We were living in the hut at the south end of the bay, just the
two of us. Except for Rocinante and Dulcinea, a loose-limbed
setter-Afghan mix, and a shorter Spaniel half-breed, the runt of
the litter that we had chosen for that reason.
Often in the evenings as the heat and sun's intensity dropped,
Mary Ann and I walked down the shore toward Rincon. The breeze
off the water was cooler and Rochie and Ducie would run forward,
looking back, wanting us to watch them, so we did. There is
really very little to distract you in that peaceful environment.
This was what we wanted. Sand crabs are scurrying toward the
water as our feet fall, making shallow indentions in the sand,
marking our way to the hut when we turned back, whenever we
chose. There were no neighbors in those days, between the
village and the Diaz cattle ranch.
A fish carcass was there along the shore. I picked it up and
tossed in into the water where its nutrients would serve again.
We stooped over the water in the evening reflections, staring at
the submerged carcass, a foot out from the shoreline. Rochie
joins us. Soon small minnows are attacking the flesh of the
dead Trigger. Rochie see them and is fascinated. He sees his
own reflection in the surface. He's confused. Now he's pawing
the surface. I'm not sure if he's chasing the fish beneath or
attracted by the beautiful dog above. His paw hits the water
and the twin images are gone. So is Rochie's interest. In a
flash the thought-provoking moment of fish and dog that he was
so intensely into has disappeared. He's off now, down the beach
catching up with Dulcie.
We continue our walk and encounter a metal box washed up on the
shore. How could it float? I wonder. I have no answer, but
there it is. Even at this remote place we often encounter items
that have been swept by the winds and tides to these shores. We
have learned that we have greater value for castoffs here than
we do in other places. We stop and the dogs idle in racing
circles around us at a distance. The box is about 30 inches
deep. Its mouth measures perhaps 14 inches wide by 5 inches
high. What could we do with this I'm wondering? We continue
our walk. On the way back to the hut I pick up the box and
carry it with us.
After so many months there we were missing many things. Several
of them were food groups. We had before traveled across the
peninsula to Black Warrior to buy vegetable seeds that we had
planted in the impotent sands by the hut. I had driven old
Tortuga to the lagoon and carried back saline mud that had also
proven dysfunctional for fostering life. At least the kind we
wanted. All we were eating was fish and canned foods. There
was little offered in the village in those days.
One morning I'm up early and have caught the dogfoodfish for the
day and I almost trip on the metal box I had carried home
another day. I realize how we can use it. I clean and cook up
the dog's favorite garlic Trigger and Cabrilla, serve them and
set to my task. I measure the door to the elongated box with
twigs broken off at lengths and carve a piece of a washed-up
orange crate cut to those dimensions. I attach it to the metal
box with two small pieces of chain, holding the new door in
place but allowing it to open upward. Then I take old Tortuga
back to the lagoon with a large tarp in the cargo area and fill
the tarp with the oozing goo of the lagoonbed. I return to the
hut and dig a small firepit in the sand, lining it with slop
from the lagoon. Then I construct a mud structure about twelve
inches above the firepit and place the box on top. We covered
the sides and top of the box with a thick layer of mud. Then we
After two days the mud had fully set and cracked in numerous
places. We decided to try it out. Mary Ann whipped up some
concoction that included flour, water, leavening and a few other
simple ingredients. I built a fire in the new firepit and
closed the door to the box sitting atop.
"What temperature do we want?" I called.
"I don't know. Maybe 350."
She stirred the flour. I stirred the coals. Our souls were
stirred at the thought, 30 minutes into our future, of what we
would be eating. Mary Ann put dollops of her mixture into a
muffin pan we had been fortunate to bring with us on this
adventure. We popped the tray into the box and closed the lid.
The sides of the wooden lid smoked as they came into contact
with the metal box. Every few minutes I opened the door just a
little to see how the muffins were rising. Just a little, just
so, now pillowing, now turning a perfect golden. And then we
were consumers once again, of tasty baked paste on this remote
place we loved so fully.
We walked from time to time, us four beasts along the beach, and
more. We scanned the shoreline for other flotsam and jetsam.
Whenever we spotted an object that might prove useful we adopted
it. You just never know when something you stumbled upon might
turn up to be useful. In utility, did we fulfill the box or did
it fulfill us? Together we made each productive and useful.
Mary Ann and I had learned a lot about each other with our quiet
time there, after a summer in our hut of thatch and on our
beach, alone. We had learned about ourselves and our
environment. We learned about life and death in the natural
world. We learned about relationships. We learned the limits
of love and animosity, about richness and poverty, aloneness and
togetherness. We learned to take to each other and our selves.
We learned how to face into the chubasco and flood and just say
I Will Deal With This And WIN!
But poor old Rocinante. He never did figure out how things
worked. Whenever he reached out to touch his magic fish or his
own image, his paw would touch the calm surface there and his
whole big picture, whatever that was, would begin to fade.