Rambling Time

I need a vacation.

I’m guessing that comes as a surprise. I’m guessing it probably even sounds self-indulgent and more than a little decadent. I’m guessing the consensus out there in places like Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and, dare I say, the entire country of Canada, is that those of us living in paradise are perpetually on vacation. So why the hell do I need to go on vacation?  Well, at the great risk of condemnation and ridicule, I’m here to challenge the notion that life in paradise is always paradisiacal.

In eastern Canada, around mid-March, near the end of a particularly cold and stormy winter, everyone starts itching for spring and can be heard to say with varying degrees of whininess depending on the speaker’s disposition, “It’s been a long Winter. How much longer do you think before the snow melts.” And then the snow melts and there is excited anticipation and we start thinking the warmer days of Spring are right around the corner. The crocuses on the South side of the house are the first to bloom, while the green tips of daffodils begin to rise up through the dark wet earth in fuzzy patches dotting the yard. Tulips are felt, unseen deep below the surface of flower beds, to be bursting forth from their bulbs. Then, almost without fail, there’s one more big snowstorm in the first week of April. It usually falls on or right before my sister’s birthday, April 6th. Overnight the yard is transformed back to a place enshrouded in white where everything looks dead and the snowplow can be heard noisily running up and down the streets removing the unwanted gift from Mother Nature. Suddenly it seems as though Spring will never arrive and everyone shuts themselves up in their houses where I imagine they sit wrapped in woolly sweaters, grimacing while they sip big glasses of scotch in an attempt to dull the sensation of cold air seeping under the doorjam and the pain of the never-ending wait for relief.

There’s a similar phenomenon occurring in the Tropics. Despite the groans and grunts of disapproval I foresee emanating from your mouths, I’ve got to say it: It’s been a long summer.

I’ve been waiting for weather that resembles autumn to arrive for several weeks now. But it seems that, like those early signs of Spring, the early signs I wrote of produced premature declarations of the imminence of cooler weather here in Baja. Normally, autumn arrives by mid-October, providing relief from the energy-sapping, spirit-desiccating heat. But we’re brushing up against November and each and every day the mercury continues to top 90 (thankfully down from the daily high of 95 only a few days ago). The air still feels dry and hot like a furnace as it blows past the moisture-deprived skin of my arms and I sit here sweating in my chair. I have a hot ass. It’s been hot since June, without respite. It makes sitting here while I type uncomfortable to the point of being unbearable at times. I have to get up and walk around and let air flow over my overheated posterior. It makes it necessary to lay a towel over my office chair so it doesn’t become sticky with sweat. Altogether now, it’s “Gross!!”

We’re going on five months of incredibly hot weather. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Sure, the nights are cooler, more or less, and sea temperatures are slowly falling so that my evening swim is actually refreshing, but the daytime highs are still uncomfortably high and the sun is still stinking strong. I’m tired of having to coat my entire body with sunscreen and of staring into the bright sun while I surf. I’m pretty sure I’m doing irreparable damage to my eyes.

So I’m done with the heat.

I’m done trying to convince myself that this is good for me – that all this sweating is ridding me of toxins or that this is better than the 65 degree weather in Central California.

I’m looking forward to the cold. I want to shiver and relish the thought of wearing long pants and a big heavy sweater while I look west towards the Pacific Ocean without the sun frying my retinas. I want to feel the chill air on my face, air so cold it makes my eyes water. I want to experience surfing in a full wetsuit for the first time in my life (not so much the crowds). I want to tuck into bed at night under thick downy comforters and rise to walk on chilled floors. I want to sip hot tea in the morning to warm myself gently from the inside out, instead of it making the sweat pour down my neck and face to gather in my cleavage, gradually soaking my sports bra. In the evenings I want to sip scotch on the rocks and feel the heat of the alcohol warm the cockles of my soul all the way down to my icy toes.

Clearly, while I do look forward to the change, it’s not that I like the thought of being cold so much as the remedies for it: grasping a mug of steamy hot chocolate with chilled hands, wrapping myself in feather-down comforters, cashmere sweaters, ridiculous looking woolen caps and brightly colored mittens, sipping good California red wine or scotch (take your pick) before a crackling fire in the hearth. Oh and did I mention snuggling? Snuggling is definitely the best thing about cold weather. Hey, a girl’s gotta dream.

