Monday, September 27, 2010

Where beauty resides

I think the Dog Beach ebb current on Friday afternoon helped to pull of the stunt I’m trying to repeat now without success. I’m in the surf off Mission Beach, in a small gap between surfers. Mission Beach waves are much stronger than Dog Beach waves. I’m getting body blasted and side-surfed back to the beach instead of the graceful, dynamic, and perhaps lucky maneuver of two days ago. Mike stands behind a long camera lens on the beach hoping for some photogenic carnage.

Image: a green wall of water rises behind the kayak, about to break, completely obscuring the sky. At full velocity I try to punch through it and get surfed backwards and broached. Again. I wash up on the seaweed at Mike’s feet and suggest we try back at Dog Beach, which had looked too small earlier. I’m willing to take a little less manhandling by the surf.

On the drive over we pass clusters of red-clad walkers. Walking for MS.

“People are walking for everything these days,” says Mike. “The Walk for the Cure for breast cancer came through my neighborhood all dressed in pink. Some costumes. Guys with stuffed shirts that read Save the Boobs. It’s a 3-day event, huge! Survivors, people with family and friends affected, people who just care. There were literally thousands of walkers.”

We get on the topic of hope and post-surgery decisions. “A friend of mine had reconstruction and tattoos of Hawaiian flowers on hers,” I say. “Some reporter interviewed her for a recent article.” Tattoos are an appropriate topic when driving through Ocean Beach, where at the grocery co-op the other day I believe I was the only one of any age without body art.

Mike has worked in newspapers and photography. He mentioned a photo essay a colleague did on survivors with tastefully done shots of scars and reconstruction. A celebration of life and deeper beauty. I related a comment my dad made when I announced 4 years ago that I did not want reconstruction after my mastectomy. My dad is one of the people I respect most on this planet for his faith and his constant search for deeper meaning. With uncharacteristic anxiety, he asked how I would still be beautiful for some guy. I was too surprised to really answer. No doubt he was just expressing his concern for my well-being. I stuck with my choice and am glad for it. Mobility and overall health were my priorities. I just wanted to be able to paddle, coach, and live as fully as possible. Besides, if some guy with whom I’m building a relationship is concerned about a big scar and the lack of one boob, I don’t want to be with that guy. As it turns out, my man isn’t phased at all. Deeper things hold us together, despite being on opposite sides of the planet most of the time.

My photographer for the morning, meanwhile, helps me carry my pale green kayak through swirls of happy dogs. I find another gap between the surfers off Dog Beach, and play in the gentler waves. The morning tide is flooding still, and the waves don’t have the right shape for my stunt, so I ride a couple frontwards just for fun. Finally I park myself in front of a bigger set and give it all I have left.

The green wall rises up before me. I paddle backwards, turning to check one more time for anyone behind me. Up comes the bow. I lean forward then forcefully come back to center and yes! The stern sticks, the bow swings around in the foam. I brace on the left and swing my hips, turning the brace into a forward stroke as I come out on top of the foam pile, far enough forward that a little push and a forward lean sends my boat down over it. Whoo-hooo the drop! I watch the bow puncture the green water just in front of the wave and go deep. Not part of the plan, but it’ll make some photogenic carnage, I think, as I tuck my head for the flip. I roll up grinning, and go back energized to try again.

On the next set wave, it feels right. All clear behind, green swell rising before. Timing, momentum in reverse, weight shift to stick the stern. Which way will she turn? I listen with my body… then brace on the left as my playful Romany spins on her tail. A little propulsion, and I ride down the foam pile to surf perfectly towards the beach. Big grin! Joy from deep inside. Satisfaction beyond reason for simply having pulled off a surf stunt, and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. We carry the kayak back to the car and Mike is grinning too.

The shots he got, my flip, his excitement. “Yeah, action, carnage, go!” As an afterthought, “I hope she’s ok.”
He continues, referring to our earlier conversation, “I have a response for your dad.”
“One Ginni Callahan smile is worth 2 boobs any day!”
I like it.

That’s a universal truth, really. Joy from deep inside is where real beauty resides. No matter what the turbulence around us, if we look deep enough, there is always something to be joyful for, even if it is mere breath, or a memory.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Loreto Kayak Symposium--making Baja history!

Loreto, Mexico. More than halfway down the Baja peninsula, Loreto is the access point for the National Marine Park of the Bay of Loreto, a popular kayaking destination. The Park itself is part of a World Heritage Site encompassing all of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. Sea kayak tours have been an increasing part of the local economy since the early 1980s yet kayaking for enjoyment or considering sustainability in their use of the environment has not traditionally been part of the local culture. That is changing.

There are many stories to tell here, and the Loreto Kayak Symposium, organized by Ginni Callahan and Ivette Granados of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, is just a small chapter. The vision for the event is to be "a force for sustainable tourism based on sound ecology and appreciation for the natural landscape."

To that end, the event aims to make kayaking accessible and fun for everyone including kids, families, young adults, professionals, adults, and university students. Part of this is an extension of the kids' kayaking programs Granados began last summer, and it ties in with the "Alternative Tourism" track offered by the local university and the universities of La Paz and Los Cabos.

