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Stories by Mike Humfreville

The Tempests of Summer - Bahía de Los Angeles 1985, Part 23: Continuing Days    ( Posted August 2, 2004 )

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 bucket.

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.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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