Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bus ride back to Loreto

The movie is in English, the radio in Spanish, and the bus driver, whose gas pedal is connected to his mouth, is chatting away at 50mph through the Baja California night. I’ve given up listening to my Swedish language CD, and look out the window.

Peace and a crescent moon in the sunset. We are the moments of our lives, and this journey is sweet. I am headed back to Loreto from San Diego after coming north to run a brief kayaking class.

First the driver talks with the relief driver, who rides in a jumpseat that folds down in the stairway. At a stop, the relief driver crawls underneath by the luggage to sleep before his shift. The chatty driver begins talking with the woman in the other front seat, and invites her to the jumpseat. This is a great bonus for me for 3 reasons. One, I do not feel like talking, and she is happy to. Two, she is keeping the driver awake and connected to the gas pedal, and three, I have even more space to stretch out.

We stop for dinner at a bus stop café. Eighteen overworked pots share one stovetop and two women lift lids, stir, shuffle pots around, and wait for the wall of hungry faces to voice their desires.

“?Que hay?” someone asks.
A rosary of options is mumbled back. Bistek, machaca, deshebrada…

Somebody calls out an order, and one woman pokes at a pot with more purpose.

“Bistek” I say, figuring I’d end up with some form of cow on a plate.
The other cook looks at me, and stirs another pot. “?Plato o burrito?”

“Burrito,” I reply.
I look around to spy a tortilla so I’d have a clue what size she is selling, but don’t see any. “Dos,” I guess. If they are little, at least with two I won’t starve, and if they are big, maybe one will make a good breakfast.

I take my plate of two humble burritos and sit down at a little plastic table. After a moment another woman asks if she can join me, and I agree.

Good food, I say in Spanish.
Hunger makes anything good, she replies with a smile.
An older woman joins us. We exchange our stories in tiny verbal snapshots.

Sometimes when strangers get together, the truest of things get said. I’m not sure how, but here we sit, sharing a bus stop table, the elderly 2-time cancer survivor, the accident survivor, and me. Expressing our thanks for the tragedy-blessings that made us more aware of what a gift life is.

We climb back on the bus for the long haul, me 20 hours from Tijuana to Loreto, the viajita 22 hours home to Insurgentes, and the younger woman 26 hours to La Paz for work. I sit in the front seat of the bus, just behind the driver, and am the beneficiary of many smiles as people step or hobble their ways on board.

The fourth movie ends and still the chatty driver keeps the pace. I am wearing every stitch of clothing I brought and am still freezing. The driver’s chatting assistant has a blanket that I think he loaned her. After finally accepting that covering myself with my computer bag isn’t going to make me any warmer, I lean down to ask the assistant if she could inquire if there were any more blankets. Shortly the driver pulls off the road, opens the luggage compartment, and brings me a blanket. We resume the road. Extremely thankful, I drift off to sleep.

At a military checkpoint somewhere in the dark, two calico soldiers board and look about this capsule of traveling strangers. Seeing nothing noteworthy, they let us go on. Drivers switch, and the background of conversation ceases. The assistant curls to sleep on her seat. Mellow ranchero ballads follow the new driver down the road.

Sunrise brings a procession of cacti in gentle lighting that makes the austere look romantic. Distant mountains rotate in a waltz of perspective. The long slow drive through the desert drip-feeds my soul.

Sunrise is a Sandwich

Sunrise is a sandwich.
Blue. Orange. Blue.
Hot orange on a hard blue line

Horizon is an illusion.
Corners of islands float in the fiery sky, not touching the sea.
Horizon is a place you can never touch.
Its flatness undulates with waves.

Black constants on a changing palette--
islands on the horizon.
Sure of themselves.

Sunrise is how I love you this morning.
The passion of opposite colors pressing together
and running for a long time
past solid black milestones.

Beyond the illusion
that holds sea and sky together,
they reflect each other.
Sky cools upwards to blue.
Sea softens near shore to a peachy glow.

Fragments of the beach take flight and wing their ways across
sea and sky
orange and blue
illusion and conviction.
And sunrise is just a transition.

Driving south

From October, 2010
In El Rosario, white confetti blows everywhere. Onion skins from the harvest. In the borders of the great arroyo, through which the road also runs, white onions lie drying. Rows and rows of handsome white globes in the sun. Men walk down the rows, pulling them and setting them out. In a corner of one field, pink mesh bags slouch full of their pearly load.

Another field has 6” seedlings, which look beanish. A man hunches under the sun in a brown sweatshirt and a red hood, tending the seedlings with a short hoe. Perfect rows surround him with green stripes, a dozen between him and the far fence. Five dozen between him and the road. From him to the horizon, the green stripes extend endlessly as I drive, reducing this red-hooded gnome to futility in my mirror, which he defies by simply continuing.

Again tonight I listen to sounds of the sea. In Santa Rosalillita the ruin of an abandoned, unfinished Singlar marina slowly covers its shame in sand dunes. A perfect 12” wave peels across the entrance of the breakwater. This was to be the crux of the Escalara Nautica project, a scheme that would entice yachts to haul out here and drive across the peninsula and thereby shorten their time from the southern US to the Sea of Cortez. Rumor has it that the project was purchased by an Asian firm which will continue the development. Meanwhile, the osprey family enjoys their new blue and yellow nesting platform atop the unused yacht hauler. It’s the only thing left here with color. I think the scene would make a great end-of-the-world movie set. Be sure to capture the dead palms bending in the salt wind in front of the grey coastal fog.

Perspective increases with miles traveled from home. Scenes and memories pass easily through my mind as the landscape scrolls along. Books, friends. King of the Moon, a tender and profound account of rural life where there is a poverty of economy but a richness of human spirit. A friend’s ongoing health challenges. A couple of other friends passing on in recent months. How temporary is this situation called life! Somehow as the miles grow, priorities shift. Migration is a meditation on what is real and what is important.

To live consciously enough to follow inner callings. To live slowly enough to hear them. Open enough to share them. Why do I keep thinking this is just around the corner? What is now, is. Upon arriving somewhere, I get busy, and the dust of the immediate starts clouding the perspective. Not this time, I tell myself.

When I arrive to the beach I’ve called my winter home for 14 years, there is nothing about it that would indicate that I live here. It’s just a patch of sand and shrubbery.

I find a broken blue crate left by the fishermen, and sit on it beneath a quarter moon. And breathe. How simple and beautiful a moment can be. Life, I celebrate you! A cool mountain wind hugs me from behind. Ripples tickle the shore and make the only sound in a vast, calm silence.

I drop the truck’s tailgate and cook there. Then throw my sleeping bag on the beach and sleep. There will be other days for working. I resolve to keep the perspective I’ve found, do what I can each day, and leave the rest in peace.

A lizard rousts me from dreamland by running up my face. Its lightening fast, but I can still feel each gripping foot across my cheek. I rub the feeling of lizard feet away. The water is so calm that Orion throws three stripes on the surface. One for Rigel, the foot of the celestial hunter as he hooks it over Danzante Island and shimmies up into the sky. One for the belt, since the three stars are vertically aligned, and one for Betelgeuse, the shoulder.

I’m home.