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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TIME TO RUN

I have always been athletic.  Even as a kid growing up with 5 brothers I was indeed, and still am to some extent, a tomboy.  Playing tag, army and most outdoor fun was a daily activity for me.  By the time I was 16, I was working out regularly and intergrading this activity as a lifestyle.  Now at 52 I have continued to work out 5-6 days a week along with surfing.  But I had this nagging sense of need to find and incorporate a cardio work out into my life.  I could surf hours and still have endless energy but running seemed exhausting. I had always looked at runners and thought, wow that looks like a lot of hard work, I don’t think I could ever do that but at the same time admired their devotion.

“I need more cardio work”, I told my husband Glen.  “Maybe I could run in place each day starting with 3 minutes and increase it as I became use to the huffing and puffing.”  Feeling my heart healthier already the idea of maybe even reaching the 5 minute mark in a few weeks was a reality, “cool”, I thought as I trotted in place.  Glen gave me an encouraging smile, kissed my cheek and said, “Ya, go for it!”

So onward I went, determined to reach that 5 minute mark.  After finally reaching the 5 minute mark of trotting in place it was, to say the least, a great thrill for me.  I next decided to try my evolving love for running outside on one of our trips to Northern Baja a year ago.  There is a 3.25 mile loop which we refer to as the circuit in this desolate area of Baja that we camp and surf at every fall and winter.  Within this 3.25 mile circuit dirt road you will find various rocks of all sizes, soft dirt, hard dirt, maybe some mud if the tides are extreme combined with big waves, sand and some small hills.  The visuals are breathtaking.  Mountains on the background, various cactus and shrubbery serve well on the eyes.  Yes this was my beginning of outside running or as I called it, my walk/runs.

At the time I didn’t have proper running shoes since my movement consisted of 5 minutes of in place trotting.  So I laced up my Sketchers, called for my 2 dogs to come along with mommy for a, um, run and off we went!   A few minutes of walking followed by a few seconds of running was my beginning that day.  I smiled as I would see a big bolder up ahead and say to my loyal 4 legged boys, “come on, lets make it to that rock.”  And when I did I was beaming with pride.  I’d make it back to camp where Glen would be anxiously waiting for me.  I’d come trotting in, my face all red and sweaty and dead tired but excited beyond words.  I would give Glen detailed descriptions of how far I made it running and then walking.  He was so proud of me.  Each day I would head out and hope to run just a little farther than I had the day before.  After 2 months I could run the entire circuit, rocks, sand and all without stopping as I concentrated so as not to trip over those rocks or sink in that sand and dirt.  I was hooked, running was now a part of my life and my heart.

THE PAINFUL LOSS OF BOOJUM

It was winter in Baja, Boojum had finally recovered from a tough time with pancreatitis and was now his old self again at the age of 13 and ready to chase those whiley coyotes.  On this particular day the offshore winds were blowing a stiff 30 mph and dust was blowing all thru the air.  I had just come in from surfing and decided to go diving for some fresh halibut for dinner.  My girlfriend Roberta was back at camp with Boojum.  The tide was low and soon the Mexicans from the nearby villages would be driving up the beach getting ready to pick their bait off the rocks for their lobster traps.  They would also be driving down the dirt road in front of our camp.

While I was diving in a pond about a ½ mile away from our camp I heard someone yelling my name.  I looked up and it was a friend of ours frantically waving his arms.  My stomach knotted right then.  I knew something had happened.  I could h ear him saying, “ Boojum!  Someone ran over Boojum!”  My mind went mad, I couldn’t believe what he was saying but it was real.  I was frantic, he said one of the trucks ran over Boojum but he is not dead but he is squirming in the road and crying.  I remember yelling, “Oh shit!!  Oh shit!!  NO!  NO! NO!  Boojum!  Boojum!  NO!! NO!!”  I jumped on my bicycle and rode as fast as I possibly could.  I couldn’t or didn’t want to believe that Boojum had gotten run over.  NO!  NO!  NO! Then I saw Roberta crying, knelling next to Boojum and I could see him squirming and banging his head against the ground in pain, crying, yelping, trying to move and get away from the pain.  I dropped on the road beside him and put my hands under his head to keep him from banging it on the ground.  The sounds of agony coming from him were like daggers being plunged into my heart.  My mind was going crazy not knowing how to ease his pain.  Roberta said through her tears that she was out behind camp with Boojum trying to keep the partition to our bano from blowing away and the next thing she knew Boojum was laying in the road and a truck had just passed by and she then realized Boojum was hurt. Our friend came running over and she asked him to go and get me. 

