Friday, April 9, 2010

Little Tsunamis

27 February 2010

We've been in San Juanico a week now, and every day I think it grows more beautiful.  It is as if we must settle into the landscape, enter its rhythms in order, truly, to see it.

Today we hiked over the hill on a stony trail and then along a sandy road to La Ramada, a little inlet on the north side of the hills that form Caleta San Juanico.  Here, surf crashes on a crescent of sand beach; green water gradually gives way to blue depths, cliffs tumble to the shore and Punta Pulpito rises in the distance, a purple and pink stony face, sheer against the sea.  Songbirds flit among the cacti on the dry hillsides, egrets stand on outcroppings and peer, unmoving, into the water, while buzzards cast dark silhouettes against the hills.  They seem to follow us up the dusty road, so that when they rise into the sky, their shadows drop behind them and pass over us--poor trudging mortals, ignorant of our fates.

Worry dogs us this trip and I am not quite sure why.   In truth it accompanies us on most trips, but this year I feel almost dangerously distracted.  Is there something I'm forgetting?  What if? What if --I don't even know which what to feel iffy about.  A sense of my own fragility follows me; I am less supple, more tired; I feel the weariness of days as in no other year.  I am afraid for my heart. Afraid of some hurt. Am I being complacent if I don't carry with me a constant sense of dread?  I feel too brittle some days to handle all of the things I think must be done.

And.  But.  Then.  We've begun a practice of getting up and heading off in the mornings while it is still calm.  Walking.  Drawing.  Marike is nearby on the beach, painting.  For some reason I can't fathom, but related to my impatience with myself in other endeavours, I can't seem to muster any enthusiasm for my own drawing or painting.  There are the camera images, there are words: these I can handle, but exercising myself, putting myself through the stretches that have kept me well, drawing, letting myself relax into a delicious langour on the beach, these things I find hard, if not impossible to do.

The water breaks further and further out; several lines of surf roll into shore, moving against the wind.  Now and then a gust throws sand into my face.

I wonder if now, having said I can not, I might be able to draw something....


A strange thing happens this afternoon in La Ramada--perhaps it's related to the earthquake and its aftershocks in Chile.  The water seems to receded in the inlet, sand flats emerge, and rows upon rows of waves break, quite far out.  Then suddenly, within just two or three minutes, the water rushes in, east to west, running into every little gully and depression.  The waves settle, flatten, then, bit by bit the water recedes and the whole process begins again.  It's curious--we've watched it for several hours--and waded across the flats to a nearby spit before deciding to swim out beyond where the water was breaking.

The swim was cold but refreshing.  We've dried now, and changed our clothing.  Marike has gone back to painting and I'm sitting in the sun watching the water ebb and flow and listening to a yellow finch call and sing in a nearby bush.  A seagull waddles to the edge of one of the tidal flats and runs along the water, bending, stooping, plucking.  I imagine he's clamming.  Then the water rushes back in and the circle around him narrows....Now he wades and cries out.

How weirdly alike our two species are!


For information on the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred off of the coast of Chile at 3:34 am on 27 February 2010, see

Non-dangerous peculiar wave effects of the sort we observed at La Ramada were also observed in Hawaii and other parts of western Mexico.

For more photos of San Juanico and La Ramada see


  1. I love the buzzards sitting atop cactus towers. First I thought the cactus had black blossoms then my whole sense of scale and proportion was dissembled when I read them as birds.

    Perhaps you will show me this and other drawings. And tell me more and more.

  2. Karin; Its like your body knew about something keeping you on an edge; and the earth did move and I think somehow you knew, after all you are an animal with sharp but suppressed instincts. Are you more at ease now? -Tom

  3. The gray root tree stump by the waters edge looks like mom polar bear with playful cubs.

  4. More stories coming, I promise! Watch this space!

    Tom, you're right, but I think we were on edge about more than the earthquake. As the progression of stories will testify... We are more at ease now in some ways, to be sure, but those animal instincts are ever on alert. I am convinced this is a good thing, and part of what is salutary about moving around in the world in spaces where urban structures can't shelter us too much.