Light unmitigated by leaves can change in an instant.
This is what makes deserts both so alluring and so unforgiving — that lack of moderation. Sharp contrasts appeal to the eye as well as to the moral imagination.
The condition of the snow can change by the hour: what held you up at dawn might crumble under your boots at ten. The only constant is the need to walk and walk and walk, for warmth more than exercise and for revelation more than warmth.
In a radically simplified landscape there are fewer places to hide, and things that had been hidden are selectively revealed, in strong light and with maximum contrast: that’s what I mean by revelation. Nothing mystical about it. And the extreme conditions should serve to remind us that revelations are not necessarily pleasant; a preference for pleasant news and comforting beliefs can be a real obstacle to an accurate perception of reality.
The desertedness of deserts is of course another big part of their appeal. You can be alone with your demons. The wintertime desert is barren, devoid of fertility — but as anyone who has chosen to remain child-free will tell you, this can be a gift, too. All sorts of things need open space to flourish. Biologically speaking, the extreme environments known as barrens in the eastern U.S., like the western deserts, often accommodate species found nowhere else.
So what seems barren to most might be for some the most fruitful country imaginable, the moment-by-moment mutability as welcome as the phases of an unpredictable moon.
Chimonophile: Someone who enjoys cold winters.