Paradise Lost

A couple of the healthier dogs living at the dump.

Half-way between the coast where I live and the city where we shop sits the municipal dump. El Basurero Municipal. Before the miracle of garbage collection came to Vinorama, we used to take our garbage directly there on our way to town. But we had to stop. The trip to the dump had become too much for us. I’d often leave the dump in tears.

As we approached the dump, windows were rolled up, air conditioning turned on. Flies, moscas, increased in number the closer we got. Entering, we made our way to the area for domestic refuse. Here the flies buzzed in huge clouds everywhere, seemingly flinging their little black bodies at the car windows in a frenzy. Despite Tony admonishing, “Don’t look, just look straight ahead, don’t look around!” I could not help myself.

On this occasion there were several people climbing about, over, and through the mounds of garbage. Right in front of where we parked our vehicle, a chubby man sat in a large pile of garbage. I watched in horror as he opened a bottle of yogurt drink, sniffed the contents, and, cocking his head, gulped it down. The scavengers were naturally filthy, but what was unsettling was that they appeared to be asleep, moving about like the walking dead. Hunger aside, I wondered what possessed them?

Dumbfounded by what I’d witnessed, I got out of the truck and put myself to the task at hand. While Tony unloaded the garbage, I opened several cans of dog food and poured them onto paper plates. Together we walked to where a large group of dogs waited and laid the plates on the ground. The dogs did not run over, despite the fact that their noses detected something other than rotting garbage on the plates. And if we moved too fast, they retreated in abject fear.

I focused on a brindle-coated puppy of about seven months, old enough to already be fearful, but still more trusting than the older, wizened hounds. Satisfied that we’d done what we could, our supply of dog food almost exhausted, we departed the tragic scene. We could only take so much.

But this time, just outside the gates of the dump, we were assaulted by another sight. A large honey-colored dog trotted down the road towards the dump. She held her head low, a furrow on her brow and, in tow, were eight puppies. They were carbon copies of their mother, the only variation being a small white patch here or there on a foot or chest. They couldn’t have been more than seven weeks old and were skinny, so skinny. Their mother was skin and bone too. Her teats hung flaccid and empty.

Stopping the truck, we jumped into action. “Get the food open! Get the food open!” Tony urged, “so they smell it before they run away!” The mother had already retreated into the dust-laden bushes, a look of horror on her face. Several puppies followed her, scrambling over mounds of dusty garbage that hadn’t quite made it to the dump. A few of the braver pups were looking at us curiously, their noses moving, heads perked and ears turning this way and that, conscious that mom was telling them it was not safe.

They detected something…something that smelled too good to ignore. A bowl with clean, fresh water and a plate of canned dog food were placed as close as possible, but well off the road. Encouraging noises were made. Thankfully no trucks had come and we worked as quickly as possible, while trying not to frighten the wary dogs.

One pup made contact with the food and dug in, energized by the realization of what heaven was. Her litter mates, sparked by her reaction, came running. Pushing, jostling for position, they gulped the food down in great bites, barely pausing for breath. A second plate was prepared and the puppies encouraged to eat their fill.

Mama dog watched, clearly still very frightened, but her pups were now oblivious to her fear. A truck was coming, we had to move. Reluctantly we departed, leaving them there, on the side of the road, mother watching, not eating, staying a safe distance away.

We pulled away slowly and the tears welled up. Through them, I expressed my dismay. Tony was angry and upset too. Frustration came from understanding what could and couldn’t be done, from knowing that the mother would not be easily caught, that the pups would run away too. Homes for puppies were getting scarce and fewer still were willing to take a feral dog like the mother. And we already had eight dogs. This situation had played itself out far too many times over the course of our stay in Mexico.

More and more organizations crop up with the goal of making a difference in the lives of animals here, but at the cultural level the issue of animal overpopulation and mistreatment gets little attention. Among Mexicans, there is great resistance to animal sterilization based on traditional religious and cultural beliefs. And it is not purely the uneducated and simple who resist. Even some well-educated and wealthy Mexicans revile the act.

I’m thankful that we no longer have to go to the dump, but the images of the frightened mother and countless other abandoned animals are imprinted indelibly upon my memory. It is in images such as these that paradise is lost.


For information or to make a donation to one of the animal welfare organizations working in San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas or Los Barriles, please click on the following links:

Love is an open sky

It is Sunday. A day of rest. Therefore I rely upon others to speak for me. With words that speak to me. A small piece of wisdom from Osho…


Love is an open sky.

To be in love is to be on the wing. But certainly, the unbounded sky creates fear. And to drop the ego is very painful because we have been taught to cultivate the ego. We think the ego is our only treasure. We have been protecting it, we have been decorating it, we have been continuously polishing it, and when love knocks on the door, all that is needed to fall in love is to put aside the ego; certainly it is painful. It is your whole life’s work, it is all that you have created — this ugly ego, this idea that “I am separate from existence.”

