About Dawn Pier

In 2002, I packed the remains of a life I no longer wanted into the bed of my silver Nissan pickup and drove west across Canada, South down the Pacific Coast Highway and on into Mexico. Stopping just short of the tip of the Baja Peninsula, I settled in the tiny village of Cabo Pulmo where I learned the ins and outs of off-grid living and community-based conservation. While following my dream to learn to surf, I'd stumbled across a unique coral reef in the Sea of Cortez that needed more protection. The resulting adventures I had with waves, sea turtles and men are the focus of a memoir I'm writing. Today, a decade after moving to Mexico, I still live on an isolated beach, just a little further south on the peninsula, with a posse of five dogs and an illiterate, sometimes savant caretaker who often speaks in a tongue that even the locals don't understand. I surf most days, kiteboard when the wind blows and otherwise write, do yoga and contemplate just how far I've come since the days in Canada when I worked long hours as an environmental biologist. In addition to my WIP and this personal blog, I write poetry and have written for Baja.com and the Scuttlefish, an online environmental journal. I also read for the online literary magazine, The Rumpus.

Time and Distance

40                                                                      50

The distance between 40 and 50 is more than a decade more than the number 10, more than

                      1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

It’s more than 5+5 or 5×2. It’s more than 3650 days.

It’s the distance between having a healthy father and having no father at all. It’s the distance between sharing life with a loving partner and being single. It’s the unimportant stuff like more grey hair and deeper wrinkles, hair growing places it isn’t supposed to and skin that’s starting to look like crepe.

It’s giving a shit about this upcoming birthday, when 40 came and went like it was no big deal.

40 was a cake walk, so I didn’t think I’d experience this existential stuff as I look down the barrel of the “Big 5-0.” I’ve always told myself, “Age is just a number. What matters is how you feel inside.” Well, that’s the difference between 40 and 50 too – this time I do feel different. Maybe it’s because I’m half an orphan now or maybe it’s something else. It feels kinda like it’s a genetic thing – that a switch has flipped and my genes have decided that I’m supposed to start feeling my age now. My mortality is more tangible in a very unsettling and heavy way that I’ve never felt before.

As dictated by the law of attraction, every time I turn around there’s another reference to death, dying, and grief. The other day I turned on CBC Radio and learned about a smartphone application called “WeCroak.” The developer of the app was inspired by the Bhutanese belief that “contemplating death five times a day brings happiness.” I downloaded it before the show was half over. The first friend I told about it looked at me like I was crazy. “That’s morbid,” he said, a tinge of disgust and mild curiosity in his voice.

WeCroak pings me randomly, five times a day with the message, “Don’t forget, you’re doing to die.“ If you click on the reminder, a quote comes up related to death and dying.

Here’s the one I got just a few minutes ago:

But every moment of life is the last;
every poem is a death poem.
Why then should I write one at this time.
In my last hours, I have no poem.

                                                              Matsuo Basho

Some of the quotes, like the one above, strike me as rather fatalistic – they are more of a downer than inspiring. Yet others are effective in lighting a fire under me and give me the desire to get things done before it’s too late. It’s too early to say whether these five daily reminders will actually make me happier, but I’m willing to give it a try.

30                                                                        50

30 and 50? Well yeah, they’re even further apart.

                            20

years that led me to divorce, Costa Rica and the end of a scientific career so I could move to Mexico…almost 20 years following my dream to learn to surf.

It’s

                                            33

The age of my friend and colleague who was killed in an avalanche in April 1998. His death shook me hard out of a deep sleep of complacency because I mistakenly believed I had all the time in the world to do the things that I dreamed of doing. I realized that it was NOW or NEVER or life would pass me by, or worse get cut short before I had the chance to take those trips to see the world, be in a loving supportive relationship…with myself (and maybe one day with a man).

I’m not sure why, but I used to regard the “Bucket List” phenomenon with some disdain. Contemplating turning 50 has given rise to some serious contemplation about what I have and haven’t accomplished yet in this life. I mean, I still haven’t been to France, Italy or Spain! Seriously? I shake my head and consider why that is. Life, I suppose…life getting in the way of living. I never seem to have the money or freedom to make those big trips. That’s going to change. It must change.

Perhaps that’s what these big decadal birthdays are for – to induce the kind of consideration about where we are at in life in comparison with where we want to be. I wonder what I’ll write about in the coming 10 years. Will I finally get my book done? Will it be published? Will I ride a bigger wave? Rent a little house in the country in France where I’ll write poetry and edit my book? Maybe I’ll finally learn the secret to happiness…five contemplations of death at a time.

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Emotional-Freedom-Quote-1.jpgThis morning I read a piece in “The New Yorker” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz called “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” and found that his words, his experiences, resonated eerily with my own regarding relationships. This came as somewhat of a shock considering that the trauma he describes was his repeated rape, at the age of eight, by a grown man whom he trusted.

