The Living Dunes

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Few environments have affected me the way White Sands National Monument did. I was drawn into the dry sea of dunes by bird and lizard tracks, and shadows. By the stillness and evaporation of time. By the aliveness of the dunes themselves like great, soft bodies—thighs, backs and bellies—migrating up to 30 feet per year across the Chihuahua desert. At sun set, the light was extraordinary. The temperature plunged and the stars walked out over head. I was inspired here in the literal sense of breathing in Spirit. I didn’t want to leave but vanish or be buried.

The ripples on the sand made by the voice of the wind, the geometric pattern a stalk draws in the fine sand, the cuneiform prints of small animals press in the gypsum hills are an ancient writing.

Arriving here after days of silent travel on remote highways—where often I didn’t pass another car for hours—prepared me for the silence here, for the experience of expanse not as emptiness, or nothingness, but the majesty of life.