White Sands and Black Beetles
The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. Pablo Picasso
Like Mr. Pablo alludes to in the above quote, emotions are a big part of how we perceive the world around us. On my recent trip to White Sands National Monument, my spirits were pretty high. I had flown into Albuquerque. The people were nice. The flight was smooth and I was driving through country I had never seen before in a nice air-conditioned rental car. Even though the nice lady who lives in my phone got a little confused with all the ‘white sands’ in the area, I arrived at the visitor center (more nice people), paid my three bucks and continued into the colorless world.
Even now as I sit here munching on a mango and listening to Mr. Chaquico play his guitar in my headphones, I can remember the myriad of feelings and thoughts that rattled through my head as the road turned white and I pulled into a parking area for the backcountry trailhead. I soaked up a whole lot of the welcoming openness and loaded up with camera stuff, water bottles and trail mix. I filled out the form at the trail head and started my journey. This wasn’t really a trail but a series a series of wide spaced posts marking a route that travelled a few miles back into the dunes. As I topped out on the first tall dune, I was nearly overwhelmed by a sprawling abstract world of shape and line and curve.
Being of the distracted sort, I lost the trail markers almost immediately but I had A PLAN. I would keep the sun and the mountains to my right and walk straight out into the dunes for an hour and a half, turn around and retrace my steps. It was a good plan and it almost worked. As my mind got lost in the perfectly formed lines and curves, I was led astray by that voice that is always saying, “what’s around that next corner” or “I wonder what things look like from that dune?”
This rolling ocean of white waves was nearly silent and there wasn’t another person in sight but I was never alone. The sand was covered by winding trails of very small tracks and when I followed one of these miniature trails I came face to face with a very large and very black beetle. They were very cool, very numerous and could travel across the sand nearly as fast as I could. A few lizards ran around in the small brush areas between the dunes where the sand gave way, temporarily to normal dirt.
I climbed on and around the dunes, keeping the mountains on my right, for my allotted hour and a half and a little more. I turned around and started to head back. Although I never fealt lost, It didn’t take long to figure out that whoever had made the footprints I was following wasn’t wearing my shoes. I kept the mountains to my left and trudged on, knowing I would hit the road eventually… which I did. Since I didn’t remember ever seeing the outhouse ever before, I turned right at the road and found my car only a mile away from where it should have been.
This is a place where line and curve never end, sand becomes fluid and life becomes simple. I like it.
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