Now before you click on the link and read what he wrote, which you pretty much have to do in order to appreciate the rest of this blog, let me be clear about the differences between his and my experiences: I was not raped as a child (note the caveat: “as a child”) and I have never tried to take my own life (unless driving recklessly, drinking enough tequila to induce a five-day hangover at the age of 16, or any number of reckless behaviors count). In other words, I’ve never consciously, in the overdosing, gun-to-head, or standing-on-a-cliff-considering-jumping kind of way tried to end my own life. I’ve never tried and I’ve never thought about it. Nevertheless, there were things about Diaz’s piece that spoke to me and that therefore gave me pause to think, “Was there enough “trauma” in my childhood to create the behaviors that he describes that I am also guilty of?”

I know. You want me to tell you in detail what those behaviors were. I’ve alluded to at least one above – the drinking. Yes, there is a lot of excessive consumption of alcohol in my past. And a lot of morally questionable behaviors wrought of that drinking. Another trait we share(d)[1] is the inability to stay in a relationship past a certain point, usually the point where it looked like it might actually go somewhere good, and especially if the man exhibited behaviors that suggested he might actually be willing to remain in a monotonous, I mean, committed monogamous relationship.

Then there is his reference to cheating. Many would quickly label cheating as classic self-sabotage behavior. For me it was a bit more complex. My first bout of cheating gave me the confidence to leave a not-so-healthy marriage (I discovered that I was, contrary to my insecure belief at the time, desirable to other men) and subsequently over a decade later cheating gave me the excuse to end the next and only other long term relationship I’ve had. At the time I rationalized, “I clearly don’t love him enough if I can sleep with another man.” Next I did the morally righteous thing – I called him up, told him we had a problem and very soon thereafter left him. Because leaving was penance for bad behavior and, I rationalized, released me from moving forward in life as a liar and a cheat to the person who’s opinion mattered most to me.

Diaz’s references to drinking, to bouts of depression, to not being able to look at himself in a mirror, the deep-seated self-hatred are all things I saw reflections of in my own experience.

Given the relatively mild nature of the traumas I experienced as a child, when I finished the essay, I wide-eye wondered how many of us walk around with these wounds, oblivious to how much they shape who we are and what we do.

When I would get into my navel-gazing, self-examination mode, the man I had my second and last long-term relationship with – seven-years to be precise – and whom I still refer to as my second husband despite our never having married[2] used to assert, “You had a roof over your head, food in your stomach. You were not abused!” He was a lot older than me – twenty-six years – with attitudes borne of a time when those were the only measures of abuse, when “spare the rod, spoil the child” was an oft-used phrase. And yet, with the exception of one particularly memorable spanking that employed a plastic brush,[3] my parents didn’t hit us and we did have three squares a day. Was the fact that my mother repeatedly sent me to school with tomato sandwiches that by lunch hour had morphed into a disgusting mess of soggy pink bread enough to call her abusive? Abusive, no. Uninspired-where-school-lunches-were-concerned, yes.

The abuses that many of us suffered as children I would suggest were often much more subtle than those experienced by the Junot Diaz’s of the World.[3] So subtle as to make them unutterable for completely different reasons than those that made Diaz silent, so non-violent that by sharing them we feel embarrassment or guilt knowing that others have experienced so much worse. But that’s what I am most struck by, what made me sit up and take notice – it’s the recognition that even the mildest forms of abuse induce in children and the adults they become symptoms of full-blown trauma the likes of which Diaz experienced. I was struck hard in my consciousness by the reality that as children we are fragile, vulnerable, and sensitive beyond belief. We have a belief in a kind and loving world until we are proven wrong and whatever it is that teaches us that the world is a far more cruel place than we had ever imagined is what creates the pervasive psychological “hang ups” that dominate so many of our adult stories. The point I guess I’m trying to make is that I’m not convinced that enough of us recognize the degree to which even the “milder” forms of trauma[4] experienced in our childhoods are the source of our adult so-called “hang ups.” That in the absence of loving affirmation that we are okay, lovable, perfect even, just the way we are, too many of us try to hide what we perceive as short-comings, to dawn our masks of self-protection against the pain and suffering that is unfortunately a part of life, and thereby subsume the beautiful creature we are meant to be.

I dunno…I’m not a psychologist. I’m just thinking out loud and over-sharing, as I tend to do. But what do you think? I have to wonder, are the vast majority of us damaged and the only difference is a matter of degrees? And what are you doing to undo the damage? See below for one technique.

Lisa Nichols with a way to GET OUT of the pain of trauma that we all carry within us.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The jury’s out on whether this is in the past or not.

[2] I liked to say that he was a better “husband” than the man I actually married a decade earlier.

