Monthly Archives: March 2005


Greater Peoria Regional Airport to Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Starting off, the plane climbs fast enough and my internal orinetation is off enough that the Illinois River looks more like Kickapoo Creek. The illusion is not scuttled until a river barge appears, its known bulk belied by its toylike appearance from altitude.

The presence of small creeks is piercingly obvious. Gleaming ribbons of relfected sunlight course through plots of sectional farmland. The farms and fields are not regular here, but are portioned into unusual shapes by amoebic woodlands. Fingers and hands and arms of these small forests alert you to the presence of hills and gullies and the inevitable prairie plain.

As the course turns onward, northward, irregularity ceases. Rectangles become the rule and the tree stands diminish, soon becoming only the occasional windbreak for the Illinois farmhouses.

Eventually, all is gone to cloud (20 minutes to Chicago anyway). Give me mountains and valleys. But give me also the remnant of glacier toil, the patterned and patched land of home.

Travel Notebook: Panamint Dunes

Panamint Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Act I

Here, there are a few truths, which is all I ask out of every day.
True: there is a breeze which blows up and over this dune from the valley to the south, the Panamint Valley.
Gray area: the breeze feels neither hot nor cold itself, however it does provide a welcome cool as it evaporates the day's hike from my face.
False: This view can be properly captured by my camera. What can you save in a picture?
Gray area: The view cannot be captured but the memory of the view can be evoked by examining the picture. Not a full and accurate memory, maybe but a memory of a memory.
True: The 'now' of this moment exists.

Life as a sine wave; up, down, amplitude, frequency. True, false, curves in between.

Act II

Sometimes on these trips to Death Valley, I feel as though I am walking on the moon. Volcanic rocks lie in no discernible pattern, blasted from an explosion that was bigger than I can fully imagine. Black rocks with spherical cavities, granitic rocks with speckled variety, sand filling in the spaces in between the scattered stones. Scramble up and glissade down dunes of fine, wrinkled sand, flowing in patterns that evoke an oceanic memory-- waves locked in the air. Dreams of the beach, waiting here for me to return when the memory weakens. Water, a vague pinprick in the distance of memory, absent from the actual experience except as cloudbursts and snowmelt allow.


Desert --

Formerly, I thought nothing of you. You were beyond the prairie, the foothills, the canyons the mountains.

We were divided and separated. I lived in temperate bliss. You scorched in sun-bleached agony.

Now that we are together, properly met, you are the most beautiful earth, a rugged and staggering calm to my senses.

There are feelings in this life that are true to all of us. The transformation of the desert from evil to angelic in my mind is the truest to me in this now.

May I continue to learn more about you.

Act IV

Words in the sand are fleeting
I come to these dunes for memory
I will leave something more lasting
Stronger than the slow fade
That the wind of change can not erase so easily
What great things are pent up in me?
Why can't I sleep at night?

I have left only words in the sand
Footprints on the dune and trail

It's time to lay something down
Not gaudy, not superficial
But to make something real

Act V

My memories --
words on the sand
fade away

My pictures --
words on the page
throw away

My goal --
words on the rock
stay, stay