Boojum kept banging his head into my hands and I was pretty sure they had run over his back and that they mist have crushed his back section.  It was the most hideous sound he was making, it was killing us to watch him in such pain.  I laid there and tears kept flooding my eyes.  I must have laid with him in the road and Roberta by my side for 40 minutes trying to figure out what to do.  By now it was around 4:30 to 5pm and the nearest vet was 2 hours away and would be closed by the time we got there in the dark.  Boojum had been crushed and there wasn’t much any vet could do except put him out of his misery.  Another friend happened to come by and we got Boojum onto a blanket, him screaming the whole time as we moved him to our camp and laid him under the awning.  The winds were still hollowing offshore and the temperature was dropping to the low 50’s.  We tried to make Boojum as comfortable as possible but he kept banging his head and screaming but he was now becoming horse from screaming so much he was just making a wheezing sound.  It was tearing myself and Roberta to pieces.  We placed padding under his head and blankets to keep him as warm as possible.  The wind was whistling through our camp.  I changed and got some warm clothes on.  Both Roberta and I were crying uncontrollably by not being able to help Boojum’s misery. 

As the night came on and the winds got stronger and colder I laid beside Boojum with thoughts of putting him out of pain.  I thought if using a sledge hammer, that about killed me to think of crushing my dogs head, I couldn’t do that, what if it didn’t work.  Then I thought if taking a knife but them I couldn’t bare to do that either.  Everything seemed to crazy and all the time I am still hearing him crying out in pain.  It was killing me over and over and I couldn’t help but  keep crying out his name, Boojum, Boojum, Boojum.  I just wanted to stop his suffering but it was going to be a long grueling painful night. Roberta was in the camper crying her heart out having to listen to Boojum and then me.  Boojum, Roberta and I had been through a lot together with Boojums broken back, the surgery and the recovery then he got pancreatic from the pain meds and we nearly lost him then.  He came back from all those things so it seemed like he got such a cheap shot after all his struggles back to being healthy again.  I didn’t want to lose him but I knew I was this time, but how could I ease his pain, there was no way.  So the entire night was spent trying to keep him from hurting himself anymore and just painfully waiting for day to come so we could take him in and have him put out of his misery.  There was maybe 5 minutes every once in a while through the whole night that Boojum wasn’t trying to scream, his mouth was barely open and his head was banging but barely anymore sound came from him.  I was just about dead with sadness, my heart was splitting in two. 

Morning finally came, the winds were still howling.  We broke camp and managed to get Boojum into the truck.  Then we made the long slow journey out the dirt road to the highway and onto Guerro Negro.  Neither one of us remembers the drive except the military checkpoints where we would say to the officers that our dog was dying and we needed to get him to the vet.  They would say they were sorry and give the sign of the cross, and let us pass with no questions asked.  When we got to town we were lucky the vet was there.  The whole time since we left camp Boojum never cried out, we were somewhat relieved to see him have peace for a while.  I told the vet that I thought his back had been broken and that he had been crushed by a truck.  He took a look at Boojum and felt around on him and asked me what I wanted to do and that he was sorry that there was nothing he could do.  I held back my tears but he could see the pain in my face and my eyes and I said please put him to sleep.

He went into his office and soon returned with his kit and nurse.  Roberta whispered in Boojum’s ear, “I love you Mr. Booj” and left the truck in tears so the vet and nurse could begin.  He gave him an injection and then I saw Boojum take his last sigh and exhale into peace.  The vet turned to me with tears slightly in his own eyes and said, “he is such a noble looking dog, such a beautiful dog, I am very sorry my friend.”  That just took me over the edge, I lost it and had to go on the other side of the truck where I couldn’t be seen.  I later came back and thanked him, paid the bill and we drove away.

Now again we drove the opposite way back to camp only this time in a deeper void of life.  This time we came to the military checkpoints they remembered us and I slowly shook my head and they didn’t stop us, they just waved us through with the sign of the cross and on we went.

There is a place where we stopped on the way back to camp on the dirt road.  The place we stopped  and carried Boojum to the top of a hill.  A place he had picked out years ago to be buried.  We carried him up after digging his grave and preparing it for his cremation.  We placed charcoal  and wood in the grave then placed Boojum wrapped in his favorite blanket on top.  Then we covered him with more wood.  Then I poured gasoline in the grave and we cremated him.  Later we buried him deeper and placed large stones on top of him to keep the coyotes from digging him up.

