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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Poem in Your Pocket, Poem in Your Heart

Is your favorite poem in your pocket? Or is that poem in your heart? Ah, that is the question now that “Poem in Your Pocket Day” is upon us.

Celebrated on April 26, this year, the “Pocket” is promoted by the Academy of American Poets at Visit the page, it’s fun!

But what about memorizing a poem? Grade schools used to torture children with poetry by heart. Now we’re lucky if a poem gets read once in an entire school year.

Let’s bring the practice back into fashion! YouTube has poets galore reading their poems to adoring crowds of listeners. Now here’s your chance to become the speaker at the podium yourself . . .

What have I memorized? My first performance happened when I was 4. I recited “I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout.” Well, I guess it was a song and a poem.

How about you??

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Back from Baja

Did I ever mention I made it back from my drive up and back from Cabo to Loreto? What’s amazing is very few people are on the road, the only road, up the peninsula.

Maybe that’s the price of gas? The PEMEX stations post prices in pesos, so the bill sounds expensive (200 pesos), but it’s really not. 🙂

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Return to Baja

This year’s drive from Cabo San Lucas to Loreto includes a stop in the town of Todos Santos about 45 kilometers north on the coast road carved into the hills and often overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The official website for the town is
Todos Santos is the home of the Hotel California, famous for the song of the same name by the Eagles. The last time visiting there, I heard one of the folks saying, “This hotel has nothing to do with the song.”
But that’s exactly the reason why most people (of a certain age) drive up here! Duh.
The road from Todos Santos to La Paz, the Baja’s capital, is four wide lanes of modern highway. A change from some of the washboard dirt roads that snake over the gravel to the beaches.
When I drove up here with my daughter Erin in 2010, we navigated the incredibly bumpy back roads to see what we could see. One beach, desolate and gorgeous, sloped down to the hissing foam of the waves that curled under with tremendous power and pulled away again. Did you ever hear that hollow, muffled sound of a great wave crashing onto the sand? Amazing . . .
Erin and I gathered a few shells and stones, enough to fill our pockets and my hat.

finding shells and special stones on a beach in Todos Santos

Before heading back to the car, we talked with an older couple from Colorado  who stopped to say hello. Their son lives here now year round. They visit as often as they can.   
I got used to Americans everywhere. For a while I felt that these encounters were ruining my Mexican exeperience, but actually it felt heartwarming to meet people who were as in love with the Baja as I am.

Next stop driving south again is the El Cerritos Beach Club, which is a happy place that combines surfers, families, and ex-hippies on a beach that redefines your life the moment you get there. The sand and your toes become one as you look out towards the horizon at a couple of fishing boats making their way into a harbor somewhere. Where the land meets the ocean off to the right, a massive rocky face holds back the force of the current as it crashes against it.  I actually felt afraid . . . for a second. Then secure that cliff had been withstanding this onslaught of ocean for millions of years.

Taking time out from driving back to Cabo.

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