Rachael Kay Gleason

REPORTER | EDITOR | PRODUCER

Campfires and sand dunes: Finding enchantment in southern New Mexico

There’s nothing in the world that beats sitting around a campfire for seven hours — except, maybe, rolling around on a sand dune for two.

I roamed a charming mountain community in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, during a recent three-day weekend. After watching the summer sun sink below the wooded mountains — with a view of New Mexico’s white sands far off in the distance — I couldn’t help but visit the dunes the next day. The experience reminded me of a passage from Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”:

“That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost. The word ‘lost’ comes from the old Norse ‘los’ meaning the disbanding of an army. I worry now that people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know.
Children seldom roam these days, even in the safest places. I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest. For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back.
To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. Not till we are completely lost, or turned round — for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost — do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Not until we are lost, in other words, not until we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.
Thoreau plays with the biblical question about what it profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul. Lose the whole world, get lost in it, and find your soul. Go out of your way, beyond what you know, and find your way back a few extra miles, by another trail, with a compass that argues with the map. Nights alone in motels in remote western towns where you know no one and no one knows where you are. Nights with strange paintings and floral spreads and cable television that furnish a reprieve from your own biography.”