There he lays at peace over looking all the area where he spent most of his life chasing lizards, coyotes, ravens and wondering down to his favorite campsites for his banquet dinner engagements.

We Miss You Boojum.

HOW I FOUND BOOJUM

My girlfriend at the time and I were out one night driving around and decided to stop at a pet store with fish, birds, cats and dogs.  We weren’t looking for a pet, just out looking around and we thought it would be fun to look at some fish and birds.  We had just put our dog Rocky to sleep 2 months prior so we weren’t expecting to find a new pet.  We went in and we had been looking around for about a half hour and I walked to the back of the pet store where there were some cages.  I was looking at lizards and bigger birds and cats and then I came to a cage with these two little white balls of fur, little fat puppies.  I looked one the description and it said they were a Akita Siberian Husky mix.  They weren’t any bigger then the palms of my hands put together.  But I wasn’t looking for a pet so I just took a good look at those cute puppies and kept walking, slowly away.  I found my girlfriend looking at some fish and said, “hey, you wanna see some cute puppies?”  She looked at me suspiciously and said sure, sort of questionably.  We went over and looked and then she asked if we were getting one and I said “no I don’t think we are ready.”  I don’t think it sounded to convincing though.  But we left the pet store and got in the truck and started driving down the road.  We hadn’t gone to far and we were talking and then she said, “they sure were cute weren’t they?”  And I said they sure were.  Right then we looked at each other and I pulled over into a nearby parking lot, stopped the car and said, “ ah, do you think we should?” And all she said was, “they sure were cute.”  That was it.  We drove back, took a look at them both once more and picked out the male. We paid $39.95 for him and we were on out way home with our new puppy.  I named him Boojum  after the Boojum tree in Baja, otherwise known as the cirrus plant.

A BANQUET DECISION FOR BOOJUM - 1999

Boojum was a big and noble dog.  Most people thought of him as very polite.  His manners were that of a human that went to schooling for etiquette.  He was the points Mascot.  He was respected by most everyone, so much that people who camped here would make him special dinners or would include him in their dinners and prepare him his own personal plate.

One evening I had just finished preparing Boojum a huge halibut dinner.  All the while I could see him raising his nose to the air sniffing all the smells coming from everyone else’s camp dinners that were being prepared for the evening.  I finished his dinner for him and sat it down and watched as he gulped it down.  Within 10 minutes he was on his merry way down the road to the camps down below.  He didn’t return until much later that night. We found out the next night when we went down for dinner at one of our friends camp that Boojum had been visiting the other campers during "dinner time"!

As we approached the other campsites we started hearing people calling out Boojum’s name when they saw him coming.  There were 3 different camps calling his name at the same time and Boojum was heading one way to someone holding a plate of food for him then someone else would call his name and he would stop and turn to walk over to them who also had food for him  and also the other camp would call for him holing his plate of food.  He was having such a hard time trying to make up his mind which way to go he kept turning circles until his nose finally took over and he went to one of them.  We stopped and watched and had a good laugh at all the people offering him food.  Even with my great halibut dinners for him he wasn’t satisfied.  Who would be with those kinds of meals waiting.


CELESTIAL SURF SESSION - 2009

This is by far one of the most memorable surf sessions of my entire life and probably the rest of my life. 

The day before the swell had started to straighten out and the winds had turned offshore, my favorite wind direction.  Late in the day it was looking very good with perfect conditions.  I had ended the day with a great session until after sunset.  It was looking as though if the winds and swell stayed strong, the next day was looking to be a good one.  That night the winds picked up to about 25-30 mph and I could see by the full moon around midnight that the swell was staying steady and strong, a little overhead on the sets.  My anticipation was running high voltage making it hard to go back to sleep but I managed to fall back until about 4am.  The moon was about 1 ½ hands distance above the horizon as I got up and made my light breakfast and drank about ¾  of a gallon of water.  The conditions were perfect.  The winds were holding steady offshore at about 25-30 mph and the swell was even more perfect than the day before, I was stoked.

