Barefoot Beachwalk

I just returned from a walk on the beach, barefoot. I tossed on my one-dollar Thriftstore Beach Dress, slipped on my flip flops, and hit the sand. Pulled off the flip flops. Walked right at the shoreline so the incoming tide would wash over my feet. Delicious.

I decided to go barefoot partly because the sand feels so great. Also, I sink further into the sand when I’m barefoot, so I have to push a little harder when I walk, and I figure that will help tone my calves. And walking in the sand helps to slough off dead skin and calluses from my feet.

Power walking the beach is a lot harder when you’re barefoot because you really have to watch where you’re going. It’s no fun at all to land on a beached sea slug or jellyfish, and it’s also no fun to land on some kind of spikey shell. So I spent a lot of time gazing at the ground.

Because I was so focused on each step, I noticed much more beach flotsam than I usually do. First, of course, were all the shells. Shells and pieces of shell litter the beaches in Kino. There was also quite a bit of glass and I scored three pieces – green, clear, and blue.

The sound of the shells was beautiful. Tide was low, and the water slid gently onto the beach and back. With the water’s movement, small shells came and went, clinkking against other shells, tinkling like a fairy’s wind chime.

Of course there were a few slugs, and I was so glad I didn’t step on them! And dead fish, or to be more accurate, their spines and heads. Every dead fish that littered the beach had been picked clean by gulls and vultures. There is a mysterious beauty in the remains of a fish, so I stopped to photograph several, looking for the right angle, wishing the light were a little better.

One stretch of beach was littered with what seemed to be shredded plastic. It looked like plastic and it felt like plastic, but it looked as though it had been put through a paper shredder. Sometimes there were single strands, just a few inches long, but mostly there were large wads, the strands all wrapped up in one another with a little seaweed thrown in for color.

And the seaweed, of course. Some brown, some green, all fun to poke in just to see if there’s a hidden clam.

Then I hit the party area. Empty Coke bottles. Halves of limes squeezed dry. A few straws and plastic cups. From the looks of it, the party had been small, maybe an intimate rendezvous, two lovers with a bottle of rum and a few Cokes.

But there was one unusual thing. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it was. And of course, when I did find out, I felt about as intelligent as a flat tire.

I found several of these: a wooden stick maybe eight inches long, and on one end of it was something the shape of a three-inch-long clam shell. The shelled part was fuzzy. Each one looked like it could be a tom tom of a drum set, but the things were too heavy and the stick was too short. I picked one up.

I wandered back from the beach to find two men heavily into their evening happy hour and kvetching session. The night’s topic was the pinche medical establishment (last night it was the pinche environmentalists). One was complaining about how those irrational dermatologists want us to protect ourselves from the sun. I wandered into the foray and plopped myself down on an empty chair.

“Either of you know what this is?”

“Don’t want to burst your bubble, Emilie, but it’s a snack. Actually, the remains of a snack. They sell them on the pier – mangoes on a stick.”

A “duh!” moment. Of course. The clamshell appearance was the mango pit. On a stick.

I sat a few moments more, until the conversation drifted back to the pinche medical establishment, then took my leave.

The mango-pit-on-a-stick is planted in my garden. Think it will transform itself into a mango tree?

The Sea

The sea. Calm, turquoise, sunlight bouncing off small waves that roll in. The sea. Angry, gray, waves beaching shells, small fish, plastic.

The sea at Bahía de Kino is a study in contrast, from day to night, tranquil to irate, glistening to gloomy. Each day seems to begin the same – soft dawn and a quiet sea. But then, anything can happen.

The occasional storm rolls in. Once a storm came across from the Baja. Dark terrifying clouds built, forming a monstrous wall, and moved steadily across the water. It was so terrorizing that locals fled.

In the fall of 2009, Hurricane Jimena hit San Carlos, less than one hundred miles to the south of Kino. Although the sea rose here, pouring over the seawalls, not a drop of water fell. In the aftermath, the beach was covered with a ten foot swath of shells, nearly a foot deep in some areas. As I walked the beach, I poked around to find shellfish that were still living and tossed them back into the water. From the other direction came a woman and her three young children. They were poking around and gathering the living shellfish.

The family was delighted that they were going to have a good dinner that night.  I, on the other hand, was enchanted, knowing I’d spend days doing the best shelling one can imagine.

Kino’s wind usually comes from the water. Humidity levels stay low, comfortable. Then overnight the humidity can rise so high that in the morning everything is damp, even wet. I rinse the salty dew from my car. But winds can come from the east, from the desert, dropping the humidity to single digits. Then temperatures soar until the wind shifts again, bringing the cooling ocean breezes.

Although dawn is generally clear and crisp, once I awoke to heavy fog. I couldn’t see a quarter mile down the beach, and even the streetlight-type lighting system here had its lights haloed in fog. I stood on the beach watching it change. Pieces of the pier surfaced; parts of houses came into view. The little island about a mile from shore, Isla Alcatraz, slowly emerged.

Every day in Bahía de Kino is the same: beautiful. Every day in Bahía de Kino is different. The sea controls it all, throwing beauty in my face, lulling me with sameness, shocking me with a singular moment.

Walking Kino

Bahía de Kino – Viejo. Took a long walk through Viejo today and only touched one small part of it. This town has fewer than 16,000 residents, and some of them live in Nuevo. Viejo is the original part, almost undeveloped to “first world” standards. And that is why I love it so.

The town is full of cement block buildings, a few old ramshackle stick-built ones, and an entire barrio of tarpaper shacks. Most of those shacks lie on undeveloped property, and if the shack owner installs water and lives there a certain amount of time, she or he can claim title to the land. Then the owner will often begin to build a real house.

Construction moves slowly, though. First, of course, there’s the problem of paying for construction. This is true everywhere but especially so in these incredibly poor neighborhoods. There’s another reason for slow construction: taxes. To my understanding, the property owner doesn’t have to pay taxes on a house or other building until it is completed. Completed, then, becomes a very vague term.

Many houses have a room with a missing wall. Or, it may have the walls but one room with no roof. Or there could be pillars towering above the structure indicating a second floor is coming. Of course, there may be no stairway to that one-day second floor, but the pillars tell the tax man to back off.

Because of lack of cash and tax laws, Kino Viejo is filled with unfinished houses. Many of the unfinished ones are fenced and have lovely gardens. And every one of them has a dog.

Dogs are ubiquitous in Mexico, but because I spend so much time here in Kino, this seems to be the dog capital of Mexico. Dogs in the gardens. Dogs wandering the street. Dogs sleeping under a car. Dogs roaming the beach. Dogs, dogs, dogs.

Most of the confined dogs will sit up and take notice when you walk by. Some will bark. But almost every one of those dozing on the streets take no notice of humans. Occasionally a dog will approach, but it’s rare.

Many Kino dogs are street dogs or beach dogs. They have no real home and depend on trash cans, beached fish, or the occasional softie gringo to help him out. Many are ill. They carry that lean and hungry look.

But walking the streets this morning was a delight. Everyone I passed tossed out a “buenos días” or an “hola” to me. Women in gardens looked up from their watering to wish me a good day. Men nodded and spoke, children laughed and waved.

I made a quick stop at the farmácia, stopped in the tattoo parlor to see if José was in town, and lingered over an iced coffee and chat with Edgar at the only gringo-oriented place in all of Viejo, La Hacienda, a motel and restaurant. On the way back I ran into Manny, one of the groundskeepers here. “Hola Emilie!” he shouted. “¿Cómo estás?” I gave him a hug though he was hot and sweaty. Kino Viejo is that kind of place.