SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 17, October 2016 - Page 64

he tent canvas glowed in the first light, its interior collapsing and expanding like the arrhythmic palpitations of a bronzed heart. The wind roared with every contraction,

each gale a punishing strike at the hallowed chamber within. I stared at the cardiac motion of the tent billowing in the longest wavelengths of dawn. The tent’s seams, crystalized with salt, and the thin fabric panels, weathered by the unrelenting sun, were all that seemed to maintain this tenuous stasis between outside and in.

But there was another force at play. An anti-force asserting that, if indeed all things tend towards contraction and re-alignment in the ordered chaos of a singularity (i.e. my tent, its poles, and the fabric which binds them collapsing upon my head), there must be an invisible force acting to oppose such a fate. To enable the expansion of the universe. This force is the mind in a tent, in a desert, by the sea, with gray whales all around, contemplating how the reverberations of my thin shelter’s walls in the wind could so closely come into synchrony with the beating of my own heart when I am close to a whale.

I find that for every trip I’ve ever been on, at least one single moment, no matter how obscure or mundane, always sticks with me. Perhaps it’s that one song playing on your phone while looking out the window of a van careening through a Costa Rican jungle. Or, maybe the methodical click-clack of steel wheels on dew-covered railroad tracks receding inexorably into the desert sandscape of Rajasthan.

On my recent trip to Baja California Sur, the moment occurred en route to San Ignacio aboard an Aguila bus while staring out at the massive scarlet outline of Volcán Las Tres Vírgenes, radiant as an ember at sunset. A brilliantly dubbed Steven Segall movie competed with my earbuds for my acoustic focus. Having spent a lot of time on the bus on this particular trip, I became very familiar with the B-actor’s dubbed body of work. Impressive. Exhausting.

This moment occurred near the end of my trip, after having visited Laguna San Ignacio—the place where I slept in a tent for a week while learning from researchers from the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program (LSIESP), a project of The Ocean Foundation. At this location, gray whales come together every year in the hundreds to breed and raise calves before the long migration north to the nutrient-rich waters of the Arctic. The Program’s researchers are conducting long-term monitoring of the fauna and flora of this unique lagoon through regular censuses, photo identification, acoustical surveys, and other scientific investigations.

Looking out the window at the towering volcano glowing in the setting sun, the phosphorescent blue waters of the Sea of the Cortez emerging like a lens in the burnt red distance, at this moment it was as if all doubt, hesitation, uncertainty about what I want to dedicate my life to, my purpose—all of these layers of indecision melted away, and I found myself in a state of complete serenity and bolstered by a renewed sense of determination.

But, there were other moments, too. Like the intense emotions that flooded over me as our bus descended the circuitous road to Loreto, un pueblo mágico. The moment I glimpsed its turquoise waters, The Sea of Cortez, and realized that this is a place I had been seeking for some time. And, to know that I was here on business, to work with organizations like Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. to keep this place magical—it sparked an overwhelming sense of purpose. An amalgamation of duel urges to explore and to protect. Admittedly, a welling of the eyes. And, a sense that business and pleasure are not mutually exclusive. What you enjoy most may very well be the work that you do. Perhaps it even should.

Sir: Will you be travelling for business or for pleasure?

No matter how clear my objective, no matter how prepared I am to answer this question, I always find myself hesitating in my response when it is posed by customs. For business or for pleasure?