Interlude of Solitude

Upon Gary and Zoe’s return, we trundled off down the beach once more to the casa de no pets for a two-week interlude before heading inland to the Lake Patzcuaro area and our final sit. With lots of time and no critter concerns, we again spent our days reading under the palapa, floating in the pool, and walking the beach. Basically, beach bummery.

Life on the lagoon when the waters rise.

One day we decided to boost the activity level and take a boat tour of the lagoon. In the winter, more than 200 species of birds, including ibis, spoonbills, kingfishers and flycatchers, roost and nest among the mangroves.But in high summer, there were only a handful of egrets, cormorants and frigate-like birds perched atop the branches.

Lagoon birds manning their posts above the shrimp farm.

We paid our 50 pesos each (about 4 bucks apiece) and hopped aboard the nearest skiff. Being low season, we had the boat to ourselves for the half-hour tour. Within minutes we were gliding over the smooth, sparkling lagoon, cruising by the shrimp farms, and edging close to the reeds searching for the protruding eyes of drifting crocodiles.

On the way back, we steered around kids splashing in the shallow waters, oblivious to what fine croc bait their plump, glistening bodies made. “Aren’t they afraid of the crocodiles?”, we asked our guide. “The crocs are mostly upstream,” he replied. “But don’t they ever drift down here?” Casually, he shrugged, “Oh, sure.” OK . . .

Every summer, with the onslaught of the rainy season, the lagoon rises, submerging the floors of most of the enramadas and reshaping the shoreline.

When the “barra de Potosi” can no longer withstand the force, it breaks through, pushing a tide of water, shrimp and various flotsam and jetsam out to sea. Only the trash, like spawning salmon, seems to find its way back to the beach . . .The good news is, the enramadas get their floors back, the ocean fish are drawn closer to shore to feast on the shrimp, and the fishermen’s haul is a piece of cake. No wonder rumours abound that certain locals, tired of waiting for Mother Nature to make her move, help the whole process along by carving a little channel in the sand to get things started.

Before and after: the enramadas undergo a dramatic change with the rise and fall of the lagoon.

Whenever we leave a place and a pet-sit, we’re never sure if it’s only for a year, or forever. That thought weighed heavily on our minds as we peddled up to Brisa Mar for maybe one last time, scattering roosters, chickens and turkeys, zig-zagging past dogs snoozing in the road, cows making their way home, pigs snuffling in the ditches, even wheeling around flattened frogs and a slow-moving snake. Some families, sitting at the tables of their outdoor kitchens and familiar with our regular weekend spins past their rickety homes, raised their hands in greeting, while their children giggled as they ran barefoot alongside us until their mothers called them back.

Bovine traffic jam on the Playa Blanca road.

Another night, on our way to what could be our last taco de puerco at Dona Emi’s in the village, we saw kids throwing rocks at a dog. We skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust and called the dog over to us. One little girl, close to the dog’s age and likely familiar with it her whole life, watched in awe as we petted it. We told her, “esta bien,” it’s OK. She inched closer, then tentatively reached out her hand and touched its head while the neighbourhood kids stood back, aghast, as though she’d just entered a lion’s cage. She smiled at this revelation that a dog could be a friend, not a beast that needed beating back. Could that be all it took?

Patching things up with my favourite (maybe) stray.

On our last morning we threw open the shutters and saw Patch sitting in his usual spot on the beach, watching the waves as if he’d never been away. We went out to play with him and he gladly accepted a half coconut shell full of kibble. Later that day, we saw him again, this time trotting up the beach alongside a family of four. He weaved his way among the parents and two kids in an easy camaraderie that told us he belonged. He was still too thin and his small sores still untended, but he belonged to someone, unlike the dozens of other miserable street strays. I watched them go until they faded from sight, about a mile up the beach. Huh, I thought. There’s hope after all.

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