Winter, A Season for All Snowflakes


Ah, the light is back! Well, Winter Solstice is less than 24 hours ago, but I can feel the days growing longer. There’s some chatter on the Internet that it’s actually darker after the Winter Solstice . . . but who believes anything they read on the Internet, right?

As far as we know, everything is under scrutiny in one way or another . . . Why did Gauguin paint the sky in Tahiti pink? You can search the Internet to make sure you are pronouncing his name right. Webster’s Dictionary is correct on the Internet, but it’s better to flip through the pages of it, than fish through the Internet ads, don’t you think??



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How’s the Baja After Hurricane Odile?

Ancient whale bones. Did they make it through Hurricane Odile?

Looks like the Whale Camps around San Ignacio Lagoon will be in good shape for the upcoming arrival of the gray whale mothers and their babies in January. The hurricane battered the lovely paved road back to its previous “rough road” status.

A 4-wheel drive is this year’s preferred vehicle, I think.

Many people are working very hard to make sure it’s ready for January — April visitors . . . I’ll be there in March this year travelling with the Ocean Conservation Research folks and their fearless leader Michael Stocker.

There might be a spot open for you, so contact Michael by writing to P.O. Box 559, Langunitas, CA 94938.

On one of my first trips to whale camp, we endured the full 40 miles from San Ignacio town to La Laguna on an unpaved  washboard of a road. The good thing besides rearranging your insides was that we stopped often to enjoy the desert landscape, the mesas, dunes, plants and cacti.

At this point, I’m grateful that we will be able to get to San Ignacio and the whales at all.

The local folks who live in the villages near La Laguna are making their way into town for supplies without too much inconvenience. I talked to Jose at Baja Expeditions and he says that everybody there knows all the shortcuts and back roads all around the area.

And was there one little date palm tree that Odile spared in the town of San Ignacio? And what about the mission? I guess we’ll find out!


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Plan for Gray Whale Visit 2015

a panga load of whale watchers in March 2014

March 2015 seems like a very long time from this warm August afternoon, but believe me, it’s time to begin planning your trip to see the Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California Sur! This is the primo tiempo to visit the mother whales and their babies at their most friendly and accessible.

My favorite place on the lagoon is “Antonio’s,” a Whale Camp that offers you little cabins to stay in, all your meals, and significant time on the water visiting the whales. I’ve stayed here in comfort with a camp full of good people from Europe (Italy and Holland), Australia Sydney and Brisbane, to California (San Francisco and Marin), and Maryland (me).

Ages of whale watchers range from 9 months old to 80 years old. It’s a flat walk from your cabin to the pangas that take you out to the observation area in the middle of the lagoon. You don’t have to be a super athlete to get helped into the boat.

I will say that sometimes the water’s rough and the wind is cold. But you can endure this little bit of discomfort to see a little gray whale calf glide under your hand for an encounter with mama watching nearby. My panga mates and I have done a bit of “whale sitting” for a baby (12 feet long) while the mother whale stretched out and took a nap right beside us.

Gray whale mothers and babies love human mothers and babies. Our panga had whales all around us when we had some third-graders and their moms from a school in Cabo onboard.

So, it’s time to consider your visit next March! More to come on how to make this happen!!! Donde esta las ballenas?????!!!



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background check

Just uploaded the ocean!

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Whale Camp 2014: Full Moon Magic Prevails . . .


Not Quite a Sticker

Never quite made it to the printer, but here's the sticker design

It’s a fast 40-mile drive on the newly (mostly) paved road from San Ignacio town to our cabins on the shores of Laguna de San Ignacio on the Pacific side of Baja California Sur. Has this wondrous place ever been more fantastico?

I ask myself that every year . . . But this year, with Gray Whales everywhere, especially mother-and-calf pairs gliding through the waves up to, under, and around our panga as soon as we approached the observation area, well yes, I felt like this place is exactly where I belong. For sure in February and March!

Jerry, the Camp’s coordinator this year, saved my favorite cabin for me. Numero dos, next to the lookout “tower.” And he took me over to see Paloma, my great dog companion from last season, who had recently given birth to eight puppies. Adorable. My favorite? Jose.

So this 4-day visit rocked. I have many more photos to post and some wild stories about how we all survived a wind storm that came out of nowhere, covered everything with a gritty film of sand, sent more than one hat into La Laguna, and discombobulated Edgar’s big green tent.


Paloma and her eight puppies!





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Two Poems Now Online

Thanks to Redux: A Literary Journal, the following two poems of mine live on in cyberspace. Here’s the link:

Redux is “an invitation-only literary journal of writers’ favorite, previously published stories and poems, not found elsewhere on the web.” This journal is edited by novelist Leslie Pietrzyk. Leslie has two published novels, teaches in a low-residency MFA program, and is a hands-on visitor to writer birthplaces, such as the homes of Flannery O’Connor, Willa Cather, and Edgar Alan Poe, to name a few.

