I know a place where the top ten thousand feet of a twenty thousand foot mountain range slid off and skidded fifty miles to the east. I know places, lots of them, where sixty million year old rocks are covered by three hundred million year old rocks, and I understand how that came to be. I know a place where a large piece of the Earth’s crust shot skywards over ten thousand feet, exposing rocks that crystallized not too long after the planet stopped being molten. I can show you the remnants of volcanic islands that slammed into North America before there were dinosaurs. Dig down from the chair where I am right now, and hit fifteen million year old basalt sitting on top of forty million year old ocean floor that somehow found itself stranded on North America. Consider that the Pacific Ocean is ever so slowly narrowing, and that the Ring Of Fire marks the friction points where oceanic crust dives under creeping continents.

Cool, right?

Or not. I get that most people don’t get quivering excitement over weird rocks, but I got it from my Dad, who was quite the enthusiastic rockhound. He used to prowl the new roadcuts being cut for the Interstates in Montana and collect specimens. He bought a couple of books on minerals and geology, and I read everything in the house, so I knew Igneous from Metamorphic from Sedimentary by the time I was in Second Grade. Dad once showed me one of the many limestone cliffs around Great Falls and fired my imagination when he told me that it had once been underwater. I could feel my world get bigger when he told me that, so much bigger than the six thousand year old world Mom taught me about.

Now that the news is so uniformly dreadful, I take great comfort in reflecting on how long this planet has been here, and how everything is recycled. We humans have our little day, and strut about as if we are somehow Important, but we will vanish, too, in time, just like the dinosaurs and the trilobites and the saber tooth tigers. We get to live here for exactly as long as it takes until the next major extinction, which we may well cause, or until the Yellowstone Caldera wakes up again. Meanwhile, the Atlantic gets wider and the Pacific shrinks, whether we’re here to see it or not. If we go, some other creature (I’m betting on raccoons) shall explore the exciting world of huge forebrains and opposable thumbs, and shall, no doubt, dig up our bones in due course.



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