The Ecstatic Flash

Quintessence of Dust at Home On The Moon

“The moon? Of course, the moon! It is my homeland, the moon. ‘He is foreign; he is not like us. One night when the moon was full, he fell [to earth]. He dreams of impossible things,’ [they say]. But why are they impossible, these things, given that I dream them?” These were the words (that I have referenced before) French poet Jacques Prévert planted into the mouth of Baptiste, the sad clown. These are the words in which I found home many moons ago. And there on the lunar terrestrial terrain of San Pedro de Atacama’s Valle de La Luna, I was at home. Running with no shoes on, bathed in white diaphanous things: this is where I feel at home.

Inspired by the final, heart-wrenching scene in one of my favourite films, The English Patient, I wanted to capture an expanse of white fabric billowing against the hardness of the desert rock, and to mimic the undulating flow of the landscape in the movement of the fabric

 

Micheal Ondaatje wrote (And Kristen Scott Thomas beautifully recited) in The English patient words  these words in which I found instantaneous home:

“We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in – like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men…That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps.” 

The idea that home is only the place we are born, or the permanent place we rest our heads is one that my current itinerant lifestyle has turned on its very head. Home to me, is wherever I am present, fully immersed, and feel an instinctive connection the air around me, whether I am there for an hour or for a seeming lifetime. And yet how should we ever know all the corners of this earth that are our homes should we not venture forth, erasing, when and how we can, the ” boundaries with the names of powerful men” of which Ondaatje wrote? Certainly, there are the practical matters that govern our ability to explore, from pecuniary matters to visa woes (UK VISAS AND IMMIGRATION: I am looking at you). I’ve yet to let these limitations stop me, however, because my soul does not feel at ease if months go by without my immersion into a culture (whether familiar or completely new) other than that of my quotidian days.

On our second day in San Pedro de Atacama, after exploring the salt caves of Moon Valley,  we walked the outer surface of the rocky region upon which for the first time in 15 years the gift of snow had be bestowed. Our guide, Jose, from the Explora Hotel Atacama, explained the history and geology of Moon Valley (and also tied the shoelaces of my green Nikes for me in between takes) led us to The Coyote Stone, a lookout point with sublime views where we were served a simple and utterly delightful lunch picnic.

 

Crew lunch with Jose, Colby and the green Nikes. Cups full of soup, hearts full of joy, eyes full of wonder: A worthy benediction to our morning in the Valley of The Moon with Explora Atacama

 

Then, as a final delectation of Valle de la Luna, I sat down to sketch the vista, as John Ruskin, advises as a means by which to possess the beauties we experience. In sketching, though I lack the finesse to execute anything even approaching an accurate rendering, I am forced to look more deeply at what I am encountering, and ask myself why I find what I do beautiful. (I learnt this trick from Alain de Botton’s book,  The Art of Travel)

It was precisely after this moment of stillness, trying to trace the sublime beauty of this lunar landscape in an attempt to carry it with me, that a spot of cell phone reception caused a flurry of messages informing me that Rafael Nadal had won his 10th Roland Garros title (how I feel about the sport of tennis and about Nadal is not secret, but for the tennis uninitiated, this is big big deal).

Surrounded by monumental shards of clay as I was, I was reminded that we are but specks of dust, infinitesimal in comparison to the dust that shapes our planet, let alone the stuff that makes up our universe: we are a nothingness in the vast everythingness of existence. Cognisance of such littleness should teach us never to mourn our luck, for expecting the universe to bend to our will when we make up such a meagre fraction of it (Another lesson culled from de Botton’s book but only ossified through the true experience of it over and over again).

Yet on this day when one of my heroes did the unfathomable in winning his 10th French Open title (after years fraught with injury and myriad premature pronouncements of the death of his career), I was reminded that we, humans, are breathing distillations of the power of our home, the universe, entities of numinousness in our own right and as boundless in our potential as the breadth of desert that then filled  my heart. As good ol’ Bill put it: 

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”

And by such circumnavigation, I come back to my original point: that we have everything within us, to make a home of the world if we so and truly desire in spite of the limitations existence throws in our path. For me, after losing my job 2 years ago meant an no travel “budget” (let’s be real, budgeting is not my strong suit), and learning overtime how much my being needed exploration, I decided to make it my job (or an aspect of my job I should say). A job where where I feel very much at home, and— in those tip of . the iceberg parts of the creative process where I get to create images and live moments such as these — quite over the moon!

 

What I Wore: Issey Miyake Pleats Please Madam T in white, custom hat from Ghana, really old green Nikes

Most Photos by Colby Blount