I got suited up, waxed my board and headed down top the break.  The moon was full and glowing a beautiful light burnt yellowish white and it was now just about half a hands distance above the horizon s I stepped in to the ocean.  I was the only one up, nobody was stirring in their camps.  The eastern skies were just starting to show signs of 1st light as I eased into the ocean.  I made my way out to the break watching wave after vacant wave pass me by on its way to shore.  I was in complete solitude surrounded by my favorite conditions.  When I was outside I just sat and watched the moon make its way to the horizon departing this side of the earth to make its way around the earth.  As I watched it start to dip into the western ocean, making the sky turn beautiful shades of dark purple to lighter shades of deep blue, the sun in opposite skies to the east was producing shades of oranges, yellows to lighter blues then mixing into the deep blues from the moon.  I was right inn the middle of the full moon setting and the sun rising  with this beautiful crystal clear pastel rainbow sky  from horizon to horizon and just me in the lineup.  So I took the next perfect set wave and rode in the balance of sunrise and moon set, it felt unreal.

I surfed for the next hour or two solo before someone finally paddled out.  Most everyone came out sooner or later  but the crowd was light, maybe a dozen throughout that day.  The conditions held day into the evening.  By the evening as the sun started to ease into the western horizon I was still in the water.  It had now been 10 ½ hours of solid surf since I first stepped into the water with the moon setting.  Now as the sun was just a half hand above the horizon I could see in the eastern skies the shades of dark blues and purples appearing and now I was a little blown away by what I was beginning to understand what was about to happen.  I began to feel an unreal sense of the magnitude of the circumference  of the earth.  As the sun started to touch the western horizon, the moon which had just made a complete journey around the other side of the earth and back and was now getting ready to rise, I felt like a cosmic connection with the earth and the moon and sun.  Right then as they were both about to balance on each side of the planet I asked the gods to please send me a set wave.  And just then a set came, I took the 1st one and it was just overhead.  As I rode it I slowly went top to bottom again and again looking from the moon to the sun, back and fourth.  I couldn’t believe what had happened to me today.  I was the 1st one out, I saw the moon disappear and the sun rise.  I watched as I surfed all day the sun travel across the sky and then at days end I saw the sun set and the moon rise in perfect balance and rode a wave just as they were in that balance under pastel rainbow skies.  I surfed until dark that day making it a solid 12 hours of pretty much non stop surf.  As I touched the shoreline I felt as though I was just stepping out of a dream. 

This story is not to bark about how long I surfed, it is a story to share about the moon having passed completely around the earth and the crazy coincidence about being the only one out and riding a wave at the balance of the moon set and the sunrise then duplicating it at the end of a nonstop surfing day with the moon rising and the sun setting.  The chance of that ever happening again is really small especially no one out at those moments.  It truly was a celestial surf session.

MOMENTS ALONE, BUT NOT

Many years ago I would travel down through Baja alone.  I preferred traveling by myself for the peace and uncluttered silence of rolling down the road with just my thoughts and my faithful dog Boojum.  Should anything happen it would be up to me alone to figure out how to fix the problem or get us out of a situation, that’s the way I liked it.

When it came to camping and surfing it was best when I was solo, as pure and simple as it gets.  I never card for babysitting anyone and I have never cared for crowds in the line up.  Surfing solo is a unique and special act.  There is no one to give hi 5’s or hoot, it’s just me and mother ocean, no ego.  She has her moods and a lot of the time if there are people around it distracts from tuning in to her moods, for we wind up thinking of the other people around us instead of the present moment.  Aside from all that, I had a special moment alone in the ocean a while back.

It was October.  No one was around and there was a nice head high swell running that day, it was morning and this is what went on that day.

Today is a perfect morning, the sun is just coming up over the mountains to the east.  The wind is calm and the ocean is glassy with a real nice swell running, the air was warm, 75 degrees.  There are no campers, I am the only one here, just the way I like it, pure peace.  My mind is at peace and my spirit runs free.  I am excited to ride some uncrowned waves.  I will be surfing in trunks for the water is around 72 degrees.  There are huge flocks of birds diving everywhere and I can see huge schools of fish being dove upon, should be an exciting surf session with all the activity in the water.

