I have had a long and mostly very pleasant association with sand throughout my life starting at a very early age at an Aunt’s house in northern Indiana. My Aunt Dorothy had what was called a “sandbox” in her front yard under a large Boxelder tree. Actually, it was a very large tractor tire laid on its side and the center filled with sand. I and at least a half dozen younger siblings and cousins would make good use of it in the summertime. As I recall it was also made use of occasionally by several of the feral cats on the farm, but they were not playing with toy tractors and trucks but rather enjoying the easy digging to leave a deposit.  

That part of northern Indiana was close enough to have at one time been in the flood plain or perhaps even on the southern shore of Lake Michigan so much of the soil was very sandy. My Aunt’s house was on a hill which was unusual geography for that area, and she thought that it was perhaps an old Native American mound. However, it came to be it was really a large sandy hill and perhaps nothing more than a remnant of an old Lake Michigan sand dune. I have many memories of trips up to Lake Michigan and those dunes which stretch from Michigan City well up along the Michigan shore. We would have to transverse on foot through the dunes at some spots to reach the lakeshore. Sparse dune grasses and the difficulty of running barefoot through deep sand on our way to the lakeshore stick fondly in my memory.

As I think I may have written before there was a lane leading up the hill to my Aunt’s house where she and my father and two other male siblings had grown up on the family farm. According to family lore down where the lane met the local rural road was the sight of a KKK cross burning. Irish Catholics were not welcome, and Indiana was a Klan stronghold in the 1920s.

That the area was at one time occupied by Native Americans was verified by the arrowheads my father would find especially after a rain. He was very adept at finding them partially exposed in the sandy loam. Over the years he had collected a dozen or more, but I have no idea where they ended up perhaps lost in our move up to northern Illinois in 1965.

Fast forward to the mid-1970s and having moved to Colorado when I and several roommates and friends discovered the Great Sand Dunes in the San Luis Valley. In the ’70s and ’80s camping sites were easy to find in the fall and early spring right at the eastern base of the dunes along Medano Creek. The creek is running in late spring and into early summer with snowmelt from the nearby mountains. In peak summer season now finding a spot to camp might be a challenge but the Park is always open year-round 24/7. It has probably been a good twenty years since I have visited, and I am long overdue. These are the largest dunes in the United States, and I wonder now if I would be able to make it to the top.

My last visit in the late ’90s involved a climb to the top of one of the highest dunes where I and a dear friend scattered the ashes of his lover who had died of AIDS complications a couple of years earlier. It was a brilliant sunny day and very windy. The winds were a bit swirling and not a steady breeze out of one direction, so we ended up with particles of Phil in our eyes and mouth.  Phil, the deceased, and I had been friends for years before he met his partner who was scattering him that day. We had visited the Dunes several times in the early ’80s and engaged in what we thought of at the time as tasteful nude photography, something the area seems to lend itself to. Climbing to the top lent itself to lots of privacy since few of the tourists ever came close to making it that far and naked white skin blends in well with the sandy environment.

We were not aware of any regulation banning the scattering of cremated human remains and that is probably one of those things to plead ignorance about and ask for forgiveness after the fact. Which when you think about it can be said for so many things we do in life and that would include nude photography also.