This idea is ugly because it is untrue. This idea is illusory, but our society exists, is based on this idea that each person is a person, not a presence. The truth is that there is no person at all in the world; there is only presence. You are not — not as an ego, separate from the whole. You are part of the whole. The whole penetrates you, the whole breathes in you, pulsates in you, the whole is your life. Love gives you the first experience of being in tune with something that is not your ego. Love gives you the first lesson that you can fall into harmony with someone who has never been part of your ego. If you can be in harmony with a woman, if you can be in harmony with a friend, with a man, if you can be in harmony with your child or with your mother, why can’t you be in harmony with all human beings? And if to be in harmony with a single person gives such joy, what will be the outcome if you are in harmony with all human beings? And if you can be in harmony with all human beings, why can’t you be in harmony with animals and birds and trees? Then one step leads to another.


Miracles in paradise

A miracle has occured here in Las Vinoramas on the East Cape of Baja California Sur, Mexico. It is a simple thing, nothing that you will see on the 6 o’clock news, but a miracle none-the-less.

A couple of weeks ago an email was received from a neighbor living to the South of here in Playa Tortuga (a lovely name meaning turtle beach). This email announced that a service was being offered to pick up garbage and recyclable materials. I read the email with detachment, not wanting to get too excited about the situation, as this did not necessarily mean that they would be providing this service all the way out to Las Vinoramas, the middle-of-nowhere really.

An email was sent to the persons indicated and a very pleasant response was received from a lady named Brenda Navarro. The response, in English, included an agreement to come and tell me about their services so I could share the information with anyone in the neighborhood who was interested.

I immediately sent out an email sharing the address of Brenda to everyone in the neighborhood.

That night I mentioned this incredible phenomenon to my neighbor who owns the local restaurant and learned that a second miracle had taken place. In response to my neighbor’s email, they had come and picked up her large pile of garbage that very day!! This was a good sign. Maybe this time it was really going to happen. Clearly it had begun.

Now a bit of explanation is required here for those of you unfamiliar with life on the extreme boundaries of Mexico. The reader needs to understand that many promises are made in this country and many are broken. Many rumors start about roads getting paved and municipal water systems being installed, power being delivered, police presence being more regular, and yes, more than once, regular garbage pick up being conducted. Typically, if they begin at all they soon falter.

So from this history of initiatives lost, you can better understand my stance of not getting too caught up in the prospect of having our garbage picked up. But there it was, Joan’s garbage had been retrieved. I was feeling optimistic.

And yet another miracle occurred a few days later, when the lovely couple, Brenda and Moises arrived at my house at the stated time for our meeting to discuss garbage and recycling. They explained that garbage pick up was to occur twice weekly and would cost 200 pesos ($14) per month. For an additional 150 pesos ($11) a month they would retrieve recyclables including paper, plastic, tin cans, aluminum cans, glass and batteries! Hallelujah!!

Until now, the author has been saving up discharged batteries and has been meaning to take them to the United States on one of her frequent trips there so they could be recycled. Of course, when it comes time to fly I always forget to pack them, remembering them only upon returning. In addition, the guilt felt each time a plastic bottle or glass jar is thrown in the waste basket has been creating deep lines on my forehead and small pock marks on my spirit. When the printer acts up producing multiple copies of something of which only one is required, again the guilt is felt, true regret at our use of resources with no way to recycle. The option then is to exercise the other of the three “R”s and reuse the paper…but I have a rather huge stack collected now.

Upon retreiving the recycling, the Navarros took with them as well a large cloud of guilt that has loomed above the author’s head since moving into her home on the beach. A true miracle in paradise.

Beauty everywhere

It turns out that the author was exhausted, not from the trip to town, but by a nasty virus or bacterium that has taken up residence in her temple. The head is full of snot and so the thinking process is somewhat undermined. In fact, the head is so full of liquid that the nose has become like a leaky faucet. Quite unpleasant.

This is another of the hazards of the trip to town. One is exposed to many bacteria coated surfaces and if one does not take the necessary precautions, illness is almost assured.

Before moving to this country, the author did not get sick very often. Now she seems to be getting cold after cold. And now I am faced with a dilemma: the author had hoped to attend the birthday party of a friend and fellow surfer under the very big and beautiful Fig Tree that is reported to be many hundreds of years old. This Mexican friend’s lovely wife is also a nice woman of similar age to yours truly, whom I had hoped to pass some festive time with. What to do?

A nap is in order. To warm the chilled toes and rest the sore body. And hopefully gain strength enough to attend la fiesta. A little tequila will surely kill whatever it is that ails me.

In my bleary state of compromised health I have opted to share a communication received all the way from Ireland today. The following has been adapted and corrected for errors (for example, the email has sexed the dog incorrectly – it is a “she” not a “he”).

