Seeing something with your own eyes is proof. Right? At one time or another, most of us have said: “Seeing is believing.” or “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
We’ve also said the opposite when reality goes against what we know or believe to be true – “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
I experienced a disconcerting disconnect between my eyes and brain when I visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Encompassing 275 acres of desert, White Sands is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world.
Coming out of the snowy Midwest as I’d done, my brain was conditioned to to see white as snow. To expect cold. To be wary of ice.
As I drove further into the park, leaving vegetation behind, the 20-30-foot high drifts of white looked like snow. I grabbed a coat as I got out of my car only to remember it was 70 degrees out.
Graders cleared the roads, scraping away drifts of white, leaving packed white surfaces. I touched my brakes lightly lest I skid off the road at the next curve. I accelerated with great caution fearful my wheels would spin out.
Visitors to the dunes did nothing to clarify. Barefoot kids in shorts played at winter sports, sledding and snowboarding off the steep dunes.
As a writer, I often draw on my own experiences for emotion and sense. My time at White Sands gave me a whole new well of disorientation from which to draw.
Even though I was in the park for five hours, I never did reconcile the reality of what was there with what my mind believed to be true.
I really could not believe my eyes.