11/23/2013

A Blast From the Past: One

gustave dore art depcting desert dust devils
Burning Man is worse than you think

This is the first in a series of posts that goes through some old writings about deserts and subjects that might appeal to burners. 
... the air is filled with dust of such extreme fineness that it makes its way through objects hermetically sealed, penetrates into the eyes, the ears, and the organs of respiration. A burning heat, like that which breathes from the mouth of a furnace, possesses the air, and paralyzes the strength of men ... Seated ... with their backs turned to windward, the [burners], wrapped in their [bandanas], wait with fatalistic resignation the end of the torment... Seen through this powdery haze, the sun’s disc, shorn of its beams, shows pale and ghastly as that of the moon... it heats the blood, it dries the skin, it renders respiration troublesome; but it does not kill. 

yan dargent image showing a desert mirage
mirage in the desert

The effects of the illusion are extraordinary, but undoubtedly they are heightened by the imagination of observers, generally over-excited by fatigue, by privations, or sometimes by fever. These causes contribute to vary the nature of the phenomenon as seen by different eyes. Thus some gaze enraptured on verdurous islands bright as Armida’s enchanted garden, with feathery palms and blooming flowers, and delicious sparkling lakes; others see, in that dim far-off which is never reached, the laughing waves of ocean, with ships resting calmly at anchor, or camels browsing quietly upon its shores; others, again, see before them the rolling river, its banks studded with groves and palaces...


sources: uppermost image Gustave Doré 1832-1883, text, the desert world by Arthur Mangin 1824-1887, small plate Yan' Dargent 1824-1899