[3] Don’t get me wrong. I acknowledge and am humbled and saddened by how many children experience abuse on a par with or greater than what Diaz described in his essay.

[4] Emotional trauma comes first to mind.

Emily’s story needs to be written

Effin Artist is a project that I’m involved with and it was through that organization that I met Mike Green, Emily’s husband. We hope you’ll read her story as it unfolds and get involved by contributing to her or another cancer patient’s care and needs.

EFFinArtist

Effin Artist exists for a single reason: To elevate great stories that inspire change.

Emily Green has such a story. And we’re committed to helping her tell it for a simple reason: Her unique approach to surviving cancer represents a serious shift in healthy recovery. Her story represents a sea change in treatment paths chosen by the millions stricken with this disease. This is inspired change at the root, right where it can do the most good for the most people.

Emily is the mother of three, ages 16, 5, and 4. She is the hearbeat of a family that has endured its share of challenges and trials over the years before she learned that she had late-stage breast cancer.  Her story may sound too familiar in an age when cancer plagues so many of us, but it is utterly unique in its message of hope for those afflicted.

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Wonders of Baja Weather

LA Bay Rainbow 8Mar2016

Rainbow over Bahia de Los Angeles thanks to crazy storm system. Photo credit: Octavio Pinto

It’s 5pm. I pause from writing this, reach up and cup the tip of my nose between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. It’s cold and my fingers warm it slightly before I return to the task before me.

I know I’ve been away a long time. I had some personal things going on, health and whatnot, and haven’t been writing much in general as a result and when I do write I’ve focused on getting my book written because I want to, no I need to get it done. It’s been too long coming. But that’s another story.

What’s got me writing today is the weather. It’s funny that I should write about the weather after being absent from this blog for so long. It’s a source of mild amusement that “How’s your weather?” is the question I can always count on my mother to ask during our increasingly brief telephone exchanges.

Well Mom, it’s been another cold day today. Yeah, not cold by eastern Canada standards, but darn cold for here in Baja. Cold and windy. Yesterday we had what I consider to be the strangest weather I’ve witnessed in my fourteen years living in Baja. At the end of a winter season during which temperatures remained well above normal, a system blasted the peninsula with a cold air that made temperatures plummet twenty degrees and brought with it all manner of precipitation. The only thing missing was the locusts.

I rose just before dawn and took a look outside. The waves were uncharacteristically large and feathered by strong offshore winds. I went outside to investigate more closely and greeted my neighbor as he stood watering some new fan palm trees near the wall separating our properties.

He asked me in a somewhat bewildered tone, “Is this what it’s like in summer? Are the waves often like this? What’s up with this wind?”

I looked around and wondered if the pending solar eclipse had anything to do with the strange weather. I’ve also been seriously “under the weather” of late thanks to one of Baja’s many “side-benefits” – a parasitic infection – that’s made surfing a challenge due to desperately low energy levels. It pained me to look at the waves and not be able to partake. To lessen the sting, I turned my back to sea and returned to the house to get some work done. (Unfortunately, under the influence of these parasites I’ve been living in a near perpetual brain fog. My productivity has suffered almost as much as my intestinal tract.)

By 8:30 the winds switched to the North, then East, then South and East again. I looked out the west-facing kitchen window to see ominous black clouds looming as they expanded to reach high into the sky. I didn’t quite believe my eyes. The sky had been clear blue only an hour earlier. I went outside to investigate and discovered the wine had turned downright chilly. It was right then that big COLD raindrops began to fall. I double-timed it up to the guest house to close the windows. On my return to the main house the rain drops fell quicker, inducing me to run or get wet enough to require a wardrobe change. The wind seemed to be coming from several directions all at the same time. It swirled and switched back and forth, came in wild gusts up to twenty-odd miles an hour. Once I had the windows in the main house closed, I returned to the garage where one of the doors is wide open during the day and watched as the pavers on the driveway got soaked and water began to drip from the downspouts. Yeah, it wasn’t a heavy rain by tropical storm standards, but it was rain in March in the Baja desert. Sit up and take notice kinda weather.

Back inside I noticed my feet were cold. What the heck? I normally have to wear Uggs here in the winter, but this year’s winter has been so warm I’ve only put them on a few times at night.

I scratched my head and did a few searches on Google about the current weather. Nada. Later I would learn that the winds turned offshore again around 1PM. Surf in San Jose was unreal.

“Like Hawaii” one friend said, “and barreling. But I had to put on my full wetsuit! I froze! I’m in Uggs, longjohns, and my ski jacket now.”

“Damn! I missed it again,” I lamented. “Frickin’ parasites!”

I called my friend Mario, the Huichol shaman, and he reported he’d had to run home early from the gallery where he sells indigenous art to deal with an emergency. The wind, gusting up to 45 miles an hour in Cabo San Lucas, had toppled the large Tamarind tree in his yard and landed on his bedroom, destroying the roof and two walls.