I feel compelled to share it because there is so much beauty in this story.


Faith was born on Christmas Eve in the year 2002, with 3 legs. She had 2 healthy hind legs and 1 abnormal front leg that had to be amputated. She of course could not walk when she was born. Even her mother did not want her and the puppy was rescued when she tried to smother her.

Jude Stringfellow adopted her and ignored veterinarians’ advice to euthanize the puppy. Jude was determined to teach and train this dog to walk by herself.

So she named her ‘Faith’.

At first, she put Faith on a surfboard to let her feel the movement. Later she used peanut butter on a spoon as a lure and reward for her to stand up and jump around.

The other dog at home helped to encourage her to walk. Amazingly, after only 6 months, like a miracle, Faith learned to balance on her 2 hind legs and jumped to move forward.

After further training in the snow, she now can walk like a human being.

Faith loves to walk around now. No matter where she goes, she attracts all the people around her. She is now becoming famous on the international scene. She has appeared on various newspapers and TV shows. There is even a book entitled ‘With a Little Faith’ that has been published about her.

Her owner Jude Stringfellew has given up her teaching post and plans to take her around the world to teach others that even without a perfect body, one can have a perfect soul.

In life there are always undesirable things. I hope this message will bring hope and fresh new ways of thinking to everyone and help us to appreciate and be thankful for all the many small blessings in our lives.


To learn more about Faith visit

Raspberries with milk and a bit of sugar

I returned safely from my journey to town with only a tongue burnt from free, but very hot coffee offered up to the shopper at CostCo. They even had biscotti to go with the coffee! How incredible…like a little café right there in the store.

Of course I was and am still exhausted from the trip to town. By the time everything, including 5 very large bottles of water and two five gallon buckets of paint, was unloaded and put away it was almost 8pm. And the only thing eaten all day was the aforementioned mini coffee, piece of biscotti, one granola bar, some potato chips, a banana and a donut. Yes, a donut. There was no time for the very wonderful Miss Cynthia’s organic veggie lunch.

I don’t know what possessed me to buy the donut. I don’t as a rule even like donuts. But maybe not having a proper lunch really weakened me. All I know is that I think I can still feel it in my stomach some 19 hours later. And my whole body aches. Is it the donut? It is not the road, which by some miracle was very recently graded after months and months of no maintenance whatsoever. Smooth sailing it was, all the way there.

Probably the donut. And the biscotti. And the coffee. All of which the author seldom allows to enter her body, her temple. The potato chips? No. My body is very accustomed to those.

I bought myself another treat yesterday that was not junk. The temple of CostCo was selling beautiful little trays of raspberries. Bright red, with hues of pink, juicy, and delicious-looking. Raspberries are something very near and dear to the heart and palate of the author. There is an emotional, historical attachment to raspberries that arises out of time spent at the family’s summer cottage on a lake in the Laurentian Mountains of Québec, Canada.

When I was a child and raspberries were in season, my mother would pack a group of us kids and usually one of her friends in the car and we’d drive out into the wilds of Québec looking for clearings in the forest where raspberries were sure to be found. Singing to scare away any black bears that might be feasting on the very fruits we sought, our buckets in hand, we would disperse into the thicket of raspberry canes that were often so high you couldn’t see someone only a few feet away.

The sun was hot, the air dry and the cicadas buzzed, adding intensity to the heat.

In our shorts and tank tops or bathing suits, we were scratched and tugged at by the thorny raspberry canes. We filled our buckets and our stomachs. There was nothing so delicious as those berries going directly into the mouth from the cane. We left the thickets hot, sweaty, disheveled with bright pink tongues lolling from our mouths. And excited, knowing what was to come.

Back at the cottage, we would have berries after dinner, with milk poured on top and just a bit of sugar. They melted on the tongue, the juices dripped down the throat, creating a sensation that was as close to heaven as I could imagine. The eyes closed in ecstasy.

My mother would make pies, wonderful raspberry pies that were eaten with almost as much pleasure as the berries and milk. Homemade raspberry pie is still my favorite, but of course, only made the way my mother does and preferably made by hers truly.

The trees have grown up around those berry laden clearings now and the dense bush has become a forest full of maturing maple, birch and some oak. A testament to the passage of time and the resilience of mother nature.

Change is the only constant.

But I still like my raspberries with milk and a bit of sugar.

Que le vaya bien

Today the rather arduous trip to town must be made to buy food, drinking water and gasoline for my truck, to have laundry done, drop off a surfboard for repairs and, if I am lucky, my friend Sunday can squeeze me in for a massage and chiropractic adjustments.