Seasons Sandwich

Sailing the Windy Sea by Barbara Harper

A week ago, a former colleague and friend posted a photo on Facebook of this year’s first snowstorm. From where I’m sitting, that’s pretty hard to believe. Admittedly the snowstorm occurred on Victoria Island in the Arctic Archipelago, where Cathy and I used to work together. It’s been exactly ten years since I last got to witness the tundra turn various shades of gold, red and sienna, but I remember marveling at how, in August, autumn was already evident. Along with the landscape taking on new colors, the days shortened noticeably, mountain peaks became frosted with nighttime snowfall and the air would take on a chill that the sun’s rays couldn’t beat back like it had at the peak of summer.

In Baja, where I live, just below the Tropic of Cancer, variations in weather from one season to the next are not as dramatic as they are in the temperate regions of the planet, let alone the Arctic, where they are at their most extreme on the planet. Nevertheless, the passage of the autumnal equinox marks the transition towards shortening days, cooler nighttime temperatures and eventually to a lessening in the intensity of the sun.  Finally, sometime after mid-October seawater temperatures begin to decline.

It’s been four long months since the mercury fell below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30°C) and many a day when they did not dip below 90. The last couple of mornings, however, when I’ve ventured outside to release the hounds, the quality of the air has changed – it’s got that autumn crispness to it and the moist coolness feels good on my skin. I lift my arms up and let the air envelope as much bare skin as possible. These mornings as I sit on my surfboard waiting for a wave, the air feels incredibly refreshing as it flows through my wet rashguard. It’s down right cold as it whips across the skin on my legs as I and my board rush across the face of a wave. It’s still hard to imagine that in another month, it will feel cold enough to consider wearing a shorty wetsuit (Short legged and made of thinner material than that of a full wetsuit).

As the days wear on though, the daily high temperature still exceeds 95 degrees and the sun’s rays remain intense (it being a only little over two weeks since the equinox). Despite wearing ample, good quality high SPF sunscreen, the skin on my face has been burnt more times in the past three weeks than it has all summer. The concrete block that the garage is constructed of still absorbs the sun’s energy, turning the garage into a little hotbox that I am reluctant to lock a couple of the dogs in overnight.

Other signs of the changing season include the remarkable fact that the water coming out of the taps is no longer scalding hot, but cool like the morning air. At the height of summer, I often have to jump out of the stream of water because it’s too hot, despite the fact that the water heater gets turned off in May. One of the more remarkable signs of winter’s approach came a few days ago when I saw the first Humpback Whale cow with a brand new calf in tow, making their way North up the sea towards their overwintering habitat between El Cardonal and Cabo Pulmo. When I emailed my friend, the whale researcher Urmas Kaldveer, to tell him, he confirmed my suspicion that we were ahead of the normal schedule for female Humpback sightings.

And then, three days ago, midway through my morning session the wind shifted and took on an all together different quality that told me winter was inexorably on its way. It switched from offshore to come from the North and picked up quickly, turning the bay into a mess of wind chop and white caps. It was a stiff, cool wind, unlike summer wind.

The North Wind is a phenomenon in eastern Baja that brings windsurfers and kitesurfers from the world over to play in the waters off her shores. As temperatures in the Rocky Mountains plummet, the wind funnels down the Colorado River to the Delta where it blasts down the path of least resistance, the Sea of Cortez.

Like the roads here, the wind is a blessing and a curse. It can blow 30 knots or more for days on end, throwing sand and dirt everywhere, making gardening and weeding impossible, causing sinus infections and blowing out what would otherwise be perfectly good surf. For wind-sport enthusiasts it creates the right conditions for them to have the time of their lives.  It’s the reason I took up kitesurfing in an “If you can’t beat it, join it” moment of clarity.

Despite the North Wind, we currently have two tropical storms, Hurricane Jova and Tropical Storm Irwin, spinning just South of us and a third tropical disturbance further South off the coast of southern Mexico is gaining in strength and organization. Sea temperatures remain in the mid-80s, which means her waters offer little resistance to the movement of storms.  Autumn truly is a transitional season – we are experiencing winter and summer weather patterns at the same time!

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Buy Sailing the Windy Sea by Barbara Harper

Wetter is Better

Clean Small Surf at Nine Palms

I surfed today for the first time in six days. It’s not like I’ve been sick or uninterested in surfing (ha! yeah, like that’s going to happen says the surf-obsessed pixie). I had considered cutting back a bit because I think I might be getting a bone spur on my rotator cuff and my super-duper life coach (see last post) thinks I need to reevaluate how much time I spend surfing at the expense of writing. But the real reason I didn’t surf all this past week was because there wasn’t any surf. None. It was flat. Barely a ripple on the water’s surface.