“Was anyone hurt?” I asked, picturing the kids and his sister-in-law Rosa scrambling to avoid the falling tree.

“No. Gracias a Dios.”

The solar eclipse occurred at 4:30 our time. We were not in the window to see it, but it was total and visible further west from Hawaii to Indonesia. I continued to wonder if it wasn’t the cause of the weird weather.

At sunset I walked the dogs on the beach like I do most nights and froze. I didn’t consider I might need a scarf and a beanie. And the sweater I had on was too thin. The sand stung, icy cold on my feet. I looked warily at the low hanging black and grey clouds recognizing them as typical of lightning producers. I’m not a big fan of lightning, having had it pass through my body when I became a ground for an Airstream trailer. I picked up my pace.

By the end of the walk large cold rain drops began to fall to land squarely on my head and shoulders, threatening to make me colder still. Back in the house I had to blast my feet with hot water to dispel the cold before I wrapped them in heavy wool socks and Uggs. Later, as I lay in bed I could see from behind my eyelids the intermittent flashing of lightning to the east.

Today I woke and didn’t want to get out of bed it was so cold in my bedroom. I snuggled in and felt a small lump next to me. The cat, ensconced under the duvet, did his best to ignore me as I pulled the covers up under my chin and looked out at a sea made tumultuous by the still raging wind.

Later, when the sun was up and the bedroom felt a little less frigid, I rose and searched for information on yesterday’s weather. On the Baja Facebook page I found photos of the desert floor just north of here in the village of El Centenario covered in hail. On the Weather Underground website it showed that in the wee hours of the morning, the mercury at the San Jose del Cabo airport had dropped to 48 degrees Farenheit (9 deg Celcius), ten degrees colder than the previous night’s low.

The greater surprise was when I found these photos on the Facebook group Talk Baja taken in El Centenario just North of here.

Hail2 El Cent 8Mar2016

Photos courtesy of Jay Curtis

Hail El Centenario 8Mar2016

Hail in Baja!

The only thing missing is the locusts.

Crazy Weather Update: I just saw on Facebook that it SNOWED in Guadalajara yesterday! According to @SkyAlertStorm the last time they saw snow there was in 1997.

 

 

The Messenger

And here’s another one that is a personal favorite. I still tear up when I think about Zee and reading this was bitter sweet. She was such a good dog.

Dawn Revealed

Our dog Zee is going blind. The vet informed me that she has glaucoma and an auto-immune disease that’s making her body attack itself. Yes, not one, but two diseases affecting her eyes. One at a time, her eyes swelled up into big, bulbous, blood shot orbs with milky irises at their centers. The first to swell then shrank to a fraction of its size, sank back into its orbit, where it now sits wrinkled like a raisin and useless as the tit on a boar. Then the left eye followed suit and blew up to twice its normal size. We’d already taken her to the vet for the right eye, so when the left started expanding I squeezed in the same drops and shuttled her off to the vet with great trepidation  – I knew that the news would not be good. He kept her for observation for three…

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Fowl Play

I hope that in the absence of new material, you’ll enjoy this post I wrote back in 2010.

Dawn Revealed

Our caretaker Felipe bought a rooster a while back. I first saw the animal tied by one leg to Felipe’s outdoor table. I asked him what he intended to do with it and he replied that he was going to make a caldo (Spanish for soup). The next day, I found Felipe sitting on the stoop outside his house, the rooster cradled gently in his arms. He was stroking it. I asked him when he was going to make his soup and in reply he said something about someone named “Enrique.” Felipe is shy and mumbles a lot. Even my Mexican friends have trouble understanding his garbled speech. So I asked, “Enrique? Enrique who?” He looked at me like I was daft. “The rooster!” he shot back, holding the bird out with both hands in emphasis. I shook my head and pronounced, “I doubt you’ll eat him now that you’ve…

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Who knew three minutes took so long?

Here is the man with the vision that gave birth to Effin Artist, Scot Bolsinger’s view on the day that three minutes took so effin long.

EFFinArtist

Several years ago, Effin Artist started with a little voice in my head that I’d say to myself time and again. I’d do something creative that would make me feel good.

I’d say to myself, “I’m an Effin Artist, man!”

Then it became a newsletter to family, which then grew into a lark of a website I built only to learn how to build websites. Then it became a blog and a real website that I called my writer’s platform.

It turns out the Great Divine had much more in mind. Effin Artist continues its evolution into something I couldn’t have dreamed up had I wanted to, which is saying something because I do some serious dreaming when I get on a roll.

What is it? That’s coming soon. But with that next evolutionary phase in mind, we gathered to capture the essence of Effin Artist in a three-minute video.

I…

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