The trip is arduous because it takes 2.5 to 3 hours to get to the temple of CostCo, where soy milk, pine nuts, walnuts, good wine and cheese can be purchased. It is arduous as well because the first half of the trip is over a very rough, pot-holed, windy and washboard-riddled road. If I am lucky, the grader will have passed over it recently, but in light of recent months’ performance, this seems very unlikely. Since the new delegado (mayor) took his seat, the roads to the East Cape have been woefully neglected.

If I did not need to go to CostCo, I could get all my groceries in San Jose, but the savings and selection at CostCo really are unbeatable. I also need to buy paint this trip, so I will go all the way into Cabo San Lucas to my friend Dionicio’s paint store and get his assistance with matching some colors. All in all it bodes to be a very full day.

If I time it just right, I’ll have lunch at Cynthia’s, a lovely restaurant with vegetarian selections made from organic vegetables in a beautiful courtyard.

The trip to town is approached with some trepidation. There is always the chance of a flat tire. Before moving here I had not had one single flat tire in my entire life. Since arriving it has become a serious concern and driving is done with this in mind. There is also the chance of a break down for other reasons – this is particularly unsettling because should this happen I will be alone and stuck on the road and in need of assistance where there is no cell phone service. At one time I would have had to wait very long to see someone on the Palo Escopeta Road, but these days there is a rather constant flow of traffic.

Then there is the concern once arriving in town of an accident. It is unfortunate that the drivers in this part of the world are terribly inadequate and drive like they are trying to get a dying man to the doctor or a priest. This may have something to do with the fact that in order to get a driver’s license here all you have to do is answer a series of questions about which governmental department is responsible for which aspects of road maintenance and safety and presto! you’ve got your license (after paying the applicable fee and having your blood type determined). I was quite amazed when I realized that there was not one question on the exam about how to drive. And then an internal light flipped on and I understood the cause of the resulting roadway insanity.

Of course, to get into an accident here as a foreigner, you are almost guaranteed to be found the guilty party and you better have your insurance in order. No matter if the other driver has none. No matter if they were driving 60 km/h over the speed limit and passing on the right! Magically, any witnesses to the event will have a change of perspective and side with the local person. Sad, but true.

Each time that I return from town unscathed by accident or breakdown (vehicular and emotional), I breathe a sigh of relief and try to figure out how long I can hold out before I’ll have to return once again to the craziness that is town.

Wish me luck or as they say here Que le vaya bien (may your trip go well).

Two Belts

Felipe is our caretaker or, in Spanish, our velador. He is a simple man with very little formal education. He is not sure when his birthday is and he cannot read or write. When I came to live in Vinorama, Felipe was quiet and did not drink much. Tony had hired him to feed his dogs when he is away. Felipe was an excellent choice because, unlike many living in this area, he really cares for animals. In fact, animals are his best friends. Despite being relatively tall and very strong, he is painfully shy and speaks quietly, avoiding eye contact. It is clear to us that he has been treated very badly and has a very low opinion of himself. So, as is often the case with such individuals, he has a special bond with our dogs.

Recently, when Felipe’s regular job ended with the departure of the local contractor from our lovely little community (made even lovelier by his departure), we decided we were ready to start a large project putting pavers around the house and on the driveway, which was just sand and dirt. A condition of hiring Antonio and Juan to do the project was that they also hire their former co-worker Felipe. When they hired Felipe, we told him that the first Monday he didn’t show up to work because he was still drunk, we would forever after hold on to his money and allow him to use it only for non-alcoholic purchases. The first payday came and went without incident, but it was only the second payday when he fell off the wagon with a thud and was drunk all day Monday and Tuesday. He would not get a second chance and we hold his salary for him from now on. Antonio told us that when he asked Felipe about the new arrangement that Felipe said he was pleased because he didn’t want to get drunk.

Yesterday I got angry with Felipe for the first time. Getting angry at Felipe is a lot like kicking a dog, not something that I do as a rule. I’ve always been gentle with him and tried to show him that I cared about his well-being. I reasoned that in time he might come to learn that he was worthy of my caring and develop some self-esteem. This time though, I decided I had to be the “bad cop” for his own good.

It was a Monday and he was working away on the property, making himself busy because Antonio and Juan had not returned from their weekend in the city. Mid-morning he stopped me as I drove off the property to ask me for some of his money. He said it was for two belts and a pair of pants that he would purchase from the traveling vendor. I counted out 500 pesos and told him if the items he needed were more expensive than that, that he should wait and I would arrange to get him some that were more economical. He agreed.

I returned from my errand and at 2pm Antonio and Juan finally arrived. A couple of hours later, I noticed Antonio and Juan working away, but where was Felipe? Antonio told me he was watering plants at the neighbor’s house. I told Antonio that when Felipe said he was watering at Latini’s, he was actually at the local watering hole getting wasted. Antonio smirked knowingly.

As chance would have it, I had to check in with a neighbor who coincidentally lives behind Mr. Latini’s house. As predicted, Felipe was not at Latini’s, so I decided to take action.