Normally when I make a Skype call I have to close the sliding glass doors in the living room so that the sound of the waves breaking on shore doesn’t interfere with the call. It’s loud enough that it transmits across the line and the person on the other end inevitably asks, “What’s that sound? Is that waves?” If it’s the first time they’ve talked to me this way, they are invariably blown away by how loud the surf is. It also blocks their audio from downloading to my computer because the program is busy uploading the sound of the waves. It’s a pain to have to close the doors, especially when it’s 95 degrees out and even a tiny breeze is like a little puff of heavenly breath on my hot, sweaty skin. But it’s been so small or non-existent for the past week that it hasn’t been a big problem

I actually started wishing I had a SUP board this past week. It’s definitely a record for the number of consecutive days not surfing while in Baja, not including times of illness.

Today when I rose, I noticed there were some actual waves coming through every ten minutes or so. That was all I needed to see. I quickly did my morning routine of letting the dogs out of their various enclosures, hanging upside-down to get my back to decompress and a quick meditation. Of course the sound of the waves seemed to get louder as I tried to concentrate, so I cut it short at 15 minutes and started to get ready.

I unloaded the fun and short boards from the rig, replacing them with a longboard, no debate necessary. The waves may have picked up, but it was still small out there.  I wondered if I was being overly optimistic even.

It occurs to me that I’ve never described the surf rig I use to get to the breaks. It’s a big red Honda ATV that has a side rack for the board that Tony skillfully designed and welded using pipes from his hotrod header manufacturing business.  Predictably, we call her “Big Red” (as compared to “Little Blue,” who is used for non-surf related local transportation). Tony also built a rack for the front of the bike to carry extra necessities. These include a small cooler, gallon jug of rinse/dog water, dog bowl, and a small duffel bag containing all the necessary gear a surfer can’t be without (wax, wax comb, rash guards, hats, extra bathing suit and boardshorts, shirt for sun protection, extra sunscreen, Benadryl to stave off a nasty reaction should there be a jellyfish run-in, extra leash in case one breaks, five year old granola bars, mini tide chart, notebook and pen in case the muse hits me, which she has a tendency to do while I’m surfing).

Here’s a picture of the rig.

Big Red at Nine Palms

So after loading some drinking water and the gallon jug of tap water (for post-surf rinse off and Peanut drinking water), changing into swimsuit and board shorts, applying copious amounts of sunscreen (three different kinds; one for my face, one for my chest and another for the rest of me), and warming up the ATV, we were finally on our way. All told about 20 minutes of preparation just to get out the door to surf. As I pulled out the gate to the property, I looked over my shoulder at Peanut standing behind me smiling into the wind. She loves to ride on the back of the ATV.

We traveled South four miles to one of our favorite surfbreaks – Nine Palms, known locally as Rancho Santa Elena. When the waves are small to head high, Nine Palms is a great beginner surf spot.  The waves here break slowly in a rolling fashion that makes it easier for a beginner to get to their feet before the wave breaks on their head. It’s the place I learned to surf. The only challenge with this spot can be the number of large rocks that are present along the path the waves take to the beach. At low tide, it’s a bit of an obstacle course out there and I’ve crashed into the big rocks on the inside of the bay several times. I described the scars my first surfboard sustained at the “hands” of those rocks in this post.

Today there were four people out in the waves when I pulled up. They are part of a group from Oahu who’ve been camped on the beach at Nine Palms for all of September. People come and people go, but there is one guy, Mike, who’s been here the whole time. When I paddled out he told me how stoked they were to see some waves today and how they’d been getting squirrely the last few days in the absence of any surf.

I paddled out not expecting much. When I pulled up it was pretty flat and everyone was just sitting there. As luck would have it, I paddled right into a decent set and caught one to the beach before I even got out to the usual take off spot. Then as I paddled back out, I saw what looked like a set. Sure enough, as I paddled harder I saw a set of waves approaching that looked at least head high. One of the other surfers caught the first wave, but I was in the perfect spot to catch the second, larger wave. It had a good shoulder and I was able to run to the nose and get some time up there before I had to get back to maneuver around the inside rocks. Managed to get all the way to the beach again and turned around just as my friend Tom pulled up on his sandrail.

Two of the other surfers went in and Tom paddled out. The four of us remaining shared the waves, the warm water and the stoke. It was a good session after so many days landlubbing.