The Loreto Kayak Symposium will also make professional kayak training available for guides and instructors. This is an extension of what Callahan has been doing locally for 10 years.

Finally, the event hopes to raise national and international interest in the National Marine Park of Loreto (and other protected areas of Mexico) and to draw visitors.

Event sponsors include the National Marine Park of the Bay of Loreto, the Loreto Campus of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, the Municipality of Loreto, Hotel Tripui, Kokatat, and Werner Paddles.

Activites include the Kayak Festival Weekend October 23-24. A big kayaking party on the beach, the festival provides a fun environment to find out what kayaking is about, and an invitation to learn more.

Provided free to all on the Loreto waterfront are: beach classes, demonstrations, info tables, and evening presentations, in Spanish and English. Available for a modest cost: classes, competitions, retail items, and short family tours.

Topics include:
• Kayaking equipment-how to wear a wear a life jachet, how to choose a paddle.
• VHF radio & how to use it, given in a presentation by the Port Captain.
• Reading a nautical chart.
• Floating in a Life Jacket
• Capsize and Safety
• Rolling and Preventing Capsize
• Balance Tricks & Games
• Steering
• Expedition planning

Sunday Races are Sponsored by Kokatat, Werner Paddles, and Sea Kayak Baja Mexico. Great prizes include: PFD (life jacket) from Kokatat, Fiberglass paddle from Werner Paddles, Kids paddle from Werner Paddles, "This is the Sea" action kayaking DVD, Gift Certificate for 1 free day of classes the following week, and more. Race entry fees for 16yrs & up are $100 pesos, for 15 yrs & under $50 pesos.

Competitions are important for providing local impetus for paddling. Paddling for recreation is not traditionally part of the culture, but competitions of any sort are well understood. Last year, a kayak race was held as part of the National Park Days in Loreto. Such competitions serve to raise awareness of the park, and the recreational opportunities that the waterfront provides. In other Baja cities, competitive paddlesports have raised an interest in paddling among young people, and Loreto hopes to do the same. Good prizes really drive the competitive participation!

Kayak Courses happen the week after the Festival Weekend, October 25-31. Full day and multi-day courses are offered, from beginner classes to Leader and Coach certifications. British coach Phil Hadley, Dutch coach Axel Schoevers, and American coaches Jen Kleck and Matt Nelson, in addition to Ginni Callahan, will run the courses. There are still spaces available in almost all the courses. Discounted lodging is provided by Hotel Tripui, and local transportation by the university. Special permission from the Park has been granted to use private, non-registered kayaks for classes during the event.

A special National Marine Park Tour in the National Marine Park is offered during the symposium by the original Loreto outfitter,Paddling South. October 22-31. This trip includes a special presentation by the National Marine Park about the incredible biodiversity of the area.

Loreto, Mexico. The original Mission to the Californias, and the first capital of the state of Baja California Sur. Now, site of the first Sea Kayaking Symposium in Baja. Still making history!

Loreto Kayak Symposium symposium link

For more info about sustainability in the Loreto area, visit:
Grupo Ecologista Antares
National Marine Park of Loreto Facebook Page

Friday, September 10, 2010

from my garden to your computer screen

Writing while eating dinner. It’s one way of sharing a meal.

So here goes. Mashed red potatoes from my garden. Nice and peppery. Served on an orange plate with white polka-dots from my friend Diana. Slaw with all kinds of vegetable matter—cabbage, 4 different colors of carrot (red, orange, yellow, and white), green onions, celery and parlsey. All from that good ol’ garden, except for the light balsamic vinaigrette dressing. And to top it off, 2 lamb chops the tenderest you can imagine, raised just down the road at Greyfields Farm, and cooked up with garlic and rosemary from guess where? I love my garden! I pulled it all out this week so I could cover it with tarps and leave for Mexico. Otherwise there won’t be a garden when I come back in June, just Very Tall Weeds.

Meanwhile the Raspberries are in overdrive (almost a gallon this evening!). They are determined to see that I get my garden time each day despite having ripped out everything rippable and trying to focus on packing to leave. Just try to rip out determined raspberries! They are related to blackberries, after all. They have the same last name. I bet if I didn’t dig back their imperialist roots and cover the shredded ground with metal roofing or heavy tarps with cinder blocks on them, within 2 years they would have my whole 50’x100’ garden in their prickly grasp. But their plump heavy berries are a joy, and delicious. I think they are trying to tell me that they will miss me.

To do a few things and do them well. To take good care of the things I do have, whether it’s a tool or a garden or a motor vehicle (they may not look like much, but both the car and the truck have over 200,000 miles on them and still run well most of the time). This is one of the tenets of my deepest beliefs. To take care of and appreciate what one does have. What happens when the projects pile up, all worthy, but just not enough time or energy in one human to give them all the quality time they deserve? Well, I suppose one downsizes or one goes insane. Talking to raspberries, does that qualify as insane yet?