Finding My Moment

I’m grumpy. I’ve been behind the computer too much. The blinking cursor mocks me.  I have a new book coming out and I have been spending too much time marketing it for its deput, “Sun, Sand & Surf – The Ultimate Guide To Orange County Beaches” has been keeping me at my desk. “What am I doing? I certainly didn’t move to a tropical island to sit inside at a desk.”

This morning rather then sit down, with a cup of coffee, behind my computer – as is my usual ritual, I grabbed my camera, hopped on my cherried out, mountain bike and joined the noise of the street.

On the beach I found two perfect subjects, an egret and a heron.IMG_4568_1

They scour the tide pools in search of fish. Keeping to the shadows they creep, craning their neck froward to propel their bodies along. The egret is angry, he puffs Angry Birdup the feathers on his head, screeching at the heron to get out of his pool. It’s intriguing to watch the exchange.

The rain is coming. I hop back on my bike and pump my legs like crazy trying to beat the impending downpour. I’m too late. My hair is wet. My clothes are soaked through. And I am happy. I learn that sometimes you need to take a break from what you are doing, and no matter where you live, go find your moment in paradise.

The Watering Hole

IMG_8754As a child, my favorite idiom was, “I am so bored!” Even now as an adult, I sometimes find myself saying, “Estoy muy aburrido!” I presume it is just my nature, a curse (or blessing) I was born with. Now when I feel edgy and unsettled, I seek out adventure. Yesterday, I brought my friend and fellow photographer, Linda Choate, to the other side of the island to take in, and record, this grand scene. A herd of horses posed in the lagoon, as ducks, herons and migratory birds soared overhead. A baby armadillo ran under our car and hid in the bush, and just as we were about to pull away, we saw a crocodile circling the center of the lagoon, claiming it as his own. This scene doesn’t always exist on Cozumel. In fact, it is the only time I have witnessed horses in the lagoon in the year-and-a- half that I have lived here. Throughout the year the lagoon is dry. What amazing beauty is brought about by rain!

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Hijacked by a Pelican

IMG_7202My friend, Lynda and I came across a handcrafted, bamboo raft marooned onshore. Aside from a few broken bamboo pieces it seemed sturdy and in pretty good shape. It even had a bright green fishing net and sail still attached. IMG_7192Upon further inspection, it almost appeared as if someone had tried to hide it, sea grass covered the entire surface. IMG_7218Of course our imaginations ran wild. By the end of the day, we had ourselves convinced that it was made by a Cuban who deftly sailed the raft with his family to freedom, drank a bottle of rum (we found an empty bottle right next to the raft) then abandoned the raft for a new life on Cozumel.

Now, fast forward two days later. I was sitting on the dock of the pier, when I had the silly notion of trying to sail the raft myself. So, I borrowed kayak paddles from Lynda and enlisted the help of my husband, daughter and her friend to launch it.

The moment we set it in the water a rather contentious pelican hopped on IMG_7231board and jealously guarded it with her life. She was cool and calculating and looked through those big black eyes as if the only thing she saw was food, including the flip flop that my daughter’s friend was holding in her hand. The pelican lurched forward and dove for it. Luckily, Maya threw her shoe just in the nick of time before the pelican skillfully splashed down and retrieved the shoe. Evidently, the raft had been used by a spear diver to store his catch of fish, and the pelican wasn’t about to share it with anyone.

A Living Mosaic

IMAG0662 2When I see a flock of seagulls sitting on the beach I can’t help but run at full speed straight into the center of them. My heart soars with joy as I watch hundreds of birds take to the sky. I smile and think to myself, I have such power. While there are no flocks of seagulls that I have found in Cozumel, there are schools of fish. PICT0013Hundreds if not thousands of streamlined, silver fish group together under the sea. PICT0005I fill my lungs with the fresh, salt air, hold my breath and plunge deep to swim through them. It is like the Red Sea parting. In perfect symmetry the fish veer to the right and left – a living mosaic.

The Cheese Man

Oct 20, 2013

Like a siren calling to fishermen, his melodious voice and sonnet enchant me. He stretches out the words as he sings  Kaaaay – soooooo,   Waaaa haa kaaa (Queso Oaxaca).  From my second story window I look out and see a man dressed all in white, walking barefoot, balancing an enormous box of cheese on his head.

In Mexico, there is a guy for everything ~ a water guy, a propane guy, a machete sharpener guy, an IMG_7650empanada guy, a churro guy. At various times during the day they pass through the street blasting music from giant speakers attached to cars, or pedaling a bike while singing or clapping or whistling to let people know that they are selling their wares. The new IMG_7638song I heard this morning dances around in my head throughout the day and I find myself looking forward to tomorrow when I will run out, pesos in hand, make a new friend and eat some delicious homemade cheese.

