Desert Observation: Soundscape and Landscape

The bus slowed after hours of traveling, pulling onto the imaginary shoulder on an endless stretch of road. Filing out of the bus, we dispersed in order to capture the unique sounds of the landscape. I slipped off my sandals, digging my toes into the sand while closing my eyes. Wind whipped through the valley, strong enough at times to hear grains of sand scratching nearby stones. I occasionally mistook vehicular traffic as an airplane; the stillness of the desert allowed sounds to travel much further distances than I am accustomed to. As I considered the lack of life in the area, a fly buzzed by for a fleeting moment. This demonstrated that the environment creates a challenge for organisms that wish to live here; even the fly just passes through. As the variability in sounds diminished, I allowed myself to open my eyes and absorb the scenery.


And we sat. We baked in the sun, burning as the sands and rocks do for eternity. We are forgotten here, unfamiliar entities in the barren landscape. The skeletal remains of an animal reminds us of how misplaced we are, strewn about this desert. Looking off into the distance, I see a band of mashed potatoes floating behind mountain remains, too lazy to scale these massive obstructions and supply rain to this wasteland. Heat dances on the horizon, blurring my vision. But observing what is close to me, I am overwhelmed.

I am surrounded by colors, while there is no sign of life for miles. But I still experience red, blue, orange, purple, tan, green, gray, and white. There is a natural spectrum found among the desert stones and sands that typically sneak by us, no we let them. They are unique as the biota found in the rainforest. Each stone has its own story, how it found its way to this unseemingly beautiful landscape. They are under appreciated and heavily misunderstood. Stones give character to this desolate land, unveiling the timeline of this Peruvian desert.


The small details of these stones tell components of their life story. Simply the color unveils what their makeup is; it reflects the minerals within each stone, which may be portrayed differently depending on the natural elements causing the minerals to oxidize and react. The size of the stones in this case may be deceiving. Typically, the larger the stone, the closer to the source it is. However, winds and sand create a polishing effect, acting as sand paper, wearing away the stone.

My observations were disturbed by reaching our time limit, and everyone meandered back to the bus. Everyone stopped to pick out a few neat rocks as souvenirs. Had we not removed these small pieces of the landscape, I wonder how long it would have taken for them to erode. Years? Decades? And how many people have stopped there to appreciate the beauty of the desert? Far fewer than there should be. I hope to get back to a similar environment in the future and see what else I can interpret from the landscape, and to absorb the uncommon beauty that can be found in these desolate environments.


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