The call in the wild

I was just taking our lunch picnic bag out of the car at a beautiful viewpoint along the highway when another car, with a trailer full of hay, pulled up just in front of ours. Out jumped a man with a cowboy hat and a big knife dangling from his belt.

We were on our way from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Taos in the same state.

I put the lunch bag back into the car and felt a little ill at ease (the knife!) as the man stepped up to us in a very decisive manner. There was no one else in sight.

Do you want to hear a song?

He spoke in a way that made it clear that ‘No’ was not a reply to consider, so we mumbled

Yes,  that would be nice.

And in a loud and clear voice, facing the valley, he started a rather monotonous but clearly lamenting song in a native American language. After a while he switched to English and sang about the land that the white man had stolen. I felt guilty and sad.

When he stopped he turned to us and said

I had a difficult weekend, I had to get this off my chest.

And turning to my husband:

I want to give you a gift, I have made it myself.

He took off a very nice black leather bracelet that he was wearing and put it around my husband’s arm.

It’s a practical bracelet, you can put dollar bills inside it and pay for your coffee in the morning. Now I have to go to my ranch and feed the horses.

He walked to his car and disappeared. We just stood there, amazed at the man, his song and his gift. It felt unreal. Maybe it was?

White, white … and a little black

Except for the soaptree yucca and some other exotic plants sticking up from the white, it looked exactly like an idyllic winter landscape, with water puddles from snow melting in the sun and the road nicely ploughed.

But it wasn’t snow, it was gypsum and I was in the biggest gypsum desert there is, the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, USA. Since gypsum isn’t known to melt in the sun, the water on the road had come from above: there had been some rather heavy rain showers on the previous day.

Walking on the gypsum sounded a bit like walking on tightly packed snow on a very cold day – it squeaked a little.

Some of the dunes had beautiful wavy patterns (until someone disturbed the harmony by walking or tobogganing, of course).

I was there in sharp sunlight a little before noon, far from the ideal time to witness the shadows and patterns in the dunes. But still I was mesmerised.

I was quickly brought back to my senses when my eyes fell upon this creature who was leisurely crossing the road:

Was it a tarantula? I got quite excited and managed to drop my camera lens cap, you know one of these black things. Funnily enough it was nowhere to be found. How on earth is it possible to lose something not so small and very black in a white landscape??