Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reflections at dawn - Springtime in Loreto

This week, when the rest of North America “sprang forward”, here in Mexico we are still on regular Mexican Time, as Daylight Savings does not begin here until the first weekend in April.  Having said that, this far south the time change is not associated with the portent of changing seasons, as it is in northern climates, where I was used to this annual ritual being a promise of milder weather to come – maybe.

In fact, we are already feeling a distinct shift to warmer weather, albeit somewhat later this year than has been my experience in the recent past.  Perhaps it is related to the fact that the popular dialogue seems to have shifted from the concept of “Global Warming” to what is now referred to “Climate Change”.  Our “winter” here has been traditionally identified as starting sometime in mid-December, with the advent of cooler evenings and mornings, followed by comfortable daytime highs in the 70’s and usually extends through to mid-February, when things start to warm up again.

However this year, the northeast winds that are associated the cooler weather have continued off and on through until early in March, and during the past month or so we have had more clouds than normal and even a brief rain shower about a week ago.  But during the past couple of weeks I have noticed that the ambient temperature has been rising, and with the increasingly sunny days, there have been a return to more of the satisfying heat that I have been missing.

To those of you further north who have suffered through what in many places has been an extreme winter, with low temperatures and frequent heavy storms, the subtle and apparently benign weather fluctuations I describe here may seem trivial.  Let me be clear, I am NOT complaining about a “hard winter in Mexico”, but it is perhaps worth noting that we are all connected on this continent and while those of us lucky enough to live this far south have, over the past several months, enjoyed weather that would be the envy of much of the rest of North America, we too have had an unusually “wintery winter”.

However, delayed as it has been, the warm calm days we have been enjoying recently are as close to perfect as we have enjoyed since my return here last Fall.  In fact, this week I have been tempted out of my bed in the predawn for the first times since late in the Fall to take a morning walk along the beach, about a hundred yards from my home.  Sunrise is now about 6:30 and at that time there is a grayish light as I walk along the path between neighboring homes to the beach.

Leaving the pathway, the sand is cold that makes up the small dune that separates the beach from the homes, the sea grasses coarse and dry underfoot.  At low tide, the extended beach is dark brown sand stretching ten or fifteen yards from the high water mark to the gentle rolls of surf curling out of a glassy calm sea.  Small fragments of white shells spot the sand and there are hundreds of “pores” marking the refuges of clams burrowed into the beach, oozing seawater as the small waves wash back and forth over them.

Perhaps due to the early hour, I do not meet dogs and their walkers, as is often the case on the beach in the morning, but in their place was a first for me, a group of half a dozen Mexican fishermen are pulling a net ashore and harvesting dozens of foot long fish from the light weight nylon mesh.  Once the net is laid out on the beach in five or six 30 foot swags, they untangle their catch and drop the fish into a bucket, later to transfer them into a sturdy cooler layered with ice to keep them fresh.   Then they begin the process again, retrieving a second net, stretching at a right angle from the beach into the shallow water offshore.

Watching this early morning industry, I consider the logistics involved in this practical and efficient undertaking – including coming from town to collect their catch at this early hour, which would have meant leaving there at least an hour earlier, and presumably another trip the evening before to set the nets.  I am struck by the difference between this exercise and what would be classed as “sport fishing” for the ex-pat community. 

This was clearly a food harvesting enterprise, and while the men were friendly and cheerful while they went about their work, (greeting me with a “Buenas Dias” and, when I approached closer to take pictures, pointing out unnecessarily “pescado” (I’m not sure what they thought I thought they were catching!) this was obviously not an entertainment but a practical way to feed themselves and/or sell their catch to others.  As I continued on with my walk, I considered how many fish tacos their buckets of fish would possibly become later in the day – and reflected on my own past angling experiences off this same beach, where spending a couple of hours with a carbon fiber rod and a spinning reel with lifelike plastic lures, more often than not I would fail to catch a single edible specimen.

Further along the beach, with the new sun breaking quickly above the off-shore island of Carmen, I encountered a more recreational activity – a couple of Homeowners launching a kayak for an early morning paddle on the glassy smooth water, joining another couple of paddlers further down the beach who were also taking advantage of a perfectly calm clear dawn for what I anticipated would reward them with a pristine and memorable experience.

With this sun now up, and a new day begun, I retraced my steps back along the beach, returning to my home while reflecting on the contrast of the simple activities I had seen this morning on my walk – catching fish for food and kayaking over the calm waters toward the rising sun – with the soon to begin daily routines that are associated with living here in this community of hundreds of homes that borders the shore.  While this day to day activity for me is focused on my life and work, and the complexities that come with those things, I was glad that I had made the effort to once again recharge myself by experiencing the simple pleasure of greeting another dawn walking along the beach.

Putting things into perspective by returning to the basics that attracted me here in the beginning is a lesson I keep learning while I’m “Living Loreto”.