Jay Cross
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Learning from the dunes
Thursday, February 24, 2005
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Our super-size four-wheel drive
skids and lurches,
following vague tracks
in the endless sand.


Bump! Slide. Spinning wheels.
The giddy feeling of being momentarily out of control.
Moving ahead by sliding right, then left, forever in mid-course correction.

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Our LandCruiser, more sure-footed than a dromedary, whisks us right up the side of an immense dune, all the way to the sharp edge of sand at the top, reddish on our side, light yellow on the other.


The sole disturbance on the yellow sand,
the tiny tracks of a dung beetle,
a dotted line on a blank canvas,
make a statement every bit as loud as the two-story dune itself.
Object and ground.

Dung beetles thrive here.
The only thing atop the sand
save scrubby little plants hanging on for dear life are
goat turds the size of large marbles and
camel dung not unlike the droppings of a medium-sized dog.

We alight from the LandCruiser onto the sand, soft underfoot.

It is utterly quiet. Not a sound. The air is still.
We have entered another world.
I am in awe.

I know not how far, I am lousy with distances,
here it would be travesty to reduce the scene to yards or meters anyway,
but across the way are rolling hills of sand,
mounds, blobs, buttocks, thighs, curves,
ripped from a canvas by Georgia O’Keefe,
basic shapes overpowering detail, and
something erotic in the sensuous lines
above the inviting, darker depressions below.


I take heavy steps through the dunes,
stopping frequently to study the ripples on the surface.


For the first time in weeks, there are no signs, no neon, no readouts, no cars, no advertisements, no hovering waiters, no mobile phones bleating, no unfamiliar people asking “Remember me?”, no disco, no McDonald’s, no straight lines of palm trees, no straight lines at all, just sand and curves and more sand and more curves after that.


Calm. A time to reflect, to look at goat shit, to tromp up the next dune, to plant fresh footprints in smooth sand, to unwind, to be in nature, to get back to roots, to escape civilization, to tap into earth rhythms.


The sun sets, colors shift, the full moon rises, stars twinkle.



The drunken monkey of consciousness is struck dumb. Nature is all. Just us and the sand. And Georgia O’Keefe’s soft bodies ducking under the veil of darkness, repeating a ritual people have witnessed here for eight thousand years.


We reboard our ship to navigate the sea of sand, careen along the swells, surf the waves, and join the asphalt channel back to the city.

A convoy of American troops in olive drab trucks and armoured personnel carriers, dozens upon dozens of vehicles, buzz along the highway in cover of darkness in the opposite direction. The armies of the night. Don’t ask; don’t tell.


Paul pulls over at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and, naturally, donuts. Soon we’re navigating the wide, tree-lined boulevards of Abu Dhabi, running stop signs at the roundabouts, as is local custom. Paul pulls into the parking lot of the Hilton. Three hours later I’m in a black Mercedes hurtling along to Abu Dhabi Airport at 155 KPH. And now I’m over Greenland.

I’ve got to get back to the dunes. With friends and colleagues. Spend the night. Reconnect. Reflect. Take a run at solving the world’s problems. Enter the Samadhi tank. Revision. Rethink. Revitalize.


Perhaps we could borrow the Rainbow Sheik's rolling globe for our foray into the dunes. This baby contains ten air-conditioned bedrooms. For scale: that's me standing by a wheel.


Blogger denis said...

Hi Jay,
very impessive photos - i really love "the ripples on the surface" thank you! - Denis

3:47 AM  

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