By Maria Kernahan
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Additional resources for A Is for Aspen
Nevada’s wind’s main duty seems to be to create dunes, yet I almost gave up finding the Tonopah Dunes because the weather was down in the weeds and visibility was the same as a London pea-soup fog. But by some chance of luck, they finally loomed up out of the dank and dark. Happily that dimness discouraged some of the fat, round [ 16 ] Nevada resident pill bugs from seeking solace underground as they would at the first splash of sunshine. Only as clouds began to lift did these tiny creatures begin to nudge themselves beneath the sand.
The sky was on fire with cosmic radiation, the mountain black as bituminous coal. I stood up in my long underwear, walked to rim’s edge, and looked across those hundred miles. Not a streetlight, not a farm, not an allterrain vehicle in sight; no motor to mar the night. This is as close as one can come in the Lower 48 to the frayed, ragged edge of human civilization. Sure, there was a road or two somewhere down in the blackness, but no one traveled them. There on the edge, I would commit to guard and defend the last of Nevada’s wildlands, the remaining 20 percent or so, with all my heart and soul to the end of my days as a sort of last defense against Brower’s ever-encroaching cage.
But it’s on the ground that this very sere bleakness becomes a thing of beauty—a formal, restrained beauty of structure rather than a surface beauty of bright cheerful colors and playful land forms. But there are, hidden away, small, [ 13 ] w i l d n e va d a surprising packets of color as vigorous and bright as a box of new crayons. As a naturalist, I find the close-up, hands-on approach appealing. The big overview is all and well, but being nearsighted as I am, I cherish the individual secretive places that you can’t get to from here, places learned over the years of traveling in Nevada on various writing assignments, those unexpected and isolated surprising places, the shuttered places that Nevada holds like a good poker hand, close to its chest.
A Is for Aspen by Maria Kernahan