reel. The trick to this was to ride your thumb gently on the spool after you had cast, to prevent the spool from backlashing. This technique took them some time to learn, but within a few days they were casting hundreds of feet into the water and bringing in Cabrilla and Trigger fish we could feed to the animals or eat ourselves. Michael wanted nothing to do with eating anything that came from the sea. Kevin loved everything. But they both loved to catch fish. There was an ongoing contest to see which of the boys could cast farther. As far as I know this is still undetermined.
The early morning routine became something to enjoy. I was usually up first and working on some small chore or reading. By the time the sun had risen, between six and seven, everyone else was up. The boys or Mary Ann would open the pen for Billy and Burlap. The goat and burro would trot from the makeshift corral to the front of the hut to say good morning to the rest of us. Lassie loved Burlap and would greet him by licking his muzzle furiously. Burlap stood still while this was ongoing, for a minute or so, and then Burlap would lead Billy around the area, galloping and kicking, pleased to see another day.
If we joined the animals behind the hut to watch their antics, Burlap would try to ram us. Even though he was small, he still weighed one hundred and fifty pounds and was charging you at about twenty miles an hour. We would dodge away as if he were a bull in a fight.
After their morning warm up they would head for the nearby hills. Lassie would stay with them until she heard the boys getting ready for their morning swim. Then she would come back to camp to watch and join with them. Never was one of the boys in the water that Lassie wasn't there too. It was her job, she thought, to protect them.
Evening was always my favorite time in Baja. The trials were over for the moment and the heat easing. There were few evenings that didn't present a spectacular sunset. During the heat of the afternoon the animals all found shade and limited their activity but when the shadows began to lengthen and the air cooled just a little they came out and would begin to play. I read in a journal somewhere years before I had the time or interest in watching animal behavior closely that they have no sense of humor, that they do not play. I've spent small moments for years trying to validate or attack that brash statement. What is it to play? The dictionary says "to occupy oneself in amusement, sport or other recreation." How do you apply that to other animals? I watched this burro, goat and dog on the beach and they were clearly playing. They were familiar with each other, they were not threatened by each other. They were filling time by performing some activity that they chose and it gave them pleasure. They were constantly challenging each other in some talent of their own; the burro would charge the goat or dog, the goat would rear up on hind legs or feign butting the burro, and the dog would nip at the heels of both. It was difficult to believe what I'd read. They were clearly playing and I wanted to join in but was too busy analyzing what I'd read and trusted. This was not something that happened occasionally, but every morning and every late afternoon.
On the other hand I would have certainly agreed, by common observation, that chickens had absolutely zero sense of humor. They were only occupied with their constant pecking order and grubbing for food, even when they had more than they wanted. They were the most productive of our animals (eggs), but least enjoyable, even though we grew to know each personally by sight and behavior.
The sun set nightly, west of our tiny hut a few meters up a beach of smooth round stones from the Sea of Cortes. We fixed dinner early in the evenings and well before it grew dark. We avoided gas lanterns while cooking because the bright light attracted bugs.
Through the slats of bamboo the fading golden light of evening turned the hut into a magical scene. We were alone, the four of us, each in our own world and yet together closer now than ever. The boys and Lassie were typically in the water before dinner, laughing between the small waves that fell just outside La Gringa. The chickens had gone to roost and were silent. The goat and burro hovered between the water and the hut and were silhouetted against the calm cove. The arc of the sun through our visible heavens was nearing completion of its daily cycle from our misescule vantage point; we were mentally preparing for night and darkness and a period of rest.
This time of day was often cause for a walk along our lonely shore. The volcano of Smith's was almost directly across from our site and usually caught the final rays of the sun for the day. The twin blues of sky and water reflected the occasional clouds that collected and their random reds, oranges and yellows. The pelicans nightly migrated from the south end of Bahia de Los Angeles to the craggy peaks of our Las Cuevitas. Here, both north and south of our tiny bay, the cliffs rose directly from the beach toward the sky and enabled seabirds to launch into the weather well above the water.
Small sea creatures collected along the shore in just inches of water. Tiny crabs, a baby octopus, a sea urchin, clams. As the darkness settled we could light a kerosene or gas lantern and set it beside the water and watch the small beasts come toward the shore, something attracted them to the light. We could position sand chairs there and just join in the show. We were much too large for the small creatures to conceive let alone fear. And we were not out to disturb them, rather to integrate, observe, learn and respect their ways.
Once the suns energy lost influence over our day, the moon, if her cycles were correct, would introduce her presence for our pleasure, first as a dim glow above the now-silhouetted Smiths Island and just a few minutes later as a golden orb pushing into the nights sky over Smiths saddle, mid-island. A narrowing line of light pointed over the water to moon when she was full enough, awakening in us a knowledge of our lack of importance in this universe and an understanding of the relative inconsequence of humanity in the bigger picture of things.
At Las Cuevitas there was only the peace and tranquility of nature and our interest in understanding it. The pressures of work and school schedules, meetings, unsolicited impositions and myriad other activities were things of the past and the future. The moment was ours, as long as we would make it last.