We passed many more days in the warming rays of the sun,
friendship and camaraderie. We caught and canned more fish. We
ate many shared meals and sweated together in the midday heat.
We shifted our chairs from place to place to catch the
best-flowing airs. We hugged our kids and listened to their
stories and watched them all playing together on the beach.
One afternoon we were relaxing after our activities of the
mornings fishing when the boys all came running into camp
shouting about rattlesnakes in the small caves along the high
tide line, las cuevitas. Dave Hubrig calmed the boys and
gathered them. Together they went back to investigate. Perhaps
the slippery vipers had escaped. Perhaps the overactive
imaginations of children had escaped. There were, perhaps,
equal dangers in both.
No snakes were found. But this incident did lead us to inform
our friends that there was a doctor available in the village.
We had confirmed this when we had first arrived, aware of the
possibility of snakebite or other accident. There was an
internist who operated a small facility beside the museum. If
the doctor's office wasn't open when you had a need, how far
could he have gone?
Like another summer, ten years before, in another hut on a
slightly more southern beach, with our friends here we were
filled with a sense of warmth and sharing, of humor and
self-deprecation. Over the days our friends sank to the level
of contentedness that Mary Ann, Michael, Kevin and I had
achieved over the time we had settled into Las Cuevitas. The
stimulations here were sensory and tactile, rather than
intellectual. Our minds came at last to a rest position from
which we could see great distances in directions we were not
accustomed to. Sharing an environment as intimate as Las
Cuevitas and our hut was unique to most of us.
Of course, the discussion arose: why not all retire and move to
Baja? I've wanted to do this many times over the years. There
were a couple of times when we could have done just that and
been comfortable; it's so much less expensive and so much more
accommodating than the U.S. But it's not the place, in my
opinion, to make a financial investment of any kind. More
importantly, it's such a difference from what we're used to that
most of us burn out after a brief period of infatuation.
But, what a great feeling it would be to be surrounded only by
your family and friends every day of your life in a sensory
enriched place like this, with no outside problems introduced,
with the world at bay, even unaware of the rest of the world.
How wonderful to awake forever on vacation and to the gentle
sounds of water lapping at the edge of a stony beach. To the
magnificent sound of air flowing through the feathered wings of
a Vee of pelicans working south over the thatched fringes of a
hut on an isolated beach. To open eyes for the first time of
the day to the sun shining off the water in shards through the
thatch. To awake to only the things in your environment that
you had personally selected. To hear the nearby yech-yech-yech
of dominant seagulls, followed in suit by a horde of angry
others, demanding their own attention, the noise filled with too
many strong and masculine egos.
Suns and moons rose and set with prediction. Clouds formed and
faded. Music and laughter came and went. In the evenings
gentle concertos floated across the stones in a fine mist, a fog
clinging to the contours of the land, building a fire in the
night. Days passed, at sea and ashore. We were in that
innocent and protected moment of time where we lived
collectively in a single spirit, where there was no "I", only
"we". We became one as people, we were, for a time
un-individuals, an indivisible one. I fell to thinking about
simplicity theory, the edge of a continent, a single piece of
sea and sky with nothing else to interrupt us. This was the
essence of Baja.
We took the boats out on afternoon runs with the folks that
didn't go fishing in the early mornings. We located and mingled
with the dolphins and whales. It was great to cut the motor in
front of a million charging dolphins, closing in a frothy wall,
chirping, breaching, working with their young. They were as
interested in us as we were in them. Given their intelligence
and their lifespan, they should pass us by in another hundred
millennium or so. We were just a drop in the evolutionary
We drove trucks in the dirt, fueled by alcohol and took the
boats into the village to show everyone around. Several stores
had tee shirts with "L.A. Bay" or "Bahia De Los Angeles" and
pictures of a hot and sandy beach or dolphins stamped across the
front. The old landing strip cutting through the heart of the
village made an interesting story. The fact that, a few years
back you could land an airplane, taxi to a gas station and then
to a hotel, all on the same dirt landing strip was unique.
We drove to the south end of the bay, through the cactus forest
surrounding Las Flores, showed our friends the jail in the
abandoned mining town. We drove east to the end of the road on
the southern- and eastern-most point of the bay, past the
scattered trailers and old mobile homes where a few folks spent
modular pieces of free time. The road ended in a sandy arroyo
half way up the north end of Punta Roja. We walked there
through the golden sand along stingray beach, beyond the end of
the road, past an uninhabited mobile home that had been there
for as long as I could remember, to the small thatched palapa.
We sat in the same shade as we had, years before, with other
friends. Once again, we had all brought folding chairs and we
were so many that we just fit into the shade beneath the thatch.
As we talked and sat and swam we periodically moved the bank of
chairs to remain beneath the shade, as the sun cut a burning arc
through the cloudless sky.
I can look into my most treasured moments from the beginning and
know that they will be too fleeting. The departure of our
friends was one of these. There are moments in life that I want
to last forever, or almost. In the beginning I looked into the
future and saw the end before the beginning had started. And
now the end approached.
As they arrived, the Indian Guides, Jimmy, Carol, Bar and
Marlene were departing en masse. On the designated day they
uprooted themselves, shook and folded their tents, started
engines, added engine lubricants and radiator water, drained ice
chests and passed us the unspoils of war in the desert, their
left us their unused cans and cartons of food. We were prepared
for but saddened at their departure; they were gearing up for
the attack of the desert and the unpredictable and inevitable
problems to face in real time. They were also going back to a
real world while we were continuing in a fairy tale. The last
night we sat on the steps and mingled amongst the camps and
shared the moment's true friend's share, of cocky humor and warm
malaise spread on known prior mistakes. There is a line that
friends cross freely where others could not venture.
On the evening before they left we listened again to the sounds
of nature around us and finished the day with several changes of
sweet and lofty melodies from several hard rock pals of Peter's,
out of Viet Nam and the 70's, winding down to my eclectic solo's
of guitar, piano or flute. Again a gentle and late night on the
beach with moonlight, warm air, natural sounds, laughter and
departing friends to share soon-to-be-lost moments with.
In the morning we said goodbyes. We cried and hugged and made
arrangements for get-togethers on our return home. Our thoughts
were with them throughout the next several days, heading north
toward the border, driving up the coast of Alta California,
through the increasing density of San Diego, La Jolla, Del Mar,
Leucadia and Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside, northward into
the pressure-chamber of Los Angeles. I could smell the fumes of
the smoke-pumping cars and trucks on I-5 as I imagined working
past the Hollywood Freeway split, passing the Seventh Street off
ramp, merging with the Golden State freeway, rushing to exit the
cramping bowels of the freeways of LA, splitting into smaller
arteries working into the northern bedroom communities that
define that side of the LA basin. Before I knew it we were left
with dust settling in the arroyo that led to the plateau and
back to La Gringa, Bahia de Los Angeles and the pavement north.
Our friends were gone.