On my way home, I turned in to the local restaurant/bar. As I pulled up on my ATV, it appeared to be completely empty, but as the bar came into sight, I saw that the sole patron was indeed our lost caretaker. Hearing the noise of my moto, he looked up, saw me and hung his head in shame. This was it. I was angry and I was going to let him know it.

I marched up to him and began to castigate him for his poor behavior and then, seeing that he had both a beer and a glass of something else in front of him I picked up the drink to discover it was rum. This really incensed me, so I threw the drink out into the desert. “Rum Felipe!!? Why are you drinking rum? You are going to kill yourself!! Why are you here?! Why aren’t you working?!! You lied to me about buying the clothes and now you are drinking the money I gave you!!” I held up the quart sized beer bottle, which was 4/5ths empty and dumped the contents out on the ground. “No more! No more beer! No more rum!” and noticing he had a plate of food in front of him, “Eat your food and come home Felipe!”

The whole time I was standing there yelling, I was only slightly aware that there were two restaurant employees standing behind me. When I turned and noticed them, the one I knew named Abraham began to make excuses and claimed no responsibility for Felipe’s state. “He arrived here drunk Senora. Those are the only two drinks he’s ordered here.” Greeting both employees politely, they seemed to relax and Abraham said “why don’t you take him home with you senora?” to which I replied “because I’m on an ATV and he will surely fall off before I get home.” They both nodded in appreciation of the obvious and Abraham said he would bring him home. I thanked him and turned back to Felipe to repeat my instructions that he was to eat and come home.

I spent the rest of the evening at a friend’s house. I have no idea if Abraham did in fact bring Felipe home, but the lights in his casita told me he was there when I returned. I wondered if he had managed to get more booze and if he’d be in any shape to work the next day. And I marveled at how a man who once did not know what a lie was had learned how to weave a web of deception.

This morning I rode up to his house to ask him to come to my house so we could talk with Antonio. He was standing outside by his makeshift table, a knife in one hand and a belt in the other. I wondered if maybe he had in fact bought a belt yesterday and it just needed a new hole to adjust it to fit his small waist. I asked him “what are you doing Felipe?” and he replied that he was trying to fix his broken belt and that the truck with the clothes for sale had not come yesterday. “So,” I thought, “he did at least intend to buy himself a couple of belts.” When the truck didn’t arrive, he must have figured “Two belts at the restaurant are just as good!”

Seven Years

Today is the anniversary of my arrival on the East Cape of Baja. It was seven years ago that I arrived in Cabo Pulmo after a very long journey across and down the west coast of North America. In these seven years I have learned much, evolved greatly and experienced many incredible things.

Arriving with a most rudimentary knowledge of the language, over the course of these seven years I have learned to speak Spanish. I continue to learn new words almost every day and there are still moments of confusion, but they are quickly resolved.

I learned to surf from a wonderful teacher. I met committed and some famous surfers and surfboard shapers. I got six stitches in my head and xrays of my back. I found a wonderful chiropractor who helped straighten it all out.

I learned when to walk away and when to stick it out. I learned that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your best efforts are not enough. I learned that trusting souls can be trusted and the converse is also true.

I learned that wachinango (red snapper) is my favorite fish and that oysters are best eaten right on the beach where you purchased them from the friendly ostioneros (the oyster fishermen).

I learned there are too many dogs here that need a home for me to adopt them all. I learned that it is not wise to have someone’s dog fixed without making sure it’s really their dog.

I saw pink pigs swimming in the sea and digging on the beach for crabs. I befriended a one-eyed donkey who wore Marti Gras beads. I saw a dead colt eaten completely by vultures in less than one day.

I saw a moon that made a golden trail across the sea and more stars than I can count. I lived through at least three hurricanes and many more tropical storms. I survived the dengue hemorrhagic fever that kept me down for months and covered my body in tiny blood blisters. I attended three funerals and many memorial services. I learned that lo siento has a double meaning, “I am sorry” and “I feel it” to express that you understand their pain.

I dove deep under the sea and saw countless beautiful animals. I watched as turtles were captured, tagged and released. Helped to find turtle nests so that they could be protected from predators and watched tiny hatchlings set out on their incredible journey to the sea. I witnessed the migration of morbula rays and the humpback whales breaching and playing with their young.

I wondered at the destruction as the shrimp trawlers chugged by and was dismayed at the death of a whale caught in a drift net. I photographed and reported the decimation of a large track of pristine desert by greedy, ignorant developers and was saddened by the fencing of once wild and open land.

I planted a garden. I felt the warm sun. I swam in the vast sea. I watched the day fade into shades of purple and pink.

I rediscovered my passion.

The Art of Surfing

I did not post anything yesterday, as some of you may have noticed. Instead I went surfing. It was suggested by a friend, who noticed the omission, that surfing was a waste of my time. That I would be better off writing.

