Friday, August 10, 2018

Wide Sky


wide sky

It's about 1,000 miles from the border to the tip of Baja. In May, we again took the drive south from California. We followed a different route, crossing at Mexicali to explore other parts of this beautiful peninsula. 

Right before we left, I happened to mention to a client that we'd be driving through San Felipe.

"That's where my sister has a house," she said. Soon she emailed me to tell me her sister would love for us to spend a night for free. While I'm grateful, I'm not surprised anymore by such generosity and serendipity--something about a traveling life seems to invite magic.

Bahia Concepcion, one of our stops on the drive down.
It had been two years since we'd been to Casita Once, our little place near Todos Santos. The minute we hit Baja Sur, I rolled down the window and breathed in the unique mix of salt air, heat, dust, warm breeze. I was reminded how I love this place where desert-meets-ocean-meets-cerritos (hills). 

sunset at playa de Cerritos
More than ever before, we have felt embraced by the community here. We spend many days improvisationally. Someone will rap on our gate and say, "Wanna play backgammon at the pool?" At the pool, someone will say, "Come over for dinner. We have fresh fish." And then we will say, "We have cole slaw." And someone else will say, "We'll bring dessert."

In between, Dave has been doing a lot of home and garden projects. I have been editing books and teaching yoga twice a week.
evidence of Dave's green thumb at Casita Once's entrance
We've been re-connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some are on vacation here. Some own places or are building them. There's lots of construction around and lots of new restaurants going in.

with new friends Mike and Marla at the site of their home-in-progress
We've also had visitors. Craig, one of Dave's college buddies, came for a week. At the same time another of his old friends, Paul, was here, checking on his new property in Todos Santos where he is building a home. We are happy to have another friend-as-neighbor.
Jimmy, Craig & Paul, and me on Manny (short for Mantequilla).
Our three nephews also visited. My sister Ann lives down here--and her sons, Beau and Brock, have been coming to this area since they were kids. It was the first time for my other sister's son, Evan, to visit. Can you tell he loved it?
with Evan (19), Brock (25) & Beau (27)

Dave got this great shot of Beau 
One Sunday I went with a few friends to the local church. It was sweet to hear the congregation sing in Spanish and to watch two children who, upon being baptized, were lifted up and applauded. Witnessing this community and family love, my heart broke again for the children separated from their parents at the border.

proud father and priest
We continue to be amazed at what a great place this is, rustic and embracing and, in the ways of the desert, beautiful and harsh. There are cacti and snakes and bugs. There are so many birds and palms and papayas and crashing waves and abundant fresh food.

locally grown

papaya in our orchard
Punta Lobos, where every afternoon you can buy just-caught fish.
gila woodpecker
caracaras (iconic birds of Mexico) at their nest
We had forays out of our area. Lee-Ann, who attended my writing retreat in Thailand, just happened to be in San Jose del Cabo! So we drove down there (a bit over an hour on a nice highway) to spend an evening of live music, food and conversation in the downtown.

San Jose del Cabo
For Dave's and my sixth wedding anniversary, we drove five hours to Loreto, on the Sea of Cortez. (Again, we were generously offered a free place for few nights, by friends we'd housesat for earlier in the year.) In Loreto, Dave reconnected with Juve and Sarah. He'd not seen them in more than ten years, when they'd done a kayak trip.
Salud! Juve and Sarah now own a dive shop in downtown Loreto.
Another day, we arranged to have a ponga pick us up for some time on the water. The captain showed us two geologically fascinating islands--Carmen and Danzante--and stopped for some beautiful snorkeling.
isla Danzante
My favorite moment was on the drive back when we spotted a huge pod of dolfinas. They surrounded the boat, squealing and jumping. I asked the captain how many there were. I thought he said, cincuenta (fifty).

"De verdad?" I said. "¿No mas?" (Really? No more?... It had looked like hundreds to me.)

That's when he explained he'd said sin cuenta...literally, "without counting." Too many to count. Yay, I learned a new idiom!

dofinas...sin cuenta
Another of our adventures was a day-long (dusty, exhilarating, exhausting) group quad ride into the Sierra de Laguna mountains. At one point, one of the vehicles got stuck in the mud and needed to be pulled out with our wench; Dave got a down-and-dirty lesson on how to use it.

stuck--but still posing for a shot!

lunch in the shade
Sierra de Laguna from the quad
In our short three months here there have been lots of gatherings. At one, we celebrated my sister Ann's birthday with a great group of people at the amazing and delicious Free Souls.


Another favorite moment was experiencing a Mexican family band: the parents and their five children. They played the most unique arrangements of rock classics, from La Bamba to Stairway to Heaven.

Monster Band
It seems that the theme of our time here has been community. We have been hiking together...
San Pedrito hike
...playing music together...
Todos Santos ukulele group meets every Monday.
 ... and just hanging out together.
with new amiga Susanna
Not many of our friends live here year-round. Even the permanentes tend to spend months away. There have been a lot of hellos and see-ya-laters. 

And we are following suit. In a few weeks, we fly away. For the first time, we are not driving back up Baja. We are storing our car with plans to return in March.

