Geopoetry by Karen Locke

The following is a guest post from Karen Locke, one of my most cherished readers (although you know I love you all, right?). She’s submitting this for the Accretionary Wedge #51. I’m two days late posting it. Whoops. But do enjoy whilst I go off and beg Matt to slip this in anyway.

 

Vaughn Gulch: Devonian Limestone*

by Karen Locke

Up the bajada from Lone Pine, canyon mouths come ever closer;
we gun it to jump a gulch (the tallest students hit their heads) and then
we’re there.  Three dusty Suburbans disgorge a tired crew.

Pink granite boulders, ancient Volkswagens, scattered in the canyon mouth.
This isn’t what it’s supposed to be
but there are pink granite Volkswagens, or perhaps some giant child’s marbles
“come on that isn’t what we’re here to see.”

We pick our way through purple flowers, round the boulders, up the canyon,
fold seems to leap out of the wall.
Higher than any two of us, it is incongruous; soft or hard deformation? that’s the key
we listen to our leaders, who tell conflicting stories, and I understand suddenly
it doesn’t matter.  It’s a minor mystery in the Greater Story.

Farther up the canyon: corals!  Students race to get one of their own.
I do not have the right tool, nor the balance for the tricky rocks.
I watch and sigh as the resource dwindles down.

Back to the Suburbans; time to visit another canyon, learn another clue.
picking our way through purple flowers
and granite Volkswagens
off to a new view.
*Stevens, C.H., and Pelley, T., 2006. Development and dismemberment of a Middle Devonian continental-margin submarine fan system in east-central California. GSA Bulletin. 118(1/2):159-170.

Accretionary Wedge #49: Out of This World

T-4 and counting…

“No one regards what is at his feet,” Quintus Ennias, the father of Roman poetry, said. “We all gaze at the stars.” And so we do. Those cold points of light in our skies remained mysteries for so long, until we realized they were other suns. And if there were other suns, there could be other worlds.

And where there are other worlds, there will be geology.

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Accretionary Wedge #49 – Posts Due This Friday!

A few of you have reported to Mission Control, but we haven’t got a full ship yet. Don’t forget to send me your posts by the end of day Friday, September 7th.* We’ll be blasting off over the weekend!

Layers at the Base of Mount Sharp. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

This is an incredibly exciting time for geology – we’re doing astrogeology, people. Or exogeology, or whatever we end up calling it. That’s us, sending robots to other planets, exploring the local landforms millions of miles away.

Inspiring, yeah? Hope it inspires some truly otherworldly posts!

 

*If you have any difficulty posting in comments, please email your link to dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. It won’t do to leave anyone behind.

A+, Plus Drool-Worthy Geology, AW #49 Info, and Other Bits

Blowing the dust off ye olde computer to say “Allo, allo, I’m still alive!” Taking a break, still, although I’m dipping my toes back in to a desultory bit o’ work. Like, this post.

First off, I just want to throw my support to Jen McCreight’s brilliant Atheism + idea. When my brain is back from its temporary vacation, I’ll have something more to say than “Woo! Count me in!” But this, plus the overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception, reminded me once again why I’m so damned proud to be a part of FreethoughtBlogs, and why I won’t ever give up on the atheist movement. People like Jen see problems that almost seem intractable, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

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Ge o’ the Lantern

Otherwise known as a geolantern, subspecies of the common jack o’ lantern.

Geolantern

And yes, I painted the damned thing. Trust me, you don’t want to let me near a pumpkin with a knife. The results could put you in mind of Jack the Ripper crime scene photos.

This all came about through an interesting confluence of events. As I said, I am teh suck at pumpkin carving, so I was going to give Michael Klaas’s Accretionary Wedge topic a miss. Didn’t have time, tools, or a pumpkin, right? Busy doing NaNo, even so. But then, on Sunday, on the way out to the car to retrieve soda, I saw this beauty of a pristine pumpkin sitting forlornly by the dumpster. So I fetched it up the stairs. I have a soft spot in my heart for orphaned members of the squash family.

