The soft gypsum shifts loosely beneath my boots as I move towards the vast expanse of white rolling dunes in front of me. A setting sun tucks itself behind the paper thin layer of clouds and I snap another photograph. The way the light has been shifting the past hour makes choosing any consistent setting on my camera difficult at best. My hope is to capture a moment that truly does the beauty of this place justice; just one photo that conveys the emotion I am feeling.
Three days ago I had never heard of the White Sands in New Mexico. Now, after traveling 13 hours through the night, I am here and I am confused. My eyes tell me I should be freezing. That when I walk through tall mounds of white it means snow has fallen and it is cold. But it is not cold. I am in the middle of the desert and it is a comfortable 70 degrees. My mind tries to process the anomaly.
Across the horizon, dunes in every direction are peppered with travelers riding sleds down their steep faces, laughing like it is the first snow of winter. They look like moving sprinkles, trampling the purity of any and every blank surface. But our marks will not last long. The winds of change will soon come and caress the outer layers of this terrain, removing any semblance of our visit. The sand wiped clean as though this day never existed. Like removing any trace of a past lover from one’s memory. For a second, the realization makes me feel cheap. Because I will remember this moment forever and tomorrow the land will not even show we met.
I wander further into the reaches of the hills, searching for a seductive light. Sunshine creeps as a warm, golden ooze across the southwestern canvas. Shadows from plants brave enough to endure the wild extend outwardly, telling me the sun is getting lower. The anxiousness I was feeling on the way out evaporates. I was in such a hurry to be here. And now that I am here, I want for nothing more. I lean down and draw my hands across the ripples in the sand. There are grooves and lines carved shallowly in every bank. Its splendor is beyond description. I use my index finger to etch a love note in the ground and take another photo.
As my eyes are closed, breathing in the moment, my phone chimes. I open a response from my sister. “I figured nature would change your attitude.” I smile quietly to myself because she is absolutely right. It always does.
-Myke “with a Y” Bartholomew