A wild rage of red, vermillion, and violet boldly announces the first day of 2005 as the sun crests the horizon amidst cloudy skies. An early breeze mingles with the call of a solitary gull, and just outside my tent, I can hear the flap of a pelican’s wings as he lifts his heavy body into flight. Camped on a remote beach on the Sea of Cortez, Lynn, James, Steve and I have chosen to celebrate the change in the calendar far from the drone of traffic, the rush of post-holiday sales, and the relentlessness of televised parades and games.
In the early hours, I silently press resolutions to my heart: to embrace awareness and prosperity, and to let go of fear. These have been culled from the beauty and silence of this place and the pristine opportunity for reflection. As in years past, I carry my own intentions for the resolutions, and simultaneously know that I will be astonished by what will actually manifest in their wake.
Daybreak comes on the heels of a quiet (except for a few bottle rockets culled from a local Baja store) evening and a sumptuous meal. Clamshells, turned ‘cocktail’ shells, are filled with two colors of caviar, sour cream, egg whites and onions, and are accompanied by the requisite champagne. James baked game hens in his Dutch oven, while multi-colored potatoes simmered on the camp stove. A sauce of onions, mushrooms, red wine and spices finished the hens and a side of fresh green salad completed the meal. We dined al fresco, under a shelter of stars, intoxicated by the music of the sea.
Steve and I had kayaked up the coast in the morning and discovered that the flat lay of land called, Isla Rocca, had sprung a new colony of seals. Their noisome barking could be heard a mile out. Terns, oystercatchers and tiny spotted sandpipers foraged on the rocky headlands, while overhead, a magnificent frigatebird worked the thermals. Under my boat, starfish, crabs, and colorful fish swam between coral and volcanic stone. We lunched on a rocky beach miles from the sound or presence of any other humans, reveling in what it means to truly be away.
This first day of the year is spent reading, writing, birding, paddling and simply enjoying a schedule-less day. The sheer joy of being alive outweighs any other concerns. James and Lynn return from a paddle as the sun slips behind the mountains. Darkness falls quickly and we light a lantern as we settle into evening conversations.
From the shadows, a man slowly comes into view. He carries a shotgun, wears a knit cap and his clothes are dirty. We had seen him when we first arrived, walking the beach with his cat, dressed in a long black coat, white sandals, and the same gun. It is discomforting to have someone standing before us with a weapon, and the four of us communicate with a silent glance. We are, of course, unarmed, but I sense no malice from this man.
He introduces himself right away, “Gallegos,” he says, a healthy handshake for each of us. He tells us is “El guardio del campo,” or the guardian of the fish camp that sits on the point of the bay. The other fishermen have gone home for the holiday, but Gallego, being the only one without wife or family, has been left behind to tend to the place. He says the light has drawn him, since he has none. I find it hard to imagine being alone in the dark as he has been for ten days.
He sits in the sand until we offer him some juice and a seat at the table. I hold a quiet conference with Lynn and we agree that we have more than enough food and invite Gallegos to join us. Steve chatters with him in Spanish while Lynn, James and I prepare dinner. He has come from Oaxaca where he began as a welder and was drafted in the army. He was sent to Chiapas, but the war sickened him, and he returned to Oaxaca to fish. Now in Baja, he hopes this spring to guide fishing tourists in Bahia Los Angeles.
Gallegos continues to hold the gun during the meal, which we discover is unloaded. It was he who had fired the shots we heard in celebration of the New Year. He says that his shoulder aches from the recoil; that he is unaccustomed to using the gun. He eats heartily, enjoys some chocolate for desert, then says he is cold and starts to head back to his camp. Steve pulls a flashlight out of the car and gifts it to him. Now he will have his own light.
My resolutions have been put to the task within hours of their commitment. Awareness and fear have manifested in unsuspected ways, and I’ve had the opportunity to experience and share my own prosperity.
The chatter of the night-foraging oystercatchers and egrets elicits a broad smile as I wander toward my tent and the call of dream-filled sleep. What a glorious year this is set to be.