The cheese man never did pass by my house again. I heard rumors that the doctor told him he wasn’t allowed to walk the streets barefoot anymore and now he dons tennis shoes and rides a tricycle. Perhaps like the illusive mythical creatures of the sea, the cheese man was only an apparition, but like the sailors and fisherman from centuries ago,  I will continue to look out my window, watch and wait.

 

 

First Day of School in Cozumel – From Mayhem to Bliss

IMG_5638To know a place for the first time is like Christmas morning. Beautifully wrapped gifts found under the tree beckon you to open them to see what is inside, the same way a new destination calls you to discover her character, charms and culture.

I know of some people that when they first moved to Cozumel they could only go out of the house a few hours a day before needing to come back and rest. They told me they were overstimulaIMG_7645ted and overwhelmed by the newness of the place. For me, to know a place for the first time is exhilarating. I love wandering along the waterfront, past the taco stands and fruit carts, and the little tiendas with their “hustlers” who try to entice you in with absurd catch phrases like, “Same junk lower prices,” or “Almost free come have a look.” I love the salsa music that blasts from the farmacias and their mascot who, God bless him, dances in a full-body pharmacist caricature costume in 88 degree weather. And then, there are the intimate looks between lovers, the laughter and whips of conversations among friIMG_7651ends, the crystalline blue waters with her abundant sea life, and the chance encounters and cultural oddities that lend themselves to unexpected moments – moments in paradise.

Nearly one year ago, I moved to Cozumel, Mexico and began recording snapshots of these moments. Like an old fashioned movie reel, they play the story of our discovery of this beautiful place we call home – Cozumel.

August 19, 2013 – Just Another Moment In Paradise #1

My daughter is starting school today. It’s the first of many new things for her. It is the first day in a new school, which is located in a new Country, where she will be learning in a new language. I find myself praying that God will give her strength, confidence and guidance and that she takes it all in for the amazing opportunity that it is. As we walk onto the campus, originally built around a bullring, it is all so foreign to us. Hundreds of school children, meticulously dressed in starched white shirts and schoIMAG0328ol issued plaid skirts or blue shorts, form a circle around the basketball court. Announcements made in Spanish blare over the intercom and a team of high school students, honored to lead the flag salute, march in the center for a half hour straight carrying an enormous Mexican flag. It must be 90 degrees even in the early morning hours. Children are fainting right and left. The teachers, astonishingly adept at catching them before they  hit the ground, calmly carry them inside to the school nurse. Admist all the chaos, our daughter is in tears. While she is surrounded by 3 teachers who try desperately to comfort her, my husband and I awkwardly walk away.

All day we worry. We don’t know what to expect. At 1:50 p.m. sharp we arrive at the school to pick her up. From tears in the morning to smiles in the afternoon, how is it possible that this is the same little girl we left crying on the blacktop? When I asked what happened, she replies easily, “It was a great day! I made 18 new friends!”

IMG_6092I love how simple Mexico is. I love how a smile cuts across all barriers, cultural, language or otherwise. I love the fact that my daughter plays with all the girls in class, not just one or two and that for PE they walk and learn how to balance sticks on their hands.

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Spellbound by Spoonbills

Flocks of spoonbills soar overhead, their soft pink hues a gentle contrast against the Crayola cornsilk-blue sky. Lying down onto my IMG_7444back to get a better view, I think to myself, where do they go? I tend to become a bit obsessed with things, and so it is with the spoonbills. Each time I see a flock, I follow it as far as my eyes can reach to see where they land. I post on various Facebook sites asking where I might find the spoonbills. Each lagoon I drive past, I crane my neck to see if they are there.

ImageLast night the spoonbills found me. It was a tropical rainy day in Cozumel and I had been stuck inside all day. As evening fell, the rain subsided and the red and orange sky beckoned me outside. With a cup of hot tea in my hand and my daughter, Kailea, in tow, I made my way down to the dock to watch the schools of fish come to the surface to eat. And there they were, two spoonbills, in my own backyard peacefully sifting through the tidepools. We followed after them, treading lightly on our bare feet over the coral reef. We lingered well after sunset, studying their graceful way of dipping their bills into the water foraging for food.

The pesky mosquitos were doing their best to drive us inside. but as we made our way back to the beach, Eric was there waiting on the IMG_7472dock. Kailea ran out to meet him and together they jumped into the ocean. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, a heron alighted 2 feet in front of us.

Just Another Moment In Paradise # 9