Mexico, March 2011
They're up before us, shortly after daybreak
Surf boards tucked under one arm
They stride purposely towards the thundering breakers
Coastal Don Quixotes
Tilting at the monstrous waves – easily double their heights,
Zig-zagging up to the foaming crests and down into the glassy troughs
Riding if skillful – and also if lucky – almost to the shore,
Or plunging unceremoniously into the bubbling brine
But bobbing up, on-board, and paddling out to try their luck again.
No surfers we
Sedately (but with purpose!) walk the beach
As becomes our age (and as befits our fitness – or lack thereof).
We collect pretty rocks to use as weights
For games of cards on windy afternoons;
Or photographs of stately coconut palms,
Cactii spilling over the edge of a crumbling cliff,
The green and gold of distant hills.
We watch the waves, the surfers and the birds.
Frigates, pelicans and vultures rule the sky;
Herons great and small, egrets, cormorants and ducks,
Stick closer to the shore, congregate in quiet lagoons.
Ever on the alert we examine the tracks left by recent visitors
Guessing whose they are.
Tire treads and human foot-prints are easy,
As well the sharp-toed paws of dogs that so many of our ilk
– American and Canadian tourists – bring with them.
More challenging are the many birds:
The large three-toed tracks of the great heron
Stepping carefully, stealthily, one foot infront of the other;
The heavy tread of the vulture, its talons dragging from one print to the next.
And the light skittering steps of the little shorebirds
Running to and fro like distracted children.
I admire the feathery tracings made by crabs
Marking their many forays to and from
Their hidey-hole homes;
When they see me coming, they make a mad dash
And quickly tucking their legs in tight,
Dart into these impossibly tiny holes.
But the most impressive tracks we see
Are those of the great mama turtles
Lumbering up the beach, pushing their flippers into the sand
And dragging their tails behind them.
They dig big holes and lay their eggs inside them,
Then lumber back down and into the water.
Their tracks are straight and purposeful – they have a job to do.
Not so the tracks of their young – they meander every which way
At times paralleling the shore or – more perilous yet – heading away from it.
Can't they hear the surf? Don't they have some natural instinct
To guide them towards the ocean and, one hopes, a safer place?
There are thousands of tiny turtle tracks
And new ones every morning;
Some right in front of our bungalow.
But we have seen no turtles, big or small;
They must come and go at night.
The waves leave their tracks as well,
Bits of bark and seaweed forming lovely sculpted lines
Along the shore.
The waves take our foot-prints with them when they go,
Reminding us of our transience here,
And our insignificance everywhere.
We hope our memories of this place will last
Longer than our foot-prints in the sand.
Meanwhile the surfers, oblivious to our meanderings,
Sally forth on their boards,
Confident that this will be the wave,
And this will be the ride,
Of which their memories are made.