February 23, 2010
It is 9:30 p.m. I am sitting in the van, on the edge of Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Eye of the Rabbit Lagoon), Baja California Sur, Mexico. Alex is in the seat behind me, labeling audio files. Most of the others are in bed.
I had to consult Alex to help me figure out which consecutive day this is – he confirmed that today is Day #24 in the spring 2010 Finding the Good semester. Of course I had imagined that I would have posted at least ten entries by now, but here we are, three weeks into the semester and almost a week into Mexico, and this is my first. Tom suggested to “just give an overview”. You’d think that after living with me for 33 years he’d know better, which he does, but he’s never been one to give up easily. Which probably explains why we are here better than anything else.
Overview. Right. But the real story is in the details. Like tonight when Alex, just a few moments ago, told me that the second he touched a whale (two days ago) he instantly “got” what we are doing here. That prior to that moment he’d been a bit lost – longing for home, caught between the place he’d left behind and one that just didn’t feel quite “right”. In one moment he was brought so fully into the present that the unsettled feeling he’d had for the past three weeks vanished and his perspective shifted.
Or the day we crossed the border. I know from crossing it myself many times that the experience can strip you to the core. One passes from the wealth and excess of Southern California to the squalor and deprivation of Tijuana in a matter of seconds. Two countries, separated by corrugated tin roofing turned into a kind of fence on the Mexico side, and “The Fence” made of who knows what state of the art impenetrable material lord knows how high on the US side. The helicopters patrolling day and night searching for those who are willing to risk all to get into the country that draws the lines and builds the fences. The look on Forest’s face at the first military checkpoint north of Ensenada as they ordered us (politely) out of the van to check it for contraband.
Or way back at the food convergence at UC Santa Cruz over a week ago, when Nick came smack up against well-intentioned but rigid views on eating meat and whether or not it is sustainable to do so. As you can read in his blog, he questioned not only the material that was presented, but the attitude and belief system that was behind it.
Overview. Three weeks of preparation, immersion and travel and today the students sat down and described the media projects they want to create; piecing together art and humanity into a story mosaic that will speak and dance and sing itself into being. It is here that the investigations will find their home as six young voices rise to find the story that tells them.
What is the real story? What is our story? It unfolds day-by-day, moment-to-moment. We ask questions – of ourselves and each other. We are learning how to live community; not how to live in community, but how to live as community.
If today really is Day 24, that means that we’ve prepared, cooked and cleaned somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 meals (we’ve skipped a few here and there). Six of us crave meat on daily basis – sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. Three of us are mostly vegetarian most of the time. Three of us follow a pretty strict vegan diet. Somehow it all works and everyone is eating more than I imagined possible for a group of twelve. I’ve rarely seen such appetites. Maybe its because the food is so nourishing and so delicious; or perhaps our appetite for everything is increased here. Or we simply hunger for something more.
Or maybe we are eating more because our group is bigger now. Two days ago Sirena and her boyfriend Adrian joined us. We first met Sirena and her mother Shari beside this very lagoon sixteen years ago. Sirena was four then. Adrian grew up in Ensenada. We have the great fortune to have their help and expertise for the next ten days. Besides serving as our interpreters and guides (both are bilingual), they are taking over the kitchen so we can get our feet under us in terms of the media projects and academics. They’ve already planned a menu of authentic Mexican dishes and issued the edict that only Spanish is to be spoken in the kitchen. (They gave us an introductory lesson first.) This afternoon Adrian took Genesis, Forest and Alex out clamming and this evening we ate our first wild harvested food. (Sauteed in butter…)
So there you have it – the overview. What’s next? We have some work to do here in the lagoon, then we head for San Ignacio where, we are told, there will be a gathering of some of Mexico’s foremost conservationists as well as several from the US. Then onto Bahia Asuncion. First things first though – tomorrow we drive into Guerrero Negro to do laundry, shower, eat fish tacos, shop for produce, and post our blog entries.
Until next time, wishing you well,