In Buddhist thought, the pathway to the eternal lies embedded in our acceptance of impermanence and change. Through images of the aeolian (wind-driven) landscape of the Oceano Dunes, I explore the concept of sentience in all human and natural existence.
The dunes extend approximately eighteen miles along the Central California coast from Pismo Beach to Guadalupe. Divided into a natural preserve and an area devoted to vehicular recreation, the dunes are unlike anything I have ever experienced. The ephemeral, ever-changing landscape expresses a sublime order and reflects the many correlations between nature and the dynamics of the inner world. The place and the images I have tried to capture remind me of Mark Rothko’s “silence and solitude” that expresses the resonance and subtle dimensions of consciousness—not the dominion of thought, but the primacy of awareness.
The devout presence of the land is tempered by multiple threats such as incessant motorized activity on the dunes, the toxicity of surrounding industrial agriculture, and the second-worst air quality in the country. As I photographed this pristine silent world, a few thousand feet away a dystopian universe was taking place with dune buggies, dirt bikes, and all manner of modified vehicles zooming up and down the beach and over the unprotected dunes. The silence I felt was inner, not outer, and the contrast between the natural preserve and American Mad Max vehicular culture was striking and disturbing. In these photographs, I lament the fragile transience of the earth and celebrate the ever-flowing infusion of energy into form.
“Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.” —Poet Robinson Jeffers, 1937