White Sands National Monument in New Mexico has always been a place of wonder to me, both before and after I visited it. It is a desert, not of sand, but of glimmering white gypsum crystals forming 275 square miles of towering dunes, making it the largest concentration of gypsum in the world.
Exiting the road, I drove until the concrete faded into white. Cameras in hand, I started climbing and running and after awhile, lost my bearings. I didn’t mind. I walked over dune after dune through the blankness, the gypsum, indescribably soft and eerily cool under my feet. The vast panoramas felt almost otherworldly surrounding me there, and I felt like a marble lost in an oversized sandbox. In the heavy afternoon haze, I found myself sitting, then lying down and taking a soundless nap on the highest dune I could find.
I left White Sands that afternoon with a peaceful feeling, knowing that every trace of my being there, from my footprints to the sand angel I made, would be lost in the shifting, wind-blown landscape. I took back with me rolls and rolls of spent film, and plenty of gypsum in my hair.