For two glorious weeks, no buzzing alarm clock would jolt me awake. My wrist watch was tucked deep in a drawer, since I wanted no reminders that it was time to do this or that. Instead, I would eat when hungry, sleep when tired, and get up when the spirit moved me. I would be on Mexican time and “manjana” would be the rule of the day if I so wished. Sometimes, though, knowing what time it is can be a good thing.
In January 2003, four of us followed the escape route away from the cold, damp, West Coast Canadian winter. We packed our bags and headed to where the sun was guaranteed to shine. Our destination was the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula: Los Cabos.
Our villa, TerraSol, was a brief pelican flight along sandy coves and rocky outcroppings from El Arco, the natural stone arch where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez merge and which is the signature landmark of Los Cabos. The villa was set back on a wide stretch of golden sand that sloped gently up from the blue Pacific Ocean. From there we could watch the sun and moon rise from the direction of the Sea of Cortez and set over the Pacific.
The world moves too fast for comfort at times and holidays like this seem to slow it down temporarily. People often say it takes the first week of a holiday to wind down and rid ourselves of the undercurrent of tension associated with our fast-paced lives. I thought that if I practiced yoga on this holiday a calm state of mind could be achieved in just a few days.
I had once seen a dramatic image of a young woman in silhouette as she practiced yoga on a beach before the rising sun. She was doing Surya Namaskar which in Sanskrit means ‘sun salutation.’ In yoga, a sun salutation is a series of postures which is meant to express gratitude for the sun’s light, warmth, and energy and the positive effect it has on us. I was ever so grateful for the warm sun in the midst of our cold, Canadian winter and was inspired to do sun salutations, too.
Even if I knew what time the sun was going to rise, it wouldn’t have mattered. Clocks and watches did not fit into my lifestyle on this holiday. If I awakened in time to arrive at the water’s edge before sunrise and do sun salutations as the sun came up, I would do so.
Several mornings passed before I finally awakened prior to dawn. I threw off the covers and dressed by the light shining in through the bedroom window. I tucked my yoga mat and beach towel under my arm, pocketed a key, and quietly let myself outside.
The sand was soft and cool under my bare feet as I slowly made my way toward the stretch of beach that led to the shore. I turned my face to the soft ocean breeze and for a moment closed my eyes and breathed in the salt air. When I opened my eyes, the glittering panorama made me pause. Bright sand and ribbons of surf lay brilliantly against a backdrop of dark velvet. Fishing and sightseeing boats would soon be motoring along the coastline to where the fishing was best. Sailboats, yachts, and cruise ships would dot the seascape and beach walkers would be out and about. But for now, except for the rhythmic sound of the waves, all was quiet. The beach belonged only to me.
Soon I arrived at the shore not far from the breaking surf. I unrolled my yoga mat and smoothed my beach towel over it. The eastern horizon showed no glimmer of sun yet, so I lay down on my towel to wait. A myriad of stars filled the sky and a full moon hung in the west. Soon they would all fade away with the breaking of dawn.
I gazed at the moon and tried to see the man in it. As a child, I’d seen many illustrations of a man in the moon but was never able to see him in real life. When I was a young visitor to Japan, I was told that instead of imagining a man in the moon, the Japanese people see a white rabbit eating rice cakes. I could see that white rabbit in the moon when I was there.
Frigate birds must not like to fly until the sky is lighter or perhaps I just couldn’t see them. All day long they hover lazily very high in the sky, looking like black kites. With a pair of binoculars, we could watch the frigate birds stealing fish from the pelicans. They don’t catch their own, because they produce very little oil and wouldn’t survive if they landed in the ocean.
My mind had wandered and much time had passed when my thoughts drifted back to the present. “Surely the sun is about to rise by now,” I thought, raising myself onto an elbow and studying the eastern horizon again. I was stunned. It was still no brighter than the rest of the sky. Could I have been made a fool by the brightness of the full moon and its reflections shining in through the bedroom window? Was dawn not approaching after all?
I stared back at the white villas with their black windows and shadowy balconies and self-consciousness hit me. Restless insomniacs gazing out of their windows could not miss seeing the fool lying out on a beach towel in the middle of the night looking like she was trying to tan by moonlight. Could this actually be the middle of the night? Knowing the answer, I sheepishly folded my towel, rolled up my yoga mat and crept back to our villa and to bed. Foolish indeed!
Hours later when morning had actually broken, Dave inquired, “Where were you last night? I got up and couldn’t find you anywhere.”
“What time was that?” I asked, trying to maintain a casual tone.
“Around 2 o’clock. So where were you?”
“It’s a long story.” I replied.
February 6, 2006