In his book Sand: a journey through science and the imagination, the geologist Michael Welland writes ‘deserts are landscapes of the mind as much as physical realities, places of metaphor and myth.’ It is fitting then that the title for his forthcoming presentation at Chalk: time, sense and landscape, is taken from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince:
‘Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.’
As the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry remind us, the landscapes of the desert notoriously play havoc with all human senses. Rare sounds become amplified, aromas, other than some kind of unfathomable minerality, are entirely absent, and the range of what seems visible becomes exaggerated. Our sense of scale is comprehensively challenged – a single sand grain and a sea of dunes vie for our attention (and seem equally fascinating). The great chronicler of the deserts of the American southwest, Edward Abbey, wrote: “There is something about the desert that human sensibility cannot assimilate.” Our response to what is seen, and unseen, is very much subjective and cultural, the perception of landscape, time, and scale being quite different for the insider and the outsider. And then there are the stories that the landscape tells the geologist…
So looking forward to hearing the deserts tell their stories.