Friday, November 28, 2014

Time, Form, and Energy

It takes some imagination or memory to see scattered leaves as the canopy of a tree, to recall my grandfather with a rake, to hear voices in old letters.  

Transformation specialists often have occupations ending in '-ologist.' When they report back to the rest of us about how things are they inevitably wind up telling us how things change. 

The leaves, the rake, the voices came into being from mass and energy that are on their way to something else. I correspond with you as a Halibut Point-ologist.

States of water
Hydrogen and oxygen, independent gasses, combine to make water. Water composes clouds and plants and ice according to its energy level. It mediates life in the air and within stone, changing state relentlessly, creating and altering substances over time. 

Sunlight provides energy for these compositions and makes them visible to us. When we sense them grandly it is breathtaking. We might invest our own energies into story-making or art to treasure a moment forever, to preserve it in time.
Preserving a moment
People have had a great deal to do with transforming the landscape of Halibut Point. Stone excavated from the quarry makes up the promontory where the artist stands. Beneath her feet processes continue the changes that mark the inexorable nature of time.
Lichen colony around drill hole
Lichens mine granite for substances useful to themselves. If we could be tiny enough to walk within lichen-dom such that they towered over our heads we'd see lichen forests producing carbonic acids that dissolve the rock. By trapping rain water the plants also hold to the rock surface carbonic acid formed in the atmosphere from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, as well as much stronger acids sent aloft through human enterprise.

Decomposing granite
Any mountain exposed to water and sunlight has a short life expectancy. The steady work of forces in the atmosphere and biosphere will flatten it in a few tens of millions of years.  

Weather is a global effort to even out the distribution of the sun's energies as our planet goes through its own rotation and orbital revolution. Weather is the dramatic script enacted by water, air, and light.
Flowing water
The processes of weather never tire, never stop. When they're emphatic enough we're more likely to take notice. They give and take life.

Breaking water, breaking stone
Cumulatively weather makes climate. Significant changes of energy in the system make climate change. When glaciers covered Halibut Point with ice half a mile thick, a few thousand years ago, they scoured the earth. Their weight alone made the land rise and sink, fracturing the rocky crust. They reshaped the continent, even granite, but especially the softer stones.

Glacial scouring
As it happens energies in the core of the Earth intense enough to keep it a molten cauldron, keep shifting the features of the crust we inhabit. The crust gives way into plates, on which the continents ride like rafts in geologic time. * Hundreds of millions of years ago Halibut Point was thousands of miles to the south and far below the surface. The oceans tilt around the globe in response to shifts of the "solid surface."  

Erosion and weathering have leveled all topographic features repeatedly, contributing sediment that is eventually squeezed into metamorphic rock that eventually is consumed back into the core as the plates collide and are subducted. Continents becomes available for igneous recycling.
In time everything is "geo-degradable."
New soil, new life
Biological life, our comfort zone, rides astride the lithosphere in a nimble network of organisms, as easily as breath.

Coreopsis flowers, Halibut Point grout pile

"Of course," I say at times, and, "What a miracle." 


* See Chet and Maureen Raymo. Written in Stone: A Geological History of the Northeastern United States, 2001.

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