Ushuaia, Locarno Beach, Huanacaxtle Beach
(Ushuaia, an afternoon in April 2022) Almost two hundred years after Charles Darwin sailed the Beagle Channel on his way to the Galápagos Islands, I eat an alfajor and sip an espresso in the heated cabin of a tour boat cutting the same waters while, on a nearby island, two condors pull apart the carcass of a sea lion. Living sea lions crowd together on the other side of the island and carry on with their napping and barking, indifferent to the condors’ bloody happy dance. I brush crumbs off my lips and wonder how much more is needed for Darwin's theory.
(Locarno Beach, a few minutes after six a.m. this summer) The normal route, a simple pattern: go west from buoy to buoy for fifteen minutes then return. I start beside the old fishing pier now condemned after the winter storms, my kick leaving no trace. The waves are more thick than choppy, and I swim through warm and cool currents as if the ocean is adjusting a bath. Behind me, the sun has risen above Vancouver just enough to show a city without details. My arms are gold in the air and pull through a translucent emerald layer that darkens into black below. Finished, I walk up the bank to my towel and dry in the sun on a log. There’s a Greek myth that the tide leaves behind the memories that Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, washes out of the dead for their return to the living world, and I can’t make out whether a man nearby is coughing or a crow barking.
(Huanacaxtle Beach, All Saints Day last year, dawn) I flip onto my back to measure the distance from shore and see a group, six or seven men and women all wearing long white cloaks over their clothes, walk from the bushes to the foamy waves spreading across the sand. The group shrinks to a halfmoon around one of the men, then a shorter – younger? – man walks up and stands next to him. They talk, with the shorter man periodically nodding his head and the others slightly swaying. Then the two men turn toward the Bahía de Banderas and walk until the waves cover their waists. A boy is baptized, there is singing. The sun is already blazing and I swim underwater farther from shore.