Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Absence: NM Diaries Part 4

White. It's technically the absence of something, isn't it?  No color. No pigment. Just...white.  Blank. Empty. Glaring. 

But I came to the desert this time for this. Because it's blank.  Because of the absences in my life, even. Because I had a dream for years that I would stand here. Explore an alien landscape. Try to capture the unique beauty of it all.  Get lost, run, roll, and dive.  Feel it between my toes. 

This is the desert in purest form. Immense, and solitary. Fierce and quiet at once. Surreal and wild, alive and mysterious. 

I've seen pictures of this place, but there's no picture that explains it. Driving in you can catch a shock of white tucked in among the mountains, but even then you can't tell how immense it is. 

One step isn't like the next. Sometimes you sink.  Sometimes the ground is steady.  When you take your shoes off (and you will, because this place sings to your inner child), even though the sun's reflection has you nearly blind, even with sunglasses, you find the glistening sand to be cool and soft. 

It's strange and sparkling and surreal here. It's quiet, and bright. The blue of the sky is as shocking as the white of the sand after a while, but it's also your reprieve from the glare and the best way to "reset" your eyes and gain some clarity. 

Everything seems far away, removed from you.  The softly curved dunes are more massive than you realize, and the climb could be a deep trudge, but still I felt like I had to explore.  

People are dwarfed.

There are posts to guide you if you lose your way while you explore. The sun was intense, as we were there at high noon. We had water but it was easy to feel your body lose it as quickly as you could replenish your supply. 

It's so hard to explain the magnetic pull I had towards this place.  I can so easily understand why the posts are there to guide you. The sun is as harsh as anywhere else in the desert, and the hiking can be difficult when your feet sink in the sand, but it all seems completely irrelevant. Sometimes I felt the need to stop and stare, and the next second I'd be racing up a dune with Lewis and tumbling down like a child. 

This place is peaceful and foreign all at once. When I'd slid to the bottom of the dune, my whole body was pillowed in soft, cool gypsum sand. 

And as blank a slate as it seems, this place is very much alive. 

I lived in the desert, but I was still surprised to see flowers here. There's something so cool about the things that grow here. It's against the odds, and when they bloom, they bloom so brightly.

It may not seem like much, but in the heat of a New Mexico afternoon with no shelter from the sun, where it's so dry that you don't feel yourself sweat except in the shade of your sunglasses, where salty drops pour into your eyes, and you can feel your whole body's longing for water if you neglect it for too realize how amazing it is that anything grows here.  Suddenly your everyday yucca is a symbol of unearthly strength. 

Adapt to survive.

As many paths as you find in this place

The next wind can erase and rearrange them

Maybe that's what's so beautiful about it.  Colors stand out here. There's no shade to hide from the sun. Things are upside down- softer, larger. Farther than they seem.  The environment screams for your attention and so does your body, and you must listen to both. 

Against all odds, things grow here. Take root and stay, even as the sands change. 
The way that you see it today is potentially completely different than the way people will see it tomorrow. 
There's something sacred about that, to me. 
The desert speaking, just to you, just at that moment. 
And that's what makes it beautiful beyond measure.

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