The first time I saw the beach near Todos Santos, I felt like I’d traveled back through millenniums in the thirty minutes it took me to walk through the desert to reach the ocean. I moved across the untouched sand in prehistoric time, the first human to reach that part of the Pacific. I walked by the lagoon, and big clouds of birds rose into the sky. I’d never been among wild birds in those numbers before. I remember watching the brown pelicans glide along the edge of the sea. I’d seen handfuls of them in Loreto, skimming the Sea of Cortez, but the numbers in Todos Santos staggered me. I’d see twenty or more pelicans hugging the water while they flew, their formation ever fluid, ever shifting. I watched in awe, their huge wings, their impressive sturdy beaks, the way they were always in motion, so near the surface of the sea but never touching it, never butting wingtips. I never grew tired of watching them, these huge birds so full of grace and power.
The first time I came upon a flock of pelicans at rest, I laughed out loud. Their height surprised me, like small people standing there on the sand. They seemed human, their big eyes so knowing, fastened on my own. Earthbound, they were less graceful, even gangly. But they seemed wise watching me, like kind old men minding a toddler. It wouldn’t have shocked me to hear them speaking in my mind like denizens of Andre Norton’s Witch World.
But I never did. I’d stand at a respectful distance, greet them out loud, accept their perusal, old ones to young whippersnapper. I’d marvel at their numbers, shake my head over our pristine surroundings, the timeless Pacific, the empty beach ahead. And when I said goodbye to them to head north along the water’s edge, I’d feel their gazes on me, and I’d sense their understanding of what had just passed between us was greater than my own.
[Editor’s note: This bottom picture is a scan of a photo from an old newspaper article on Todos Santos. I think it may have been published in The Desert Sun, but I’m not certain. (My apologies about that, but I only saved the image.)]