Salar de Uyuni


The Salar de Uyuni is one of the destinations that filled my Bolivia anticipations. The landscape, its austere windblown isolating beauty, certainly, but also the idea of it, the premonition and the inspiration. An invocation of an expanse and of a far away, like the ocean, though the dynamism of waves and ripples is a hint that time hasn’t stopped, so not quite right to the Salar. Or the moon, sure, though the moon wears its orb sphericality, its promise of a circular return from any point back to the origin, on its surface. Here, a flatland that might never end.

The dirt road terminates in a kind of spit, then the surface crunches underneath tires a little like snow, you even eye the wet spots dubiously, as if you might fall through but you know your perceptions are skewed by the white. Can’t help lean down to break a fingernail scratch off and taste it. And minutes go by, you don’t know how many, the openness and wind in your ears, this is where I’d go to be forever, my atoms scattered bonded to the crystal fracture structure if they had to be. Static plane stretches stretches away, a low level of terror of being lost, or, seen more optimistically, of being nothing, and no when. A landscape that places you at a distance from yourself. Landmarks evaporate, thoughts crumble tumble, a house of cards collapsing in slow motion, maple leaves in a November wind eddy: house, leaves, this is a horizontal Danielewski with all the attendant fear, Kant was wrong about time and inner experience, I may as well be on a treadmill, my nerves crackle I keep scanning. I am the only mark, I suck on a lollipop to create a reference point, and then there are none.

The sun sets and the wind starts blowing hard. The brightest stars show against curling clouds, stove labors against the gusts, the tent gamely feigns equanimity. Then the moon bright wide perfect full climbs with my own exaltation. I scream and plead and stand 18 feet tall or reduced to a neutrino, I say it a dozen times and more louder and louder so it can’t be heard. Bright blinding.