by Joy E. Stocke
“Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains.”
T. S. Eliot: The Wasteland
I’m sitting at a table in an adobe house overlooking the Bay of California known as the Sea of Cortez, a house painted cactus-green, accented in flame-orange and typical of the community in which I live for a few weeks each winter.
I have been coming here for seven years from the north to a landscape that according to an article in TIME/LIFE books written in 1972 is “the most consistently unclouded, clearly visible detail of North America seen from space.” As far as I can tell, this still holds true for much of Baja. As an example, the community in which I live, settled by men and women primarily from the western mountain states, is off the grid.
The Baja peninsula extends 800 miles south from the United States border and ends south of the Tropic of Cancer, a region of mountains, valleys, desert plains, rock-strewn beaches and the only coral reef in North America. Mountain ranges that begin in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska make up the spine of the Baja peninsula ending in Cabo San Lucas, playland of celebrities, sybarites, golfers and fishermen.
Here, at this time of year, the wind blows from the north, the light rises and drops so suddenly that it takes you by surprise. I come here to write, but the landscape takes over quickly. There are rocks to collect so that I can finish building the stone path. And Kent drops by, having just returned from Todos Santos with an offer of a glass of red wine and a bowl of homemade turkey soup, and we must come tonight because tomorrow he is leaving for La Paz.
And the wind should be calm tomorrow and I just bought my first set of snorkel gear and I happen to live just steps away from that coral reef I mentioned earlier. And I am always thinking about what I should write, or will write even as I’m writing the story of my life.