“But you run!” I countered. He replied “Yes, but that does not take much time.”

And so the question was posed by myself to myself:

Is surfing worthy of the large chunks of time spent in its pursuit? Would I be better off doing something else with my time? If the downside to surfing is the amount of time it takes to do it, what are the positive aspects of surfing that non-surfers might not appreciate? And in the pursuit of one passion (writing), must you give up others (surfing)?

My friend is right. Surfing is a very time-consuming activity. Particularly if you, like me, want to make the most of it every time you go out. Typically I surf for three hours straight. Then I might come in, go home to eat something and watch to see what happens over the course of the day. If conditions are good in the afternoon, there is a good chance a second session will be undertaken. The second session is often shorter, but can be as long as two or two and a half hours. On REALLY good days, I’ve been known to surf three times.

The end result is that entire days can be spent in the pursuit of waves. That is a lot of time to spend doing a sport. Some would go so far as to call it decadent. But is surfing just a sport? or is there more to it than meets the uninitated eye?

The label “surf bum” is often applied to surfers who spend a lot of time surfing and less time working or taking care of the things that other people feel they must do in the course of their daily lives. And certainly, the perception is that the surfers are “wasting” their time.

An older surfer I know has been quoted as saying:

In my life, I’ve had a wonderful time wasting my time surfing. And the most important word in that statement is “wonderful.”

Hedonistic? Maybe, but I submit that this notion of surfing as a waste of time is completely subjective. Who are we to say that anything one does is a waste of time?

You are right now exactly where you should be.

The spiritual nature of surfing must not be dismissed. Between sets, sitting atop his board, surfer becomes meditator. The only sounds he hears is the roar of the waves and sea birds’ calls. She bears witness as whales breach and cavort outside the break. Sunrise and sunset are greeted partially submerged in the pulsing, breathing, life-giving Ocean. Immersed in nature, surrounded by beauty, the surfer is transformed.

The metaphorical becomes reality when the surfer literally walks on water. Unlike a mountainside or other solid surface, the wave is ever changing and dynamic, requiring of the surfer so much focus and concentration that the mind is released from the craze-inducing endless stream of thoughts. The surfer realizes a Zen-like state. Surfing offers release and the surfer returns from the adventure calmer, more centered, content.

The end result is EXACTLY the same as meditation!

So you tell me, is meditation a waste of time?

Yesterday’s surf at Nine Palms, Baja, Mexico.

Inspiration I

Inspiration defined is: a creative force or influence; person etc. simulating creativety etc.; sudden brilliant idea; divine influence, esp. on writing of Scripture.

That is a very boring definition for such a powerful word.

When I am uninspired I feel a bit blue, lazy and confused. And I eat a lot more and spend time thinking about food. It is amazing to me how different I feel when I am inspired. I feel excited! energized, optimistic. I am uninterested in food, hurry to finish my meal so I can get back to what I was doing and often skip meals altogether!

I have been experiencing a period of inspiration for about a week now. It was like a light turned on and I popped my head out of the hole it’s been in. The light sure is lovely out here!

I was going to surf this morning, but the wind isn’t cooperating. Unlike other times when I cannot surf, I don’t really care! I spent my morning doing my yoga practice and meditating. I have a very full day planned full of fun with friends and some excitement. The excitement is that my new friend is going to take my picture. He’s a real photographer and photographed thousands of people. I am curious to see what we make together, this famous photographer and me, the woman who is working on letting go of her insecurities.

Where do you get your inspiration? Whether it be for rising out of bed, just getting through each day or your latest artistic endeavour, what is the source of the energy that drives you forward?

This morning’s yoga inspiration is Krishna Das as he sings Namah Shivaya. I hope you enjoy is as much as I do each time I listen to it. And that you too will join in and sing this powerful beautiful and yes, inspiring chant.

The Om Namah Shivaya mantra or chant consists of six syllables – om, na, mah, shi, vaa, ya. When chanted properly, each syllable activates certain energy centers within our bodies as we meditate upon the energy of Lord Shiva. Shiva is considered the greatest of the yogis, the lord of meditation, and the lord of all that is mystic and mysterious in hindu practices. The Panchaksharya (meaning having five sylables) mantra is one of the holiest mantras of which volumes have been written interpretting it. I personally like the interpretation that says it means I bow to Shiva. Shiva is the supreme reality, the inner Self and so it is a chant to help us release all that is unreal and to return to that which is real – our True Divine Self. Om Namah Shivaya is known as the great redeeming mantra.

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

I have a very good life. I live in a nice house on the beach looking out at the spectacular Sea of Cortez. Some days I have to pinch myself in disbelief at my good fortune.

However, some days, and increasingly over the past several months, I get lost in the day-to-day duties of a property owner and partner. It’s as though I have blinders on and all I can see ahead of me is more tedium.

