Not Just a Rock Miniseries
I'm calling this next little Nature miniseries "Not Just a Rock", because even nonliving things have a story to tell. In the case of rocks, it's usually a pretty fascinating story. Plus, they don't exist in a vacuum--they shape and are shaped by other parts of Nature. If you enjoy the outdoors or work in a job that takes people outdoors, how do you think about rocks?
Part 2 of the Not Just a Rock miniseries: Rocks have cities too! Ancient granite – hammered by wind, water, snow, and ice for billions of years – slowly erodes into fantastical rounded shapes that make up the buildings of this city. Today, this city is populated by climbers looking to scale the grippy granite via narrow chimneys and vertical cracks. I definitely prefer this kind of city – do you?
Part 3 of the Not Just a Rock miniseries: A rock’s life ain’t easy. This particular rock has been buried, baked, smashed, uplifted, and eroded countless times in the last 2 billion years. The end result is not just a rock, but a history book that doubles as a work of abstract art. Get to know this rock, and you will get to know the history of a whole mountain range! (Pioneer Mountains of central Idaho in this case)
Part 4: Not Just a Rock I spotted a rock in an arroyo in the desert that said so much about the depths of time. Hard red sandstone told a tale of formation in ancient sand dunes. That happened back when this part of Colorado lay far to the south, where trade winds created dune fields larger than today's Sahara. Whimsical white dots revealed later burial deep underground, where subterranean water bleached spots around bits of leaves and bugs. And its sharp edges show where it recently chipped off of the mother rock to start the cycle all over again.
Part 5: Rocks: more than they're cracked up to be
I never had much interest in rocks-- they seemed so permanent, physical, and not alive. Then there was the suggestion of chemistry that might have to be learned if I got too involved with them. Other times, I would be persuaded to try to climb them by a boyfriend or husband, without ropes. There would be long and anxious moments spent staring at at a rock from close range, my legs wobbling and palms sweaty, 15 feet above the ground. Only recently have I started to see them in a new light. Skeletons underlying a landscape. The source of a sand dune. An impervious surface that sheds water or lines a stream bed. The best type of den for a marmot. And that is just scratching the surface. What I've found most significant about rocks is the incredible stories they tell of our planet. Learning a bit about them gives otherworldly visions of ancient landscapes, the depths of time, the inner workings of the earth.
Take this rock: it's a nearly vertical chunk of volcanic ash. Originating deep below the earth's crust, it exploded out of a volcanic field and smothered the landscape back when the first felines were evolving. Compressed and safely tucked away under overlying layers until relatively recently, it was excavated by glaciers, and chiseled off the mountain above by relentless freezing and thawing. Now it lies at the edge of a ravine, tempting the braver passersby--or their girlfriend--to give it a try and get a glimpse of the world on the other side.