Dare I say it? This place is starting to feel like "home." I use quotes because I'm still not quite sure what that word means for my wandering soul. Dave says home is wherever his toothbrush is.

Maybe my home is Baja. Or maybe it's the world. Or maybe it's the wide sky inside.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

5 Year Anniversary of Our Nomadic Life

Housesit at dusk (taken by our friend Roger).
Five years ago this month we left home to live...an alternative life.

We're kind of nomads (although we've spent long periods in many places).

We're kind of house-free (although after living for a year without a house, we bought a place in Mexico).

We're kind of travelers (although traveling suggests a trip outside of your normal life...and travel is our normal life).

We're kind of retired from academia and the corporate world (although I do online editing and writing coaching, and I taught in China and Thailand; and Dave is currently involved in a tech startup).

We're certainly housesitters (we have done 19 housesits in 5 years).

It's a free-form life that has blossomed in ways we hadn't anticipated when we left Santa Cruz in 2013.
Hiking on the housesit property with Marilen, Roger & Gracie.
One of the biggest surprises is that we spend so much quality time with friends and family. I'd thought by leaving California we were, in essence, saying goodbye. But as it turns out, we come through California a lot.

And when we do, no one takes it for granted that we will see each other in the hallway at work or will gather for Christmas dinner. So we make sure to connect. We luxuriate in spending time together in a way that the rushed let's-do-lunch-next-week lifestyle doesn't accommodate.

Beautiful brunch with friends in San Jose
We keep our car and some extra gear at our friend Mark's house in San Jose. "Our room" is his spare room. His neighbors Todd and Jackie have become good friends. Recently, we were hanging out in Mark's back yard when Jackie came by, panicked. Their dog sitter had fallen ill, and in two days they were scheduled to go on a cruise.

Because our plans were in flux, it was perfect timing. We offered to care for Sammy for 2 weeks. So housesit #19 happened spontaneously. As did another Golden Retriever; we had just taken care of one for 2 1/2 months on a housesit in Forest Ranch, California.

The sunset spot.
In Forest Ranch, we had five waves of visitors. With our friends, we walked the trails, played music, made food, played Cards Against Humanity, and conversed into the night serenaded by frogs in the backyard pond.

One of Dave's amazing shots.
Forest Ranch may be a small community, but it's filled with people who love live music. While there, we attended two private house concerts. They were cozy potlucks and incredible shows.
At a house party featuring a musician who used to play with Jerry Garcia.
We were also able to meet up with a woman who was a friend of my parents. I hadn't seen Barbara in many years. Turns out, she plays in a uke group. It doesn't get much better than people of all ages (some in their 80s and 90s) playing music and singing together. Like church without dogma.


This trip through California meant connecting with my parents in another way. When they died, upon their request, we mixed their ashes and buried 1/3 in the local cemetery and released 1/3 into the San Francisco Bay. The last portion has been in my sister Crystal's house for years. It was time to cast them into the vast, ancient beauty that is Yosemite National Park, the place they met.

With Evan and Crystal in Yosemite
The symbolism ran deep: Their grandson Evan (Crystal's son) carried the ashes on his back as we hiked on a crystalline-sky day. Into the rushing waters, we released the final flecks of our beloved parents' bodies.

In two days, Dave turns 60. The next day, we will be back in our car, carried along the length of California and beyond. Everything is movement, everything is change. I deeply experience this truth as a traveling soul.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Time to Write


Starting tomorrow, this is where I am writing my next book: In the "She Shed" on the property where we are housesitting in Northern California.

We've been on a kind of housesitting binge lately: end of the year in the Pacific Northwest, Tahoe, and Palm Springs--punctuated by visits to friends and family all over.

Palm Springs hike
And then for the 40th reunion shows of Dave's favorite band (The Radiators), we flew to New Orleans. God I love that town: the food, the music, the colorful houses, the life-is-right-here-right-now vibe.

Krazy krewe in NOLA.
When we came back to California, I had the sorrowful honor of officiating at a memorial. Thi Aracelli, daughter of my friends Daisy and Tung, didn't make it into the world. The anguish goes deep. I was grateful to be in the Bay Area to offer my love and support.
With Stephanie and Daisy, and Daisy's son Luc
In the midst of all of this, my new book of poems, Target, was released. Like my memoir, it explores heartbreak and healing--while performing the time-and-space magic of poetry.

There's even a poem about housesitting in here.
The evocative art on the cover is by my longtime friend Nancy. I was lucky to spend time with her in LA. on our recent swing through and fell in love with her new Art You Can Color book.

Coloring like the kids we were when we met.
It's been six months since we left China. And during that time we have not been in one place longer than three weeks. That's a lot, even for us nomads. Now we have two-and-a-half months in a house nestled in 41 acres. We are treating it like a retreat: time for yoga, meditation, healthy eating, hiking, studying languages (me, Spanish; Dave, German), and music (me, playing the ukulele; Dave singing along). And giving lots of love to Gracie, our golden companion.

Gracie in the house.
As I write this, I hear frogs singing in the pond, in chorus with the crickets. A mass of stars is emerging. Savory smells are drifting over from the kitchen where my love is cooking us dinner. I feel the rhythms of life shifting. I feel a book coming on.