A healing place called home

Offshore, two pangas race toward the harbor, a sailboat rocks gently at anchor and a flotilla of pelicans dives and dines. Awash in a world of sensations, my mind fills with wonder as I gaze at the Sea of Cortez from my new home in Loreto.

The power of friendship is not to be deterred. In October 2005, I had come to Loreto, Baja California Sur, to visit my lifelong Laguna friend, Val Iverson Wilkerson. I had made the journey, as had another Laguna grad, Sue Klaasen Jones, with her husband, Curt, to celebrate the completion of Val and Barry's new home.

In six short days, I had met what seemed like 100 wonderful folks; had assisted with English lessons at the local university; taken two Spanish lessons from Enrique, who speaks little English; and attended a fundraiser for the college. Barry had taken us snorkeling off Isla Coronado, where colorful fish were too plentiful to identify. Before I boarded the plane, I had looked at a house and a lot, and left a purchase offer in my wake.

Seven months later, I sit next to the water typing this column, amazed that the transactions were actually completed and that I have been able to manifest a life-long dream of a home in Mexico. I await the full fleshing of the dream with family and friends.

My first morning here, I woke to watch the sun's red orb edge from the sea's horizon. I stood in the warm water and tears slipped from my eyes. The overwhelming beauty caught me off guard. The starkness of the desert strips everything to basics. Nothing is wasted. Life thrives in the slim shade of a cactus.

Frigate birds dove and fished. Small pangas headed out to fishing holes. A pair of cormorants winged past and three cactus wrens played hide and seek with an oriole in the tops of the palms.

When I first saw this house, my mind had said, "This is a place to get well." I had thought of my sons, my brother, my sister and the trials of my mother and father. I stood on the patio and it was as if I could hear their voices, see my friends' faces. I saw Stephen grilling fish on the barbecue. I knew it was home from those first images.

I find now that the wondrous sense of peace applies to anyone. Folks stop by to say hello and linger. They wander out to the front porch and fall silent. The sea does that. The cool shade of the tall palms soothe and the sea grapes shelter. The bougainvillea drapes the trellis and spills into the yard, spreading colorful flowers in all directions.

The edges of life seem to slip away. The quiet of thought returns. There is no immediacy, not even forward thinking. Soft breathing and an inhale of fresh air. Peace expands within my heart. It seems to have been so long.

There are those who thought I was foolish for the purchase. But when they visit, they will know. Everyone needs a healing place, a place to stop and listen to our inner voices. Life's wild journey has speed bumps and jolts, and an occasional time out can settle the soul.

Life in Loreto is built on the sea. Fishing is the core industry of both the local economy and the pull of tourism. Each morning the boats leave the harbor filled with anticipation, and each afternoon they return ? usually with a good catch and always with fish stories.

Summer is marked with dorado, yellowfin and marlin. Barry and friends Randy, Mike, Rod and Chris have fishing in their blood.

The sea is also protected. In 1996, the Mexican Congress established the Loreto Bay Marine Park, which covers an area of 2,065 square kilometers. It was founded in response to overfishing by commercial fleets. Regulations prohibit trawlers and limit net fishing with the intention to return an abundancy to the area. The Nature Conservancy works hand in hand with the local center to develop the park's resources and provide an educational program.

Seven islands just offshore beckon divers and snorklers, and a small bay of incredibly white sand marks a cove on Isla Coronado. The Sierra Gigantica provides a jagged and scenic backdrop to the town and has miles of hiking trails and off-road routes that lead the ancient mission.

As I write, I listen to the sea's constant caressing of the shoreline. A cool breeze rustles the palms and a bright oriole dashes from shrub to tree. To say it is exquisite may be insufficient. To say I am grateful, seems hardly enough.

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