Sand dunes, sliding rocks, and hot springs

Going home –

 Stovepipe Well sand dunes in Death Valley

We’ve been here many times, and can’t get enough of these views.

An ultralight zooms around one afternoon tickling my nerves. A famous photographer shooting pictures probably already taken a million times before.

Between the dunes sometimes the ancient lake bed gets exposed.

 Mini sand dunes on the surface of the sand dunes. Again and again it’s so easy to see the elusiveness of our perception.

Once, years ago, after Parvin’s operation, while she was in Germany for a follow-up test, I slept on the crest of these sand dunes and felt so lonely that I just couldn’t see the beauty anymore. Now I not only see it again but see so much more.

Up on these dunes we met this guy who did acrobatic jumps just for the heck of it.

Parvin, my queen,

as young and healthy as ever.

Precious moments in the cool early morning hours.

* * *

A large dry lake in Nevada.

We drive all the way into the middle and spend a day and a night at this extraordinary place.

When I see Parvin walk away toward the mountains she turns into a tiny little spot, and I lose her altogether before she got even close to the rim.

When you walk at this place and look around you feel as if you were walking on a conveyor belt or on one of these fitness-walking machines where you hold on to some kind of handle and just go through the motions of walking without really progressing. The ground is so homogenous and featureless that there is really nothing there, around you, that would change or move while you are walking and that could give you an impression of your own motion. The mountains, toward which motion could be perceived, are too far away. It feels like walking to the body, but you don’t get any sensual feedback of progress, the mind misses the expected visual confirmation of things around changing, that you actually cover ground. Nothing changes, not even slowly, you can walk for 15 minutes and everything looks exactly the same. It’s like in a dream when you try so hard to run but don’t move.

Once reason forces the mind to accept that there must be motion, it actually comes up with the sensation that the ground is moving instead, backwards, and I’m completely still, just my legs paddling and pushing the ground backwards. Not bad! What’s the difference? So I walk and make the world turn under me. Wouldn’t make much difference, would it? How do I know that this is not what’s really going on?

Ah, yes, that’s where my discriminating intellect comes in, the “experience processor” that saves us so often from getting undone or – what we so often forget – prevents us from seeing the truth!

At night a new moon illuminates the scene, just enough to see the mountains. But now, when I walk, I really get dizzy, the deceiving sensation of walking without moving is chillingly convincing. The wind stops at night, no sounds; it is so quiet that again the mind protests. It comes up with all kinds of objections, aversions, and fears. I hear my heart pounding, blood rushing, monstrous, strange sounds. “How can all this work without my control?” says mind and is confused. And then I even hear things that clearly are unreal: scary ringing gongs, piercing beeps and roaring surf. I need to stay with the irritation for a long time until I gradually manage to let it all be whatever it is without interpreting it. Have I ever experienced such enormous cosmic silence of open space? Even the concept of sound becomes uncertain, somehow, and dissolves. A completely new experience arises: not the lack of hearing something, but the sensation of hearing silence. It takes a long time before the mind gives up its expectations and objections and starts to believe this emptiness.

To our utter amazement we find ‘sliding rocks‘ at the rim of this lake bed, just like the miraculous things we once saw at Race Track in Death Valley.

These are even better than those in Death Valley.

I’m sure they must have moved during this past winter when so much rain has fallen and ice must have formed too.

I once wrote about these phenomena in “Secret in the Valley”(click for more). The ice-hypothesis still seems the ultimately plausible one:

Rain falls, huge, very shallow puddles form and, with freezing temperatures, turn into ice floes. The rocks get firmly embedded in these ice sheets. The temperature rises again, the ice begins to melt and break into smaller floes. The floes, together with the integrated rocks, begin to float on a very thin layer of liquid water. The mud underneath is super saturated and extremely soft. Now wind comes and moves these concoctions. The downward protruding rocks carve these tracks into the soft mud.All makes pretty much sense – this is now the most widely accepted theory. However, how can these “objects” move in dramatically erratic directions? How – if moved by wind – can several of them obviously go in entirely different directions at the same time? And there are a few other unsatisfying clues.

