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Sand, Wind, and Light: Great Sand Dunes National Park: An essay in words and images

By Ed Berg
Blurb, Inc: May 2009. $14.95

Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel

The San Luis Valley is a distinctly different world. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the Valley’s unique nature is the thirty-some square miles of sand dunes serving as foyer for the Sangre de Cristos’ western flank. In the same view, you have Lawrence of Arabia sands foregrounding snow-stippled mountains, with Medano Creek pulsing at your ankles. In his book, Sand, Wind, and Light, author Ed Berg begins where we all do – attempting to reconcile the existence of the Great Sand Dunes:

My first impression of (them) was that they were somehow out of place. Surrounded by the dead-flat San Luis Valley floor to the south and west, and by the rugged flanks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, the Dunes seemed to belong to a world apart …

As you look at the dunes, the mind struggles to believe the otherworldliness of what the eyes are saying. (And a UFO watchtower does stand little more than half an hour away.) So how fortunate we are in having this book, which combines evocative-of-poetry essaying with lucid and grounded photography.

There are so very many books, already, on the Great Sand Dunes, and most of them also with incredible writing and photography. Why bother with another? Well, just as some things bear repeating, some things mandate another’s telling. Berg’s contribution is a worthwhile and commendable addition. His perspective is different enough to not repeat already trodden ground, yet not so different as to be “out there,” covering aspects of the National Park typically overlooked and ignored. Here’s another example, from early in Berg’s book:

The Great Sand Dunes are unique, a place unlike any other, yet they are easily accessible. Their appeal goes beyond the experience of the usual. They have a grace and simplicity that other landscapes, with their coverings of vegetation, simply cannot offer. The Dunes are the shape of wind and time, of light and changing seasons and passing years.

Sand, Wind, and Light is available at these Central Colorado locations: The Book Haven in Salida; Villa Grove Trade; The Mirage in Moffat; Narrow Gauge Newsstand in Alamosa; and the Ft. Garland Museum.

I’ve lived sixteen years in Colorado, the last six years less than two hours from Great Sand Dunes, and it was this book by Ed Berg that sent me out to finally see them for myself.

Eduardo Rey Brummel schemes to visit Great Sand Dunes again, this October – before another sixteen years have gone by.