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Stories by Mike Humfreville

The Tempests of Summer - Bahía de Los Angeles 1985, Part 12: Perspectives    ( Posted , 2004 )

Thin shards of light, launched from a solar surface so many millions of miles distant, finally fall, come to rest at last, inside the western wall of our hut. It's truly not a wall, only a thin edge between an in and an out. A boundary between a place where my young children and wife and I feel safe and a place where we feel at risk.

I watch in the first few moments of my coming-awakeness as the slices of light march across the tatters of thatch and bamboo that form our walls, allowing light and air to pass freely. I feel the security of the small breezes that caress my face and arms, chest, now out of the sheets that have warmed me during the night and are too much for the early-morning quickly-rising temperature. I lay on our bed of smooth round stones from the adjacent beach, stones worn by the decades of permanence in concert with each other and the water lapping there. Light continues marching. A squadron of flies circles the center of the single room. Our home. Occasionally they almost touch and spiral downward, regain their individual distances. Are they playing or fighting? Is ego involved? Is Sex?

From the penfull of animals behind our hut I hear stirrings. At first light the chickens are restless. The rooster crows, a sound that is now white noise, invisible and lost, drowning in the small waves of Las Cuevitas, part of the forever visual and audible land- and seascape. Through the thatch I catch vague and shadowed images of our burrow and goat eying the gate to the simple small corral we have fashioned from palates and cactus. They sense that someone is awake and want out of confinement, their prison.

I slip out of sheets and into lee jeans and sandals. I face the open portal of the hut, bordered against the early sun by gently moving tips of palm fronds, looking east into the Bahía de Los Angeles sunrise. Las Cuevitas is a sheltered cove. Rocky points form the northern and southern rims of my closer periphery. Further distant is Isla Coronado, Smith's Island, her mysterious volcano to the north, her isthmus to the south. Even more distant in my view is the source of the rays of light on my walls, now behind me. The sun has magically arced an azimuth just over the saddle of Smith's and attracted the few billowy clouds it could find, bound them together and thrown some quiet pastels upon them, gentle hues of rose and peach, all for my sole pleasure. There is a god.

I exit hut quietly, careful not to disturb the sleeping soundless torsos of Michael and Kevin, Mary Ann, still absorbing night. For an instant I watch each of their deep breathing, relaxed postures on the mats over the stones. Then my feet crunch gently amongst those smooth round stones, the stones mesh and merge, shifting to accommodate, to not disturb. They have been together for millennium. They belong, work together. They are a universe, a whole. I stand for a moment, taking in the scene and realize that this may be the only peace I find in my harried life, this instant in time, this summer with my wife and two small sons. Tomorrow I may well be dead. I remember the burro and goat and turn to the corral.

Burlap and Billy are happily released from confinement. They follow me, crunching through stones to the front of the hut. The small wavelets are lapping, the birds working, the clouds churning. Lassie, the Border collie, greets Burlap with great licking of whiskers, quiet nuzzling. Burlap and Billy rollick, kick up heels at the facing of a new day. Air is cool and sun is at a small angle and not yet intense. The rooster heads the brood off, pecking through the clusters of seaweed that have collected on our stones during the night.

I walk silently down to the beach on the massive stairway constructed from crude flagstones I have harvested from the desert and arranged on our beach. A monument to man that will surely survive in my mind beyond my shallow existence here.

At the magical place where sea meets land I stand and watch the tiny ripples through which swim even tinier fish, minnows far from the protection of their mother; helpless in a world of snapping life and flashing death-in-an-instant. I marvel at the complexities of life and am pleased, thankful that I am here. Is there actually a god? I'll never know this answer, but I'm thankful regardless, even if only to Earth, a god of an unfamiliar form.

A small sky cry drops from above. My attention is diverted yet further upward, into the clustered billows and colors there and to a pair of Frigatebirds circling high above the quiet waters. They have spotted some bit of floating flotsam. Their split tails and bent, prehistoric wings are out of date and yet fill the sky with the moment. The scene is only complete with them there, in air far over water.

A new day has broken at Las Cuevitas. Soon the heat will damage the freshness of morning and drag it toward noon meanness. Soon a halo will slowly form over the volcano, heralding the rise to 95 degrees and percentages of humidity. Soon the quiet personal moments of reflection will be lost to the discomforts and threats of the day. How fortunate I am, I reflect off the still waters of Las Cuevitas, to have stumbled upon this Eden. How could I progress (is that the right word, I wonder?) further through life without this depth-sounding heart to secure me throughout?

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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