A perfect ratio

The dunes at Jockey's Ridge, on the outer banks of North Carolina, are great for strolling, kite flying, and staying sane.  September, 2013

The dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, on the outer banks of North Carolina,
are great for strolling, kite flying, and staying sane. September, 2013

“There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals…There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”Edward Abbey

Sometimes we make the mistake of seeing deficits in any situation that lacks the elements to which we are most accustomed.  Thus a geographic region, a climate, a culture, a house or even a person may seem inadequate to us, when it’s actually our perception that needs adjusting.

I don’t count myself among those who love the desert, but I must admit that there’s a singular beauty in wide panoramas of sand, uninterrupted by the water, trees and flowers I normally prefer.  There’s a sort of mental cleansing that happens when one is in such an environment, which complements the physical exertion of walking in sand.  Climbing a high dune often ends in a breathlessness that is quite fitting to the expansive view that rewards plodding to the top.  If the dunes are adjacent to water, a stunning combination of sand, sea and sky stretches as far as the eye can see.

If you are fortunate enough to live near such an area, you might find a quick outing there is a perfect antidote to the overwhelming stimulation of contemporary life.  If you are too far away to visit a desert or dune in person, a bit of the same serenity can be found in any area free of visual distractions and noise.  Some of the long, monochromatic and unadorned hallways of the massive medical center where Jeff spent so much time this past year provided me with a refreshing break when I would stroll through them in the evenings after most employees had left for the day.

What we usually might see as barren can be a balm to the soul when we feel bombarded with too much to process in too short a time.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I wish you an expansive place of quiet where you can escape, even if only briefly, to a perfect ratio of less and more.

One year ago today:

Something is there


  1. raynard

    Julia the first place I was reminded of was Iraq. Followed by FT Irwin, CA, White Sands Missle Range in N.M and throw in there Hawaii and my local beach “as you look at the nuclear plant across the water in NJ. So there “no singing of Beach Boy songs today lol.( I did learn to “boogey board while in Hawaii lol. The only thing I have going right now is a room fan and typing on my keyboard.( no birds yet or my neighbors sleeping with their TV sets on. Ask most people about that they say”they hate it being too quiet or “when I was little , I went to sleep with “the tv on. I digress be blessed

    • I can’t imagine sleeping with the TV on (in fact I hate to have it on anytime) but I do love the sound of a fan or other white noise. Best of all is the sound of real rain, but if I can’t have the real thing, I enjoy the manufactured rain sounds. With all the keyboarding I do I have grown quite accustomed to clicking keys too and I guess that must be a sound I’m comfortable with. I bet the deserts of Iraq were massive compared to the ones we have over here. I remember reading years ago where someone said the movie Lawrence of Arabia was the first film where the star of the show was a desert. I’m glad you are not singing Beach Boy songs, I never did go for their sound, although Jeff liked them.

  2. Ann

    Cumberland Island, Ga is another place that still has beautiful sand dunes and forests of southern live oaks. A recent trip there refreshed my soul…

    • Ann, I have never been there, but always wanted to go. I have heard it’s lovely and just the name of it sounds pretty. Funny how some of the most popular places in my home state I have never been to – Savannah is another.

  3. I love it, Julia! Seems I could use a desert almost every other day for respite from our lovely DC area! Missing your UR comments and hoping you are doing well.

    • Thanks Hank, I really need to get over to UR. I miss everyone. I am just so far behind on everything that I can’t seem to make the time I need to catch up. But I do hope to prioritize checking in there as soon as I can. We are doing OK. Jeff feels relatively good right now, but the bad news is that his feeling good is because he has had to miss his last two weekly chemo treatments due to extremely low white blood counts. They’ll try again tomorrow. We were able to get to Atlanta recently to see my parents and our grandson (and of course our grandson’s parents too). 🙂 We are gearing up for Matt’s open heart surgery this month, so I’m feeling extra-stressed. I’ll try to update everyone soon. Thanks for being here!