There is still enough room for doubt, enough space between the facts to see the mystery, to see the truth behind the reality the mind concocts.


March 2012 – Here is a link to a full thesis about this subject that actually says that ice is not necessary:


March 2012: My own view today is this: The movement is not caused by wind directly – the rocks being moved like a sail – but by a thin layer of water flowing violently under the ice floes with the embedded rock; and the motion of the water is of course caused by wind. The very thin layer of water floats up the ice-rock unit, and the water is in violent motion because it’s mostly exposed to the wind all around the ice floe. The direction of the flow of  water is rather erratic (watch the remains of surf running up a wide beach) and not always congruent with the direction of the wind. This could explain the fickle directions of tracks. K.Kommoss


There is still some stagnant water residue at the very rim of the lake bed.

Another hot spring in the wide open Nevada landscape. The 10000 feet mountain range in the distance is still in its winter coat. Early in the morning you can see just a hint of steam rising into the chilly air. What a crazy miracle to find yourself in such a tiny exotic location in almost unbelievable comfort right in the middle of a vast land where you couldn’t even survive for long. To sit there, surrounded by actually quite hostile, merciless desert in limitless space makes you sense the unmitigated fragility of our existence. In a way it’s almost scary, but then it only scares your preconceived ideas, it challenges your story about reality. It invites you to let go of ideas altogether and see what really is instead.

We stay for two days and are mostly all by ourselves.

By now, when we sit at night, Orion, which was greeting us for our evening celebration in November in the east stands far in the west; Pleiades (Parvin) is almost drowning in the evening glow of the sunset. While we spent another wonderful summer in winter, lived another segment of this amazing life, the entire night sky has wandered from the eastern horizon to the western horizon. Another cycle is almost completed.

* * *

Nevada roads are straight as a gun shot. You often cross valleys and mountain ranges without ever-changing direction. You gradually dip into a wide valley already seeing the next pass straight ahead 20 miles away. It’s every 10 minutes or so that you see another car.

 Driving for days and days on these roads one can drift away into an altered sense of reality:

Maybe, my truck is actually not moving at all; the road and the world around is moving toward me instead. My mind sucks it all up and fabricates images, emotions, stories… Nothing is really happening. I’m just witnessing this ceaseless composition of an experience.

Just a thought!

Another final couple of hot spring days somewhere else in nowhere.

More open space at Sheldon Wildlife Refuge in southern Oregon.

 Time to get home.

… in a few days!

 Today, in Summer Lake, Oregon, we got the first rain (mixed with snow!), the first rain in 6 months.

Oh, we lucky idiots!

 * * *

                                                                   Klaus  first week of April 2011

This entry was posted in 2010/2011, Winters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sand dunes, sliding rocks, and hot springs

  1. Tom says:

    Keep them coming, please.

  2. hazel says:

    Klaus you totally rock! this site is magnificent and i’ve read quite a few but there is sooooooo much i want to say…so, i will regroup and make time to sit and reread the many and post comments when timing permits. as with personal “letters to no one” responses from me take time to ruminate in my mind, your visual images are breathtaking and help with what your mind “see’s” and contemplates the mysteries of this life and how your mind interprets. sometimes leaving a comment just does not satisfy your eloquent thoughts…i’m like a kindergartener with words!!
    you and Parvin role a life many of us would like to do and sharing it here in virtual format for ALL to see, contemplate, marvel, rejoice and learn by your kindness is a gift! so…thank you Klaus for taking the time and energy to put this together and the fortitude to get it done, just like that bearing you took apart…
    life is precious and you two truly embrace and live the moments…

  3. hazel says:

    i love this: “I’m just witnessing this ceaseless composition of an experience. ”

    sorry the above comment got posted a twice, next post…guess i hit the wrong button!

  4. Richard Thuillier says:

    Love the shot of Parvin jumping down the dune.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s