Hmm, I thought. I could turn it into a migmatite.

And then Volcanoclast posted this beaut of a countertop:

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Geologist Barbie Dream House

Right. Everybody’s dressing Barbie like a geologist (or other scientist), but has anyone given a thought to where she’d actually live? No. They have not. Maybe they’re planning to plunk some rocks atop that gawdawful pink dream house of hers and call it good.

Well, bollocks to that. Geologist Barbie should have a real geology dream home, not some icky pink plastic monstrosity.

Barbie will be too busy drilling core samples for paleomagnetic studies, or analyzing samples on a mass spectrometer, to mess about with a garden. Besides, she’s frequently out of town doing field studies. You think she’s got time to weed and water? Hells to the no. So what we need is a house that has got a garden that’s like a cat: perfectly capable of taking care of itself for long periods of time. It has got to have rocks in (duh). And the house has to be a beautiful, relaxing place for a busy scientist to come home to. This is, after all, a dream house. A house where Geologist Barbie can dream of rocks.

I have got just the thing:

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Accretionary Wedge: Deadlines Fast Approaching!

The Accretionary Wedge carnival’s starting November with two back-to-back kinda-Halloween-themed, um, themes. Posts are due soon, so you’d best scramble if you’re planning to wedge yourself in.

(Please forgive that last little joke. I know it wasn’t funny. I’m functioning on fractional amounts of sleep just now, and I think my sense of humor went to bed without me.)

Deadline November 1st: Dress Barbie Like a Geologist! Or any sort of scientist, really. And it doesn’t have to be a Barbie. In fact, since I haven’t got a doll, I might be doing a doll’s house sort of thing, if I can get my crap together. Those of you with children, or who have friends or relatives with children: steal a doll away from their toy chest. Rip it from their chubby little hands if you must! Sure, they’ll weep now, but wait until you return their dolly all scienced up. They’ll not only have the most awesome doll on the block, they’ll have inspiration for a future career doing something much more interesting than standing about in implausibly high heels in a shocking pink house with a horrid pink car in the driveway.

Deadline November 7th: Geo-Pumpkins! You were going to carve a pumpkin for Halloween anyway, right? Make it geo-riffic! You don’t even have to have a blog of your own for this one – Michael will host your pics for you.

Instructions for submissions are at the links above. Get crack-a-lackin’!

Accretionary Wedge #38: Back to School (Hogwarts, No Less!)

The 38th edition of the Accretionary Wedge is up at Anne Jefferson’s place. She’s done a marvelous job, and so have all of the geobloggers who took her back-to-school theme and ran with it. There’s even a Harry Potter motif! This is the edition that inspired the post that ended up nominated for Open Lab, and there’s far better stuff than mine over there. Go enjoy!

Why are you still here? Oh. Right. Some of you have never seen the Accretionary Wedge before. A few brief explanations would appear to be in order, then.

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“Adorers of the Good Science of Rock-breaking”

“Make them like me adorers of the good science of rock-breaking,” Charles Darwin told Charles Lyell once, long ago. This, from a man who also once said of Robert Jameson’s lectures on geology and zoology, “The sole effect they produced on me was the determination never as long as I lived to read a book on Geology.” That, of course, was before Adam Sedgwick lectured him in geology and took him out for field work, which seems to have done the trick. He did read another book on geology, Lyell’s Principles of Geology, which became his constant companion on his voyage with the Beagle. The concepts of geology prepared him to think in deep time. Without his passion for geology, without deep time sinking deep in his mind, the theory of evolution that changed the world might not be Darwin’s.

Outcrop on Doherty Ridge. Photo by Cujo.

I have become, like Darwin, an adorer of the good science of rock-breaking.

