Paradise

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Many of the expats I’ve met in Mexico moved there in search of Paradise, a place where they could stretch out to do and be whatever they wanted. Like everything else in life, it’s more complicated than that, but the slower pace and lower cost of living does enable most Gringos to live as simply – or as extravagantly – as they would like. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several expats, some of whom were able to export their livelihoods across the border, and others who had finished their careers Stateside and were looking for a change of scenery. Our most recent visit to Baja reinforces our commitment to continue to dream…

paradise —
I flew all this way
just to sigh

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the dunes

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The type of dunes that fascinate me are the ones I see when I’m lucky enough to visit El Pescadero. Unfortunately it’s never more than once a year, and it’s rarely more than a week at a time. For most of the winter, the only kind of “dune” I see is like the one above, when nearly two feet of snow buried our picnic table, a grill and an outdoor dining set back in February 2015. Wind causes the snow to drift to dazzling heights. It’s pretty to look at, but not much fun to shovel.

Most ocean beaches are protected by natural coastal sand dunes, fragile ecosystems that protect the shore from storm surge and erosion while playing host to unique vegetation and wildlife. Unlike snowdrifts, which will eventually melt when the weather gets warm enough, an undisturbed coastal dune can last for years, adapting to winds, waves and extreme weather as needed.

When we were last in Mexico, I had the opportunity to sit among the dunes for a few minutes, trying to get a sense for their rhythm without disrupting them. Naturally it wasn’t nearly long enough. I’ll just have to keep coming back.

slow news day —
a lizard skitters
across the dune

gone before you know it

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As usual, we feel like we just got here, but we’re already thinking in terms of using up perishable food and budgeting pesos so that we don’t have too much or too little. Our present reality is that it’s not yet time to lose track of time, although it’s always nice to pretend.

Our present reality is this:

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But sadly our not-too-distant future is this:

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Our first-world privilege enables us to escape the New England winter and experience these beautiful, exotic places. For that I’m extremely grateful, but also a little wistful.

knowing I can’t stay —
wilted desert flower

 

winter, get away!

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It seems perfectly fitting that on the last day of summer we finally booked our flight and reserved a rental car for our February trip to El Pescadero. Our casita had been booked for nearly two months, but these two tasks remained on the to-do list. After all, we had only installed our air conditioner, a window unit, last month, and were wearing shorts and sandals as recently as last week. Winter seemed a lifetime away.

On the other hand, an unusually dry summer had already caused some of the leaves in our neighborhood to begin changing color prematurely. The temperature when I woke up this morning — the first full day of Autumn — was a chilly 48 degrees. There was no mistake, and no turning back.

This winter will be our first since the Selectmen of the Town of Wayland chose to stop plowing our street after snowfall. I could go on and on about this topic, and probably will, but suffice it to say that a week’s escape will be particularly welcome four and a half months from now.

changing of the guard —
the snow shovel replaces
the broom

hitching up

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I only met “Jorge” once, but he and I corresponded regularly via email. I told him about my grandkids and the house on the Cape, while he rewarded me with a prolific cache of short stories with varying degrees of fiction. What mattered most to George was a yarn well spun, and he had an uncanny knack for delivering the goods. Not bad for a hobby picked up during his retirement.

When I wished him a happy 81st birthday last October, he confided that he had spent every day of the past year wondering if he’d see the following morning. One day in January his wife Lynda died suddenly after a brief illness. She had been George’s caretaker, so needless to say he had to make some adjustments.

He spent much of his last few months preparing for what he considered an inevitable transition. Not one for moroseness or nostalgia, he made certain that his house was in order, that his new caretakers were fairly compensated, and that there would be an orderly succession once he passed on. Once those details were worked out, he simply mused about where his life had taken him, and how he had found and cherished his paradise on earth.

Descansa en paz, Jorge.

I Can’t Quit You!

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We haven’t been visiting Todos Santos for very long, but it’s been long enough that we’ve noticed some inevitable changes. From the Tres Santos resort to the annual art, film and music festivals, the pueblo magico has — for better or worse — seen unrelenting international exposure.

This exposure has meant improvements in infrastructure, but also a sense of loss on the part of those seeking an idyllic paradise, a longing for a Todos Santos based more in myth than reality. Few of us, for example, would want to chase the resorts away if it meant not having electricity or high-speed internet, and yet that’s the true trade-off of persistent progress.

So yes, I’ve watched Todos Santos and El Pescadero grow in leaps and bounds in just a few short years. And with the influx of affluent Americans, there is the burgeoning industry of wellness and spirituality that threatens to turn Todos Santos into a caricature in which one can have one’s chakra either balanced or cleansed (or both) on any given night. Yoga studios have become more prevalent than taco stands.

And yet my Baja daydreams persist. There’s something beyond the lure of Gringo Nirvana that draws me there. I remain focused on the goal of one day making it home.