Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aesthetics of Fossilized Rock

I just read Amberlie's post on the beauty in creek beds, and I was struck in a completely different way about the aesthetics of the creek.  I wrote some of this in the comment section, but I will try and expand it into a post.

Probably from the ages of eight to fourteen, I was determined to become a paleontologist.  My obsession naturally began with dinosaurs.  However, my old house (my family has since moved) had a large rock pile out in the backyard filled with fossils of sea creatures - coral, bivalves, snails.  My biggest dream was to find a real trilobite (which I never did).  For my birthday many years ago, my grandparents gave me a book about the geological history of the Cincinnati area filled with charts, classifications, and species descriptions.  I would collect these fossils in a storage bin and try in vain to find out more about each critter fossilized in my collection.  Last summer, I took a geology course at Miami University and really enjoyed getting back into this stuff.

At our new house, my family and I have a creek in the front yard beyond which is a woods.  The creek is filled with limestone, sedimentary rocks.  I don't collect them anymore.  However, when I see them, I see the rocks as the remains of something once alive deep in the past.  Rocks become natural records or snapshots into a remote age.  When I see those rocks, I am thinking of the sea creatures once swimming around in the oceans of what would become the American midwest.  I think their evolution and their eventual demise, largely forgotten save encapsulated in stone.

There is almost an element of sublimity in it - the fact the Ordovician Period passed away 500 to 400 million years ago and here we are, our cities beginning only 10,000 years ago.  All that remains are a few lucky creatures which had been covered in sediments and crushed underneath the dynamic earth, their waters disappearing and reappearing, layers upon layers of new sediments accreting.  For me, sedimentary rocks littering creek beds are one of the most beautiful parts of nature.

I have never thought about it from an aesthetic point of view, but I guess this is an example of Carlson's environmental aesthetic - that science adds a new angle to beauty and appreciation.  In contrast, I know almost nothing about tree or wildlife classifications, bird habits, or where that kind of tree grows best.  My grandpa does, and he might have an entirely different aesthetic approach to walking in the woods.  For me, the woods are about solitude, natural colors, and looking for wildlife.  I have walked with my grandpa in the woods, however, and he tells me what kind of flower that one is or what kind of birds visit this time of year.

While I do not understand the woods' secret aesthetics (neither oceans nor many of the other biospheres), I have found a special aesthetic "hidden" in rocks.

(Blog 9)

No comments:

Post a Comment