I’m lucky to have these two poems of mine “up.” Thank you, Leslie P!

“Peeling Psyche Off the Wall,” for example, is one of my own favorites — because the story lives in the world of ancient mythology. The tale of “Cupid  and Psyche” is most familiar to me in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, one of my text books in high school. It’s online now in a longer version than the one I first read 40 years ago.

After I ordered a few extra copies of “Psyche” published in the Georgetown Review in spring 2008 (big cow on the cover), there were no more available. And the editors did not plan to post any poems online. Redux to the rescue. 🙂

The second poem, “The Butterfly Syndrome,” is the only poem included in my MFA thesis. My thesis advisor, Richard McCann, a poet in his own right and the author of Mother of Sorrows, recommended I include a poem in my thesis. I had studied poetry with Henry Taylor, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Flying Change in the late 1980s, and with Jean Valentine, a visiting writer my first semester at AU.  It was Henry’s class on form, however, that somehow inspired “Butterfly.” His class and my encounter with a real butterfly a few weeks before.

That story is another poem, I think . . . 20 years later. 🙂

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Journey to Whale Camp

March is a great time to drive up Highway 1 in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and visit the gray whales of San Ignacio Lagoon.

This 500-mile drive from the airport in San Jose del Cabo to the whale camp run by Baja Expeditions took me three days with stops at Todos Santos, Loreto, and the town of San Ignacio about 40 miles from the edge of the lagoon.

By the time I arrived, on March 17, and stowed my gear in my camp cabin, the whale count of mothers and babies was more than 300. Excellent chance to do some head skritching, gum rubbing, and splashing around.

Here’s the 1-minute video of me petting a gray whale. I’m the one in the blue sleeves:

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On the Road to Baja’s Whales . . .

Preparing for a road trip in the Baja takes some planning, especially if you’re driving, like I am, up and across the peninsula from San Jose del Cabo to San Ignacio Lagoon.

My itinerary and my road plan will be part of the next several posts as I pack, get to the airport, and rent my vehicle in Cabo.

More to come! 🙂

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Whale Camp Cabin — Small but Comfy

Here's cabin #2 at one of the camps on San Ignacio Lagoon

A few days at Whale Camp about 40 miles from the town of San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico, is a life-changing experience. Not because the cabin is so small, but because the location is one of the most peaceful and remote in the Baja.

It takes some fortitude to get to the lagoon. If you drive, there’s more than 20 miles of rough, sandy, washboard road that can turn your insides to jello before you even get to camp. If you fly, god bless you. The “international airport” is the size of a garage, although there is a windsock so you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows (to quote Medal of Freedom recipient Bob Dylan).

We arrived at whale camp in a van with 13 passengers. Traveling from Loreto overland to San Ignacio takes about 4 hours including stops in Santa Rosalia to see the church built by Eiffel and find some local pastries and a bathroom. Then of course, you have to steel yourself as the driver maneuvers around “Devil’s ankle,” a hook in the ascending road that rounds a blind curve and a huge dropoff with no safety railing. Personal memorials, some looking like little churches, line that curve, so you know some folks didn’t make it. That part of the drive is short.

Then we drove past three volcanos, part of the Vizcaino Desert, and a series of mesas that look like a pastry chef had cut them off at the top like cakes.

The cabins where we sleep are so small that if you open the back door you can see the sun coming in through the front door (see photo). But so comfy! And there’s a wonderful community center where we eat our meals and some family pets (dogs) running around and playing retrieve the wet slimy ball from the lagoon.

All this and whales too. If you are lucky, you can pet a baby whale or its mother on one of the panga rides out into the lagoon with a guide who know exactly where the whales might be — everywhere!

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Celebrating Women’s Health Week

Here's the logo from the Office on Women's Health at HHS

It’s time to celebrate women’s health. Seems like this observance should be every day, not once a year, don’t you think?? Well, small steps are better than no steps. Studies show that women take care of everybody else first, then if there’s time, women will focus on themselves. When my children were little, that was certainly true, but now that they are grown, I’m not sure why the pushback when it comes to getting to the doctor, taking a long walk (or even a short one), planting a flower, or just daydreaming. Actually, I do a lot of that. 🙂

For me, I get up early and write whatever I want for a couple of hours — either journaling or writing a draft of a poem or short fiction chapter on the computer. I love this time every morning. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Speaking of the world, it’s adjusted to my revised schedule. . . .

Ever since 9/11 when all those early birds to work lost their lives, I don’t go to work til noon. I put in my eight hours, but not starting at 8:45 or 9 am. Makes sense right? Life is short enough; let’s not make it any shorter.

Happy Women’s Health Week! Hope you give yourself some time to celebrate!

Visit the website of the Office on Women’s Health for more information on Women’s Health Week at

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