On a spring day, months later we returned for a weeklong trip with our friends Barsam and Marlene. On this trip we camped at La Gringa.
We decided to drive up to Las Cuevitas just for the memories it contained. There were signs en route that there had been a violent winter storm and wild surf. When we got there, the beach had been shifted about, forming a large berm further up the shoreline than when we had lived there. There must have been a violent outrage of weather. I was glad we hadn't been there when it struck.
The steps from the hut were gone. I looked in the stones for the boulders I had gathered from the desert. The average weight of these was about 50 pounds. I couldn't believe a storm could have moved them so far we couldn't find even a single one. Unbelievable!
I carried this thought of the strength of the currents of nature throughout my life after this incident. Everything we do is overwritten in such short and cold order by the basic elements. What chance do we have to leave our mark on Earth? And for that matter why did I need to? Male cats spray, I guess!
Around 1998 or 99 we were on another trip with Bar and Marlene and other friends. Again we camped at La Gringa. Some of our friends had never been to the bay and wanted to see where we had lived so many years before. One day we drove out to the plateau in the late afternoon after the heat of the summer day was fading. Other storms had continued unleashing their power on the shore; what lover's there powerful forces made. How well they worked together in a relationship that had passionately existed for beyond eons.
The boys were grown now, and stayed at La Gringa. Mary Ann and I and our friends took the Land Cruiser and wound up the road to Las Cuevitas. The plateau and desert hadn?t changed at all over the years. Barsam?s Corner was the same. We stood on the site where our hut had once been. We told our friends about the summer, reliving the moments of our so-much-younger years, when the boys were still our babies; they were now pushing their twenties. Telling our stories and remembering the events of times behind us, unrecoverable, gone, I left Mary Ann spinning a recalled sensitivity and walked up a hillside to see where we had hauled Billy over the cliff from a certain death. I was really only preventing my friends from having to deal with the fact that I was, as often, crying. I knew then that the most tender moments in my life were behind me.
The small and tight hugs of my tiny boys were gone forever. Now I would get handshakes and slaps on the shoulder. Never again would I experience the most basic of feelings, the father-the-protector in fact. I knew at this moment my life had turned, once again, from a known course onto another path into the unknown and unpredictable future.
There was no question in my mind that our family would continue as it was, constantly changing as the boys grew and Mary Ann's and my relationship aged. But there was something I had only just missed after it was gone. The small child, held close at shoulder height by the arms of a father, the child's arms wrapped around the dads neck, four arms clenching, the son's tighter than the dad's, testing strength. The father's arms and body somehow, deep in the child's mind, protecting him from harm and feeling the pulses of the two bodies in some primeval need to bond with his children. Maybe if these feelings were not required by the evolutionary process I was best rid of them. But my heart knew the senselessness of that thought. I would never have many answers. I would only continue with questions. I sat on the hill above Las Cuevitas watching the rolling sea we had fished, through which we had been chased by dolphins and carefully scrutinized by whales. It was a clear afternoon and the breezes supported the gulls and pelicans hanging above the cliffs of the Three Brothers. The islands were beconing. All this had become buried in the depths of our communal family soul, years before. We would carry it forever as part of us. How much richer our lives were because of Las Cuevitas.
Mary Ann and our friends, wondering where I had gone, called then and drew me down from my perch. I walked back to the beach. They were digging in the stones where our hut had been, moving handfuls of stones away from anything that might lie beneath. I assumed they were looking for shells. I could see they had found some large rocks under the smaller ones. I looked closely and could see a gentle pattern of small waves in the gravel, working toward the beach. There, underneath the gravel, were our steps, just where they had been throughout the years. The storms hadn't destroyed them, they had covered, protected them.
In one moment I had turned my boys free, in my heart. In the next, I found that an important time of my life was, in fact, not so easy to erase from the face of the earth as I had thought.
In the long run there must be something inside all of us that wants permanence. We must want to leave an indelible imprint. To not be forgotten.
So I now had Mary Ann, Michael and Kevin that would never forget me, for better and for worse, and there were enough of both to go around. And I had my family in return. And we all had Baja, the Bay of Los Angeles: the village, the south end, Las Cuevitas, and La Gringa. We had smooth round stones scattered throughout our life. What more could we ever want?