Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fri, Feb. 8, 2013: Sands of Time

Friday morning dawned clear and cold, a frigid early morning wind stirring the creeping sunlight into the black  sea of night sky that stretched from eternal horizon to eternal horizon.

I was startled by the quickness of the dawn, and despite contentedly waking up even earlier than I do on a work day, I was unable to beat the rapidly spreading sunlight.

As I crested the pass along Route 70 that flowed through the Organ Mountains, I was able to recognize why the dawn was so eager to beat me this morning.  

If I'd arrived any faster, I would have missed this.
And the dunes, they still vibrated brilliance and beckoned under the pale rising light.
Kaylee and me, our shadows wearing sunrise stilts as we tip toed and bounded and walked and whispered across the soft wrinkly sand.
White sand dunes, looking west toward the Organ Mountains.
The yuccas, they managed to thrive, with all their fierce, exotic, defiant beauty.
In recent times, Kaylee has been my tissue, my pillow, a splash board for my tears, my reason for waking up in the morning, my rock, my savior.  Today, my angel was, as always, my shadow, my childlike heart, my joy.
Vast and strange, the wind whipped across this land with a fury and assailed us with fine white sand: in my hair, my eyes, my pockets, my camera, in Kaylee's eyes and ears and fur, until it felt like we were part of the sand, part of the eternally slow, infinite organism that is this magical ecosystem.

There must have been precipitation recently, because there was a fresh layer of crust formed over the dunes.
The small ridge lines indicate the former boundaries of dunes, the lines shifting as the dunes march in slow relentless procession toward the northeast.

One of the most magical things about this park to me is that you're allowed to walk anywhere you please.
So, I decided to take a new path of my own invention...
... and ended up seeing a side of the park I had not yet had the pleasure of experiencing.
Tiny footprints of mice and birds, larger depressions in the sand where an animal about Kaylee's size must have traveled.
...And the plants, so many plants, thriving in this strange selenite soil.
And the cryptobiotic crust, viewed almost too late:
Sand grains, caught in the dead heart of a yucca plant.

...And strange formations where stubborn grains of sand refused to budge, banding together in protest.
We had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
I learned that they offer sunset hikes with a ranger every night, and that during the summer they have moonlight hikes on the dunes under the full moon.  I will be back to see you soon, my dunes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thurs, Feb. 7, 2013: New Mexico Bound!

Told ya it's not over. :)

Every year, we have a long weekend in February, which is a welcome break from a stressful time of year at work.  I decided to visit New Mexico this year, since last year was spent taking an epic journey across the Colorado Plateau, into Utah and Arizona.  

The early Colorado morning greeted me with sunshine and a dusting of snow that clung to bare branches and lounged on pine boughs.  Thin clouds huddled close to the mountains for some sense of protection from the cold, crisp air.
New Mexico is often underrated, I think, for reasons that I just don't understand.  It is often flat and yellow, an ancient volcanic wasteland softened by time into a barren desert of grass and telltale black rocks surrounded by soft sand.  And the sky...
...The sky, in New Mexico, is eternal.  And I love her there.

The mountains near Las Vegas, New Mexico, housed what looked like a small and new forest fire.

Antelopes adorned the land along I-25, and the road split right through the charred black halves of an ancient weathered volcanic cone.  

Las Vegas (yes, we're still talking New Mexico) marks the edge of what seems to be a canyon that continues all the way to Santa Fe.  Here, the rich golden grasses and sandy land give way to rocky walls and thick stunted evergreens.  The landscape remains the same until that delicious drop in the land, miles to the west, where I-25 curves back toward the south and descends into Albuquerque.  The Sandia Mountains, to the north of Albuquerque, looked like the softly curving back of an enormous stone whale risen to the surface to see what all the fuss was about. 

Kaylee was the perfect road trip buddy, as always.

During my spring break trip two years ago, I learned about creosote bushes and the unusual smell that they give off when it rains.  During my drive down this time, I suddenly realized that I was absolutely surrounded by creosote bushes!  I noticed some mesquite trees as well, and was amazed to recognize the same plants that I observed during my time in Arizona.  The deserts in Arizona and New Mexico seem so different to me, but are apparently similar enough to sustain some of the same life.   

I originally hoped to make it to White Sands National Monument that evening to watch the sun set, but abruptly changed my plans when I saw the signs for exit 147.  

What's so special about exit 147?

The Very Large Array, that's what.

I veered off and headed up Route 60, up onto the Plains of San Agustin, as soft pink sunset light painted the desert around me.
Then, I realized that it was sunset light.  There's no way the VLA would be open by the time I got there.  Reluctantly, I turned back around and told myself I would return the next day.
Kaylee and I bunked in Las Cruces that evening.  I can't speak for her, but I felt safe and comfortable and electrified by the presence of this place all around me that was full of promise.

My alarm was set for bright and early, and I did it with a smile.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thurs, Feb. 7, 2013: Stopping By a Blog...

Several months ago, my friend Ami told me that she wishes that blogs had an ending.  I can see her point: endings, whether good or bad, provide us with the satisfaction of finality that a blog that just trails off or fizzles out fails to offer.

I haven't posted here for a month, the first month that I've failed to post since beginning this blogging adventure in May 2007.

Why did I miss a month?  I wish I could tell you.  I so badly want to write about my experiences, but cringe when I think about unexpected implications it could have somewhere down the line in my life.

Last week, I heard someone recite this poem on NPR, and was so immediately and deeply touched by the words that I started to cry, right there in my car on the way to work.  I think that I have come to understand it on several levels that were previously foreign to me.  So, I'll let Frost say it for me, for now.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost
New Hampshire

Is this the end?  Did my blog manage to crash and burn during the first month of the year, the month that, according to people worried about the Mayan calendar, wasn't supposed to happen?  

The simple answer: no.

The more complicated answer: While I did not jump on the bandwagon of individuals who truly thought the world was going to end on the last day of the Mayan calendar, I do find an alternative theory fascinating.  There are other individuals who believe that the end of the Mayan calendar marks the beginning of a new age, a shift in philosophy and religion and the way that people interact, on a global scale.  

I feel like I have personally been going through a similar shift, and it's extremely strange to adjust and find my balance once again amidst these strange new thoughts and feelings.  For example, I have found that I now seem to prefer spending time with my friends over spending by myself, or even traveling.

I have also recently discovered that I feel guilty about the costs of traveling.  We have a long weekend this week, and I seriously considered not going anywhere at all just so I could save that money.  Save it for what?  To pay off my student loan debt, perhaps, or maybe to buy a condo, or a small house with a yard for Kaylee.  These are not the grand dreams I hoped to satisfy when I was a child, or even a few years ago, but as a single woman supporting myself I am realizing that perhaps they are an appropriate step up, and good enough for now.  

I have never been a person to be satisfied with "good enough for now".  It's strange to sit with those words, but there they are.  And honestly, though they feel new and a little awkward, they're not all that bad.  

Actually, my own little home, with enough outdoor space for Kaylee and I to stretch our legs, kind of sounds heavenly.  Somewhere with just enough space to keep my things, with a big wall for my bookshelves and maybe even a little fireplace, with a tree in the backyard shedding shade for reading... . It's a new dream, a different dream.

But I can dig it.