Transitions: The Desert Between

IMG_6042Around noon, in between Nazca lines and Punta San Juan, we stopped the bus ride to do a sound scape. Other than a a driveway with a few trucks in the far distance there was little but dessert in every direction. As we walked away from the road and noise of the passing vehicles, I began to think about spectrums.

At first I looked at the transitions of the landscape around me. Flat endless land abruptly transitioned into tall dunes and mountains lining the horizon. Almost white sand slowly transitioned into dark browns and reds. Soft sand transitioned into large rocks and boulders both rounded and angular. Each of these spanned into a spectrum of extremes, some gradually and others almost immediately.

As I sat down in the soft, hot sand I began to listen for the transitions and spectrums of sounds in this almost lifeless section of desert. Even though I had walked a good distance from the road, the sounds of trucks, busses and cars passing took over my ears. While only one vehicle passed usually passed at a time, there were very few moments without the sound of one at least in the distance. I listened carefully to the low hum of the vehicle as it first entered my ears, over the hill and still out of sight. I heard the slow steady transition of the truck approaching and then fall steadily back down as it traveled into the distance. With my ears so atoned to this sound I began to be able to guess what kind of vehicle was approaching without looking, each size and type a different pitch and depth.

I then began to focus on the only other sound around me, the wind. While at times soft and almost in audible, it also reached times in which it blew the sand around me. The wind also captured this noticeable spectrum which changed with the speed and direction. When it was blowing into my face and across my ear it began as a whisper and transitioned into a whistle as the wind picked up. As it slightly switched direction and began to blow into my ear, it instead took on the sound of a low, hallow hum, echoing through my ear.

IMG_6054Sitting and focusing on the sounds of this endless stretch of sand and rock was at first peaceful but soon began to feel ominous. This lack of noise and life left me at times with only the sound of my breathing. I began to then think about myself in the picture of this landscape. Who had walked on the sands of which I was sitting, or touched the rocks I was holding? What was the story of each spec of sand I ran through my fingers? On a spectrum of size I was huge compared to these grains of sand and rocks but on a scale of time I was not even a blink of their lifetime. I was so insignificant in these miles of deserts and mountains that surrounded me. I left behind only the impressions of my footsteps in the sand but brought with me spectrums of sounds, echoing through my ears.

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