Lately, I’ve caught myself, walking down what is surely one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and certainly one of the most deserted, thinking about some unimportant irritation that arose during the day. I’ve even thought with some annoyance about how difficult it is to walk on soft sand.

But then, as the sky turns to pink and the water begins to glisten as though it has turned to mercury, I catch myself and the consciousness of my rather wonderful circumstances reawakens. Regaining my awareness, it’s as though a window opens and my vision literally broadens to take in the gloriousness of my surroundings. It is as though a veil is lifted from my eyes.

My emotions in this moment fluctuate between gratitude and guilt for having been so completely asleep at the wheel. And then I am shocked at the realization that I have allowed myself to take this incredible place for granted. How does this happen?!

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Recently I made a new friend. This friend, I learned, is a perpetual traveler and has no physical place to call home. After showing him around our relatively decadent home, I shared with him that we were considering moving and that we were tired of our current situation. I told him I felt I was losing my appreciation of our surroundings and about the guilt I felt as a result. I told him I felt the management of our property was taking a lot of the fun out of living in such a marvelous place.

In turn, he shared the wisdom of his guru:

One should not stay more than six weeks in one location because the result is a loss of awareness and appreciation of our surroundings.

My friend also experienced the unbearable heaviness of being I described to him. Living in big houses and having many things just made him miserable. His current vagabond lifestyle is the direct result of his guru’s guidance and has allowed him to pursue his passion, his art, fully, unhindered by the responsibilities of material possessions.

When I look back over the years and consider the times I’ve been most content, they have certain things in common: I had fewer responsibilities; I had relinquished most of my material possessions; often I was traveling or living in a place for the first time; and invariably I filled my free time with something I was passionate about (surfing, meditating, doing yoga and writing).

Over the past 5 years, I see that once again I moved away from this way of life and incrementally have become weighted down with responsibilities and material possessions.

And the weight of it is keeping my Spirit down.

Warming Up

In early 2000, the dawn of the new millennium, I left my husband of six and a half years. The first thing I did upon regaining my freedom was to take a trip. I’d been wanting to travel for many years, but there was always some excuse why we couldn’t go. Released from my ball and chain, now was my chance. I cashed in my credit card air miles accumulated through the ex’s excesses and was off to Costa Rica.

Getting off the plane in San Jose, the warm tropical air hit my skin and I felt my body relax. I replaced my shoes and socks with sandals, stretched out my perpetually cold toes and let the warm air caress them. I hopped a bus to the Pacific coast, where I lay in the hot sun letting the warmth enter my core. It was, after all, about 20 degrees below freezing where I’d just come from!

After a while of heating up in the sun, I needed to cool off in the Pacific Ocean. In I went, enjoying the cool, salty water. I stood up in the shallows to turn and look back at the beach, when all of a sudden I was being swallowed up by a large wave, thrown on the sea floor and grabbed and whipped around in a wave once again. The waves passed and I stood up disoriented, not sure which side was up and slowly made my way back to my towel on the beach. “Wow!” was my first thought, “that was powerful! Now I get why people surf. I think I’d like to learn to harness that power.” For the rest of my trip I watched people surfing. I was in awe of these people who could walk on water.

I vowed to return to Costa Rica and a short two months later was back once again, this time with a goal – I would learn how to surf. I had no idea what a monumental task I had set for myself. I did my best and hung out with other beginners, but I was in over my head. Two weeks of trying and I was not much closer to becoming a real surfer. I was stunned. Never in my life had I had such difficulty learning a sport. Rather than let the challenge I was faced with dampen my spirits, however, it hardened my resolve. I decided I had to move to Costa Rica and become a surfer no matter how long it took.

But first I had to go back to Canada where I had a job and was working on my Masters thesis.

Back in Canada, I immersed myself in all things surfing. And I began to study Spanish. A plan evolved. I decided I would finish my thesis and get my degree. I would save some money and make it last via a diet of coconuts, rice and beans and the kindness of strangers. I figured I would live on the beach, do yoga and surf. In my fantasy, one day someone would happen along who either needed a housesitter or had a job for a biologist looking to get into conservation. It all sounded perfectly sane to me.

One day several months and several pages of my thesis later, one of my sisters and I decided to travel somewhere together before I disappeared to Costa Rica. But where? We agreed we both wanted to get our SCUBA diving certification and I said it would be nice to go somewhere I could work on my Spanish. A travel magazine that had been on the floor next to my bed for months popped into my field of vision. On the cover it said “Hidden Treasures” and inside I found an article about a jewel of a place called Cabo Pulmo, Mexico located on the shores of a national marine park and with a dive shop where the owner was involved in grassroots conservation. Bingo!

