Geology, by Marcia Bjornerud
Earth has been an elusive subject, but the Earth is speaking to us all the time. Not simply a puppet dancing to the imposed rhythms of astronomical cycles, Earth takes those rhythms and riffs on them in its own way. Every outcrop is a portal to an earlier world, displaying the power of the past upon the present. With patience and close listening, the oldest rocks can be understood, and they have profound truths to share about endurance and resilience. On occasion, their slow-motion choreography is disrupted by sudden jumps.
Geology is time travel, with time’s unmatched powers of transformation. We replay the past at any speed and envision possible futures. It wouldn’t be clear which way time is flowing, always tinkering and experimenting, but not with a particular notion of progress. The terror of new types of apocalypse helps fuel our imaginations about possible scenarios for cataclysms of the past. We are now almost three-quarters of the way through Earth’s habitable period.
Bjornerud, Marcia. Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World. Princeton University Press, 2018.
Shared with the author’s permission.
Geology, by William E. Glassley
I understood Earth to be a manuscript, written in an extraordinary calligraphy, embellished with an unencumbered, spontaneous artistry I could barely discern, telling stories we ache to know but can barely read. I slowly began to perceive the incomprehensible magnitude and beauty of Earth’s evolution. I was overwhelmed by the unstoppable, yet unimaginably slow, dynamism eloquently detailed in the bedrock backbone of the landscape. Revealed in those outcrops are patterns that imagination could never conjure. It is a masterpiece. It is a treasure. It is impenetrable. Everything the mind can embrace is present here.
We exclaim repeatedly how incredible it is, a pattern so striking, our eyes wander back and forth over it. That harsh and unforgiving wild surface is engulfed in beauty, histories of our origins, little more than one more part of a long and timeless journey, the overwhelming beauty of evolution’s carelessness. Mysteries of immense proportion, histories of our origins, and the collection of accidents that made us what we were resided in stone everywhere. What we are doing no longer has boundaries.
Glassley, William E. A Wilder Time: Notes From A Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2018.
Shared with the author’s permission.
Each rock and mineral, each fracture and fault, every rumble and movement, even the heat, has its story. Hints of profound relationships are everywhere. Like the pages of a book, with each page having taken a thousand years to write, the secrets of the strata can be read. Every visible, palpable object, every rock or grain of sand, is a clue in the larger mystery of how the universe is organized and put together. The book is open, and I can read as I run. Information is destroyed almost as soon as it is revealed.
In a timeless leveling process, the driving rains wear away the rock, creating new prairies from ancient ones. Erosion dominates the landscape. Hundreds of meters of sediment have been stripped away by erosion. Erosion produced these sediments, and erosion carved them into the forms we now see. Geologic formations topple and erode into sand. New formations appear as the soil washes away. Entrapped by its own steep banks, the river was forced to cut into the harder rock below. Rocks endure enormous pressure due to the weight of overlying rock.
What looks to us like disorder is more properly described as complexity. Tourists are inspired by alien scenery, scientists delve into past worlds equally strange and wonderful. Although tempting to explore, this area can be deceiving. Pay close attention to your surroundings. The more you know, the more its strangeness unnerves you. I was always on guard. You escape nothing by going underground. We’re all on a long trip to the ocean. So are rocks.
This poetry was cut and pasted from quotations from writings and presentations.