Water Dreaming in the White Sands
By Dawn Wilson-Enoch
The Desert Primitive jewelry I make has become a way in which I converse with the land, honor it, and connect to it when I cannot be there. The pieces link me from here to there. Usually I will make a piece after visiting someplace special. But a very interesting thing happened a few years ago on a trip to White Sands, and I thought I’d tell you that story.
2007 was an unforgettable year at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico. My now-grown son and I have taken spring road trips down there almost every year now for over ten years. We spend two or three days wandering through that breathtaking, deeply tranquil world of blue and white, always coming away rejuvenated. In anticipation of our White Sands trip that year, I created a very large and elaborate necklace using colors and textures I associated with the dunes. Besides the bone whites, greys, and dusty sage greens of the landscape, I became obsessed with an ethereal, whisper-soft aqua-green. I knew it had to go into the necklace.
I’m sure you artists out there know what it means to be “obsessed with a color”: you think about it all the time, everything you buy has to have it, you want to eat it…well, this was like that, only a little worse. To me, that aqua color had always stood for a kind of energy that exists within the drylands, like the soul of the place. I ransacked my beads and amulets for pieces that matched it. A large, antique Moon Bead, which is a rare type of trade bead, became the focal point of the multi-strand necklace. Other beads that picked up on the color were Australian boulder opals, Peruvian opals, aquamarines, and ancient Mezcala Beads from precolombian Mexico. I even made aqua beads myself using luminescent polymer clay, sand, and earth. It was a beautiful piece, and I decided to take it with me to photograph when we went down to the Sands.
Then we found out that White Sands had been “flooded”, and that part of the dunes road had been closed. Unusually heavy rains the year before had raised the already-high water table in the Tularosa Basin to aboveground in some places. A little anxious about what we’d find, we went anyway, figuring that no matter where we ended up leaving our vehicle, we would still be able to walk the dunes.
When we got there and started out into the heart of the dunes, I was astounded. Instead of the sodden and un-desertlike mess I had feared, the rising waters had created exquisite, jewel-like lakes in the flats between the gypsum dunes. They were the exact color of pale aqua-green I had been obsessed with weeks earlier. We were intoxicated.
We walked for hours through an otherworldly landscape of thermonuclear light, through a dreamtime of searing white, blue, and aqua.
The necklace, which I named Water Dreaming in the White Sands, has since sold to a woman who lives in southern New Mexico. I’ve continued to make other pieces inspired by that time, most recently my ring entitled Dune Lakes II. Reflecting back on it I see that, in contemplating the landscape so strongly when I made the necklace, I had actually attuned to the rare appearance of the remarkable lakes. The land has a link to us, deep and very old, and we can remember it…if we allow ourselves to become still inside, and listen…
Dawn Wilson-Enoch is a full-time jewelry designer living in New Mexico. She sells her work exclusively through her Etsy shop, Desert Talismans. See it at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/