In Cabo Pulmo we were excited to start our dive course with Pepe the conservationist. When he got wind that I was a biologist and planning a move to Costa Rica, he said, in his excellent English “Dawn, why do you go to Costa Rica? There are already many volunteers and conservationists there. Why do you not come here where we need people like you so badly?” Good question, I thought.

I returned to Canada with an amended plan. I would move to Cabo Pulmo, Mexico where I would work as the director of research in Pepe’s non-profit conservation organization (and learn to surf in the uncrowded waves just south along the coast).

Seven months later, thesis in hand and pickup truck overloaded, I was on my way.

A little about me.

To begin with, I think a welcome is in order.

“Welcome to my brand spanking-new blog!”

Yes, I’m a virgin blogger having my first experience, right here in public. How exciting! I hope you will enjoy the experience as much as I hope to be inspired by it. And that is the point of this exercise – my need for and recent lack of inspiration and discipline. I’m also hoping that I will get over what is clearly fear – the fear that I think many artists experience when they consider putting themselves out there in the form of their art. So I’m a virgin blogger who’s trying to discover some cahones.

The mundane statistics appear in my profile, so I won’t go into that here. But what does not appear there is my living circumstances and other aspects of my life that will serve and inspire the contents of this blog. I live “off-the-grid” in a house on the beach on the Sea of Cortez in a tiny tourist development called las Vinoramas, in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico. Many of you may have visited Cabo San Lucas, the nearest tourist trap, which is a 2.5 hour drive to the southwest of here. I say 2.5 hours because to express distance in miles or kilometers is very deceiving due to the poor condition of the roads out here in the middle of nowhere. The highway, Mex 1, is only 20 miles away by road, less as the crow flies, but it can take as long as 90 minutes to get there from here depending on how long ago the grader smoothed the bone-jarring washboard road. There are, as well, times during the year when the road is impassable, after the heavy rain associated with summer tropical storms and hurricanes. So much of what we do and experience here is related to our isolation.

The author’s residence in the Baja desert.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term (as I was before moving here), “off-the-grid” means that we are not connected to a power grid and produce all the power we need to operate things like this Mac computer and our refrigerators with equipment we have right here on the property. Many people living in the United States and Canada choose to live off-the-grid for various reasons (to lower their electrical bills or to reduce their “carbon footprint”), however we have no choice. There is no grid for us to tap in to, we live beyond the extent of municipal services (including, as I’ve already pointed out, infrastructure maintenance). So our power comes from solar panels that are connected to great big batteries that allow us to store the sun’s energy for times (at night and on cloudy days) when the sun is unavailable. For us, living off-the-grid also means we don’t have a municipal water delivery system. There is no water meter reader as there is no meter to be read. Our water is delivered to us by one of the local ranchers who charges us for “delivery.” It’s against the law in Mexico to charge someone for water, as it’s considered a vital necessity. So people get around the law by charging you for delivery. Ismael Gonzalez is a local rancher’s son who drives a big water truck up and down the terrible road, day in and day out. He charges us 600 pesos (from $40 to 60 US dollars depending on the exchange rate) for a load of water that can be anywhere from 8000 to 13,000 liters, depending on which truck is functional at the time (as you can imagine, vehicle break downs are a regular part of life here). We’ve learned not to complain about the discrepancies in the size of a load because in the end we’re just happy to have water out here in the desert!

You may also wonder at my use of the plural in relation to refrigerators. On our property we have three refrigerators – two in the main house and one in the guest house. Considering how far we must travel to get groceries, it is helpful, if not essential, to have as much food-storing capacity as possible.
We are very fortunate to have electric refrigerators rather than propane ones. Before I moved here, I had a propane fridge and discovered that they do a very poor job of keeping food cold in the 110 degree heat of summer. For some reason vegetables do very poorly in a propane fridge and broccoli in particular must be eaten within 24 hours of getting it home or it turns yellow and begins to smell. You may as well leave it out of the refrigerator all together, if you ask me. I am a vegetarian and eat broccoli almost every night, so that would not do. Here in Vinorama, we are more civilized and my broccoli lasts as long as two weeks, if I take proper care of it.

The “we” of whom I speak includes myself, my manfriend, the Mexican caretaker, Felipe, and six dogs. You’ll be hearing more about each of them in future blogs.

Well, I think that serves as a start for my very first blog. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I, a Canadian from the land-locked province of Ontario ended up out here in the desert by the sea.

To close a

I am doing this for myself in an attempt to create the discipline that I so painfully lack and which is so important for an aspiring writer to possess. Now don’t get me wrong. I care that you are reading this and I care what you think of it – whether you find it interesting entertaining, insightful or just boring. I also care whether some grain of insight or tidbit of information I offer up is even slightly helpful or inspirational to you the reader. So do share your thoughts and ideas by posting comments freely. And do please return often to see if I’m making inroads into the writing world. But in the end, I’m doing this for ME – moiYO.