  4. Our daughter lives in Arizona…i enjoy seeing the desert but not to live there. I like my trees…

    • Merry, I love the trees too. When we first moved to Virginia from California, years of living in the west had made me accustomed to a bigger sky, which I missed for awhile, but I also missed the abundant, tall, full trees while we lived in Texas, Hawaii and northern California. On the central coast of CA we had gorgeous tall Eucalyptus trees behind our back yard, so I didn’t miss them as much there. Arizona is a nice place to visit but I don’t think I could get used to the barren areas. I do remember enjoying going to Mt. Lemmon, near Tucson, which was cooler and greener.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, isn’t it amazing how circumstances can change a setting? I’ve been in a hospital for the birth of a grandchild and experienced ultimate happiness. Then I’ve been in that same hospital, to only learn that I need to take my 90 year old mom home, where she wants to spend her few remaining days. On a different note, I could complain about the sand dunes that are getting higher in front of our house that block the view or I can appreciate the height that has built over the years. Bill calls it our “protection” ! 🙂 The perfect ratio… I like that. I have thought of y’all about a gazillion times today!

    • Thank you Sheila, you must have been picking up on my blue mood today – it was rainy, cold and one of those days with lots of frustrating tasks to get done, all of which seemed to pass too slowly. But Jeff felt good tonight and that made everything all better. 🙂 Wow, I would be disappointed about dunes blocking my view, too – can you add a rooftop patio? 😀 I do think those dunes would be comforting in storm surges! Hope you and I BOTH have a great day tomorrow!

  6. I have never been to a desert and that seems odd to me really. I suppose because we are so far North here, trees, streams and lakes are more the norm. If we plan a holiday, we want to be near the ocean. But I do see a sereneness in your photo, I can see how strolling there could be very calming or as you so eloquently wrote, “a balm to the soul” (I loved that line). My solution for calm is as easy as putting on my headphones and tuning everything else out. I wear them to grocery shop or if I need to go to a mall. I can’t seem to manage the hubbub in these places and listening to my own music at my preferred volume is like being in a private room with the door shut. It might be a tad ‘anti-social’ but I figure as long as I have a smile on my face, I shouldn’t be offending anyone.

    • I agree about the headphones, I do the same thing – I just have to be careful not to start singing along. 😀 I’d much rather see someone with headphones on than having a loud cell phone conversation. And I don’t enjoy walking nearly as much without my headphones. Aren’t we lucky to have so many inexpensive luxuries? I remember how excited my parents were to get their first stereo and two record albums. A real investment in those days (early 60’s).

  7. Michael

    Did you ever make it out to Honeymann? dunes in California? My mom used to love to visit there along with Carmel.
    I guess the Washington state rain forests are on the other side of the scale with 300 inches of rain or so a year. This is on the Olympic Peninsula.

    • I haven’t been to those dunes, but I used to love to go to Bodega Bay and other places where there were lots of them. The most amazing ones I remember in California were the dunes of Minuteman Beach on Vandenberg AFB, very near where missiles were fired (testing). They never let anyone up to that end of the base (very remote) during testing, but I always had this irrational fear I’d someday end up there when a missile was being fired. Despite that, I used to love to take the boys there. It was so wild and deserted and they loved rolling down the hills. The sands were so dry that they never stuck to our clothes. I have a lot of photos I took there and I imagine some of them will end up here eventually. I LOVE Carmel and used to say that if I was a billionaire I would not be able to choose between living in Santa Barbara or Carmel.

      WOW, 300 inches a year! How much do you get where you live?

  8. This post made me think about the many situations I have been in where I just could not find a purpose for being there. Sometimes we have to look deep and far and sometimes we must close our eyes and allow God to show us what is truly there. There is always a purpose or reason for everything we come upon, the joy in many situations is finding the purpose for it.

    • Joyce, that is so true. It reminds me of this lovely quote by Hafiz. For some of us, we have to let go of our need to feel in control, in order to be open to whatever is meant to come next. Easier said than done, of course, but as you say, it can be a great joy to discover what we didn’t know we were looking for.

  9. Michael

    36 inches of rain over 150 day period. 58 days of sun and 23o cloudy days, so you can understand my desire to return to Hawaii. Yesterday however, it got up to 71 degree and I planted some snow peas.

    • Michael, I am so happy you had a pretty day yesterday and got those snow peas planted. If you love sunshine, perhaps a move to Atlanta would be a good thing for you. Almost as much sun as Hawaii at less than half the cost of living! 🙂

  10. Michael

    Yes, sent in application yesterday to Atlanta.

    • 🙂 🙂 🙂 Good luck and keep me posted!

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