Starting a Revolution

There’s a bit of a revolution occurring here in Vinorama. It’s a tiny revolution involving only a couple of people, but it’s mind-blowing and potentially world-changing for at least one of us. 
Itturns out that last week’s post was a metaphor for what is going on in my lifein more ways than I realized. Usingthe “changing currents” metaphor, I alluded to the fact that I’ve made some bigchanges lately. Beyond that I hadn’t given any thought to the rest of the postbeing more than the story of how I could have drowned.
Turnsout that I have been drowning. My head was still above water, but I was floundering and caught in a powerful riptide of repeatingthe same mistakes I’ve made in relationships since time immemorial. And my behavior was wreakinghavoc on my self-esteem and ability to get any work done.
The“riptide” wasn’t any one thing – it was a combination of factors anddistractions that I was allowing to pull me away from giving this chaotic time in my life the attention and love it deserves so that I can keep movingforward in life in the most positive way possible. I was partying too much,surfing too much, flirting too much with unavailable men (yes, time forsome honesty here). I was so distracted by everything out there, that the stuffthat was going on in here, was going unexamined.
Thatis when Andrea Mauer, revolution starter and talented life coach, threw me a life ringto which I am clinging with a white-knuckle grip. Yeah, that’s another metaphor.  What she actually did was respond to anemail I sent her that was clearly a call for help. If you’re new here, I’veposted about her life coaching before. I tried doing my own version of her 90-Day Power Play program before, but I was doing it without her guidance (she was inthe middle of working it with 10 luckier women and couldn’t spread herself any thinner). Furthermore, my level ofmotivation was suspiciously low because I was oblivious to what was coming down the pike in less than six months’ time.
Sometimesyou gotta get hit by the train to hear its whistle.
Thistime my attitude is different because the train wreak has already happened and I’m standing next to the smoking pile of remains wondering how I ended up back here on the wrong side of the relationship tracks, all by myself once again. It’s also different because Andrea’s holding my hand, walking me through each stepand periodically pulling me back on the path that will lead me to where I ammeant to be – to that place where I’m fulfilling my purpose and livingcontentedly, instead of floundering and drowning in the sea of self-sabotageand decisions based on outdated beliefs that no longer serve me.
We’vealready accomplished a lot. She’s helped me change the energy I’ve beencarrying around related to men. She’s convinced me the best thing to do isput all that relationship stuff on the back burner for now. And it’s working. Ifeel more clear headed, grounded and “Look Ma!” I’m actually able toconcentrate enough to write (let’s reserve judgment on the quality for now…baby steps people, baby steps).
We’veestablished that the big challenge I face is changing afundamental belief that I’ve carried around like a two ton elephant on my back since I was achild. The belief that I am not worthy of deep, compassionate, unconditional love has colored my decision-making process concerning how and with whom I am willing to establish relationships. Yes, this is not unique, it’s one insecurity that a large segment of the populationshares. That’s why I’m going out on a limb here and sharing this. This is a belief that results from being raised by parents who didn’t know how to show us we are worthy of unconditional love. They didn’t know because theywere raised by similarly clueless parents who were raised by parents who had to focus onjust trying to stay alive. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, and I am notblaming them for something they had little control over. They just grew up at atime – the Great Depression – when there wasn’t enough of anything, let aloneguidance on enlightened self-esteem-building child-rearing techniques.) Andrea says, “It’s an inside job Dawn. The solution to your relationship woes begins with you.” Ouch…but yeah, she’s right. To that end, I’m back on the meditation cushion, getting back in touch with that part of me that can heal anything and everything.
Andreaand I have also discussed the effect that spending so much time surfing has hadon my life. Lately, I’ve been using any and all available energy to surf. It’sbecome an obsession instead of just a passion that is overwhelming my abilityto get anything else done. If I’m not careful, surfing and men will be thedownfall of my desire to make writing my profession.I need more balance in my life so that I have more time and energy to write.  Andrea also wants me to try to figureout what it is that I get out of surfing that makes me want to spend so much time doing it. Why am I so obsessively passionate aboutit? I’ve tried telling her it’s because it’s outrageously fun, involves theocean and gives me my adrenaline injection for the day, but she thinks there’smore to it than that – something deeper, more darkly psychological about it. I maintain, “I just love it! Isn’t that enough?” But she’s not buying it.
Shemakes the point that by recognizing the source of the passion, I’ll be moresuccessful in tempering it, and can possibly apply the same principal towriting so I fall in love with it to the same degree. Now that would berevolutionary.
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