As I make my way down to the waters edge I can see a coyote off in the distance cruising the waters edge, slinking along in his stealth mode.  Off near a tide pool I see a great blue herring in a deep trance.  I make my way over the rocks and step into the welcoming ocean, it feels good.  I wade out about 10 yards and slip out through the waves.  The birds are everywhere, the ocean is alive all around me, the bait fish are in a frenzy to keep away from the pelicans, seagulls and terns.  There are so many birds it must be a thousand or more.  The bait fish are so many and so scared that they are running into my legs and jumping on my board.  Pelicans are diving so close to me I swear they are going to dive right on top of me and the sound of them hitting the water by the hundreds is like being on the battle field of mortars hitting all around me, boosh, boosh, boosh, and all the little terns are flying at the pelicans grabbing what they can from the beaks pf the pelicans.  The energy is so intense I am getting a high just being amongst it. 

As I sit outside rising over each wave as it comes to me, I’m looking around and back to shore and there is not a sole around, I am the only one witnessing this whole thing.  As far as the eye can see it’s only me and my dog Boojum, and the frenzy of natural selection.  Through all this action I see the wave I want.  A nice head high perfect wave, I turn and paddle into it.  I drop down and make my first turn off the bottom.  As I rise up the face I am almost hit by a pelican diving into the face of the wave in front of me, then a seagull almost takes me out and so it went on as I rode this wave another 100 yards while gazing down into the clear clean water at all the fish swimming beneath me.  As I kick out and drift down the back of the wave I see a few seals having a day of feasting on all the bigger fish feeding on the smaller ones.  The seals toss their half eaten fish into the air, then catch it on the way down, barking in joy.

A PEACEFUL TIME WITH BOOJUM

It was a day in late September, I was camped alone with my dog Boojum at one of my favorite desolate beach in Baja.  It was a warm day, the wind was non existent and there was absolutely no surf at all, just a soft undulating swoosh when the ocean gave a slight surge toward land.  It was so calm out that it was hard to believe the earth and ocean could be so silent.

I had apiece of plywood leaned against the tire of Big Red and I was sitting on the ground, laying back against it, just taking in the day.  It was mid morning, the sky was perfectly clear, the sun was baking against my skin and my dog Boojum was lying beside me about 4 feet away enjoying his time in the morning sun also.  Except for the occasional swoosh on the rocks on shore there was not a sound, I could hear my dog breathing it was so quiet.

Then just about 10 feet away I spotted a lizard making its way towards us.  I didn’t move a muscle and Boojum was in dreamland so he didn’t know the lizard was close. Lizards are one of his favorite things to chase, so the lizard was having some luck on its timing coming towards Boojum.  The lizard kept coming closer and closer until he was just beyond my feet.  Then he stopped and looked straight at me and started doing push-ups, sort of like he was in a boot camp or something.  He stopped after about 10 push-ups and looked over at Boojum, then walked over between us and just as the lizard was about 2 feet from Boojums nose he stopped and did a series of a few more push-ups then continued on his merry little way.  Just after he left us there in the sun I heard a faint whispering sound mixed with what sounded like a small squeaking door that needed to be oiled.  I realized the sound was coming from overhead.  I looked up and I saw the most beautiful fleet of pelicans flying by, about 100 feet above my head.  There must have been close to 200 of them all in different formations.  It was a beautiful display of natures beauty in the air, they just kept flying overhead for what seemed like minutes.  That was a day I will always remember.  It was so peaceful and quiet I could actually here their wings slicing through the still air and the slight flap of their wings which was that squeaking noise. 

BOOJUM, BISCUITS AND RAVENS

As we all know, ravens are pranksters, they love having a good time.  They seem to take any situation and turn it into a fun time.

Where we camp in Baja, the ravens hang out in numbers, sometimes you see as many as 8-10 just flying around or walking around our campsite.  When Boojum was about 8 years old, the ravens would love to play some dirty tricks on him with his dog biscuits, and I have to admit that I would help them with this particular prank.

Boojum loved to chase the ravens if they would get to close to camp as they would hop around on the ground making their cackling sounds and little gargling noises.  It would pretty much keep him busy when they were around.  He could never get a good siesta in for he always had to chase them.  Well I would take his dog biscuits, 2-3 of them and place them separately about 20 feet from each other.  The ravens would see me setting them down and would start to hop over.  Then Boojum would take off after them but all they would do is fly straight up and over his head and then land next to the other biscuits.  As soon as Boojum saw them land next to his other biscuits he would chase them from there and again they would just fly straight up and over him just out of his reach and again land next to the other biscuit.  Boojum was doing tail spins over and over chasing the ravens and I’d swear it sounded as if they were laughing the whole time!  This would go on for 10 minutes at a time.

Eventually Boojum and then ravens got the biscuits but Boojum never got the ravens, they were just to smart for him.