What is a paradise? I found one recently. There are no roads in some places. A great deal of beauty balanced by hardship. And maybe that is what beauty is. A balance.
Driving through what felt like an uncharted part of Baja, I found myself drawing parallels with aspects of my work, my life. It was tempting to idealize the world in front of me.
To live in a breathtaking scene. The ocean tucking you in nightly with its persistent song. Dogs, chickens, goats chattering incessantly. Cows perched precariously on mountainsides. Children playing soccer in a dusty yard on a cliff overlooking panga boats which will go out at dawn.
But such a life is hard and nothing guaranteed. Mountain cows are known to fall from the sky during a rare rain. Roadside altars and remembrances of ones lost to the perils of such a life. I remember travel in rural Turkey. Sitting at a family table, hearing tales of the cousin overrun by a truck on a mountain road as he walked to school. There are no padded bumpers on this life.
I know when some people hear what I do they venture directly to their perceived magic. Oh, you work for yourself. You are an artist. You make things. It must be heaven. And on many days, it is.
But the road is dusty and sometimes nonexistent. Really impossible to navigate alone. You build a community. You need one another for various aspects of your collective survival. You have people counting on you to make payroll and decisions. Good decisions.
Some days the weight of it feels very much like the man I saw riding up the switchback mountain on a precarious patched-together bicycle carrying provisions - quite a bit larger than himself - on his back.
A local fisherman took us up part of a mountain and showed us ancient hieroglyphs that had in part been chipped away by a thief. Stolen and sold to someone with more resources. That too felt familiar.
Spending the week with a group of people who make things. Art, bags, food for their survival. There are always stories of people who take the freeway. More capital, less moral compass, zero idea of what it takes to materialize something from nothing. To bring an idea into dimension.
We made fast friends with the fisherman and he shared his world with us. The community well. The house of the man who tans hides. The house of the curandera, a woman who brews herbal wines that she buries in nearby caves.
The house of our new friend. Perched on a cliff above the sea. Stone-domed turrets at each corner. The weight of each stone carried up the steep walk from where the ocean had left them. Gifts at her edges. He told us of his novia and how he was building this structure himself. He was soon to be married. The discipline of this enterprise seemed like good preparation for what was ahead as he chartered his course as a young man with a future family. The additional and consistent weight of responsibilities. Of survival.
A bed was on the porch. Strangely out of place and in precisely the right place. A dusty, hand-carved double bed under a porch roof but open to the mountain sky. A sky with a million stars more than I had ever seen in my light-polluted life. His mother’s home on one side, his brother’s on the other.
I looked around for electricity. A pair of burros were making their way along a sandy path that ran under a few lines. Power was available but never guaranteed.
No wifi. No cell towers. There are no daily doorstep deliveries here. No real worries about overconsumption, excess packaging, and the use of temporary plastics at each convenient meal.
Watching the kids kick their soccer ball and wave at the neighbor as he passed with his catch from the day, I whispered a prayer that this wild beauty might remain unspoiled.
So that these children and our children will have a place to know that not everyone has the things that we think we cannot live without and while it is hard, it is truly beautiful.
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