I was up at first light and, still in work mode while I had an
assignment, ready to get at it. I walked around the beach
looking for the best and safest place for a hut. There was one
logical choice, a few feet above the high tide line in an area
that was covered with the smooth round stones we knew were
preferable over sand. Sand was great for a beach but in a house
it got into everything, especially when the wind blew.
I went back to the trailer. Michael and Kevin were sound asleep
in their bed. Mary Ann was awake and up. We discussed the
location and agreed on the site. I moved enough of the lumber
to begin setting the uprights and organized tools and equipment.
The pile of materials didn't look large enough to build a house.
When the boys got up and wanted to help we had them carry the
lumber, one board at a time, with one of them on each end,
across the short distance of beach to where I was working.
I measured out where the upright beams would go and drew lines
to indicate the orientation of the hut with respect to the
beach. The front of the hut would face Smith's volcano and the
sunrise. We removed the thin layer of stones and scooped out
holes in the sand to a depth of 18 inches. If we buried the
eight-foot posts at this depth we would still have plenty of
height, 6 and one-half feet. Once each beam was in place we
buried it in sand. One of us would scoop the loose sand out of
the hole as quickly as possible while the other would plant and
hold the post upright while the other filled the hole with sand
and stones. We repeated this for each upright, with the boys
thinking it was great fun to have a reason to dig in the sand.
Soon all the beams were in place. The boys lost interest and
Mary Ann took them back to the trailer to inflate beach balls
and inner tubes. I started nailing the cross members to the
vertical beams. By midday, even though I was working slowly and
taking breaks to cool off in the water, the framing was complete
for the basic structure.
After lunch the boys were going into the water and Mary Ann sat
on the beach watching them play and I started to hang the
double-layered roll-up bamboo screens onto the framework as
walls and roof. This went quickly and by early afternoon we had
an eight by sixteen foot hut that gave us protection from the
sun during the day and the unknowns of the night. We all
started filling the structure with the food and gear we had
brought; sleeping gear into the north end, kitchen goods into
the south end. I still had to construct the kitchen counters
and hang the fruit crates that would serve as cabinets, but that
could wait until tomorrow. At least we had a basic structure.
In the mid afternoon we moved our four cots into the shade of
the hut and rested, reading. But there was still work to do and
I couldn't relax.
I assembled the plywood countertops I had precut and nailed them
into place, hung the fruitcrate cabinets from the higher
horizontal beams. Mary Ann put self-adhesive lining paper over
the raw plywood and we positioned the camp stove on the counter,
and the canned food. We put the dry goods in an otherwise empty
ice chest to protect them from the mice and Kangaroo rats. I
hung lengths of wire bent to form small hooks from the ceiling
in the kitchen and from these we suspended pots and pans. We
arranged the plates and cups in the cupboards and silverware
into a partitioned storage case. I mounted other fruit crates
onto the walls of the bedroom and Mary Ann put up foldable
clothing. From the roof there we hung shirts. Every open space
was used efficiently, without seeming cluttered or
By evening I stood back, looked at our accomplishments of a
single day, and thought voila, instant hut.
And that night we spent our first in our new home.
Of the various times of day in Baja the evening is the most
complete. Perhaps this is so because what was to be
accomplished during the day has or has not been done but is now
fact. The mornings are full of hope, midday filled with work,
afternoons are looking forward to the realization of the days'
efforts. But by evenings the day is past and we can reflect on
the events of that day and plan the next and relax to do the
things we would do if we had only to entertain ourselves. As
the sun's light faded we made dinner and lit the lanterns and
fussed over the final arrangements of our collected stuff.
Michael and Kevin decided which wooden crates were for their
toys and which for cloths and arranged and rearranged and
started over again.
Mary Ann and I walked outside to examine our handiwork. The
golden lantern light from inside seeped through the split bamboo
shades spilling onto the sand and stones of the beach. The
small bodies of our children discussing what went here and what
went there was a wonderful and tender moment. We could see
through into the inside just enough to see their movements.
This sight coupled with the sounds of the sea and air, the
absolute openness of the beach, the knowledge that we were here
completely on our own filled me with a feeling of accomplishment
and of completion. I knew this would be a summer of our lives.
We stood outside for a few minutes thinking about the additions
we could make to improve our home. We decided that another
room, the same dimensions as the first, could be added to the
beach side, and left completely open to the water. We could use
half of this as a library and eating area. The other half could
be used for storage and we could add another small piece of
plywood on a box, as a coffee table. But those were thoughts
for another day.
By the time we walked back into the hut the boys were asleep on
their cots. We pulled the sheets around them and opened chairs
and sat where the library would be. I found the radio and put
on a John Williams Spanish guitar album. This was the perfect
end to a great day. There were many more to come. We were
looking forward to watching the boys slow down from the rush of
everyday life in southern California. We knew it would take
some time, but we knew it would happen. It would happen to us
as well. A breeze came up and kept the insects to a minimum and
we sat into the evening with the guitar playing in the
background, reading by dim light, until we were tired. We
arranged our night things and went to bed. As I turned off the
music the night noises of Las Cuevitas took its place and we
fell into sleep listening to new sounds.