It’s a love that bloomed late. It’s always been there, since I was little and wondered at the mountains rising in my back window; at the vast chasm in the ground that revealed billions of years; at the sea that had become fields of stone. But just a bud, tucked away, unopened. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed from life: a degree in some sort of writerly discipline, like English or maybe History, until I decided the additional debt I’d have to take on wouldn’t teach me any more than I could teach myself, and I left academia for the world of daytime wage-slavery and nighttime scribbling. I set geology aside, because what a fantasy writer needed couldn’t be found in earth and stone. So I thought. I searched the stars, delved into physics, waved fondly to geology on my way to geography. I knew the basics: plates moved, mountains rose where they crashed. Enough to determine the shape of an imaginary world, wasn’t that?

No.

And there was the small matter of a subduction zone, now: I’d moved away from the fossil seas. I didn’t understand this terrible and beautiful new place. It wasn’t a landscape I’d grown up with. So I explored it a bit, and the more I explored, the more I needed to understand, the more I realized a story world should be so much more than an ocean with a few haphazard continents sketched in. I wanted to understand this world so that I could understand that. So I delved, deep, into deep time, into continental crust and ocean floor. I turned to books on geology. They weren’t enough. I found a few geobloggers. They were more, still not enough. I began writing geology in order to understand it, because there’s no better way to learn than by teaching someone else. And it still wasn’t enough.

The more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know.

And that isn’t precisely the problem. If it was, I could decide that knowing a little more than most is quite enough to be going on with, and settle down, content with my little gems of knowledge. If I’d just stayed a bit more ignorant, it would have been okay.

There’s a metaphor that explains why those few shining gems, no matter how many more I acquire, will never be enough. It’s in the story I’m writing right now, in which Nahash, the Serpent of the Elder Tree, is tasked with giving knowledge and wisdom to a young girl. And this is what he does, the first time they meet:

He led her round the tree, to the spring that bubbled out from between the roots, clear and deep. Another branch hung low there, and there was fruit on it, so heavy and ripe it was ready to fall. He plucked one of the fruits and turned back to her. “This fruit is knowledge. Do you see? It’s probably sweet. Could be sour. You won’t know until you’ve tasted it.” He held it out. She reached for it, but he pulled it back. “There’s something else. Once you’ve tasted it, no matter whether it’s sour or sweet, you’ll always be hungry. You’ll starve. And that water, there-” He waved at the spring. “Sweetest water in the world, maybe the whole universe, but once you’ve had a drink from it you’ll always be thirsty. Starving and parched. Is that how you want to spend your life? There are other ways of living, you know, and some of them are no less worthy. Some of them are even fun. Or so I’ve heard.”

She held out her hand, but didn’t speak.


“Are you quite sure? Because there’s no going back, you know. Not ever.”

Should I ever become a famous speculative fiction author, people will accuse me of being autobiographical. And, aside from the fact that I was an adult when I ate that fruit and drank that spring water, and didn’t actually munch unidentified fruit and drink from the spring of an actual World Tree Serpent, they’ll be quite correct. This is completely autobiographical. Since taking a bigger bite and a deeper drink from the fruit and springs of science, especially geology, I’ve been starving and parched. I’m desperate enough for more that I’ve considered going deep into debt for a degree I may never earn a living from. I’d beggar myself to get a full meal, and I know I’d walk away with a $30,000+ tab, and I’d still be starving. Add several fistfuls of dollars for grad school, and I’d still feel I hadn’t had more than a bite to eat and a drop to drink.

There’s no going back, now I’m an adorer of the good science of rock-breaking. There’s no end to it, you see. It’s a vast old Earth, and there’s no way for any of us to know everything about it. And even if we could, have a look out in space – lots more planets out there, all unknown, all fascinating, all with incredible rocks to break.

On Doherty Ridge, with George’s rock hammer. Photo by Cujo.

Anne Jefferson asked, “If you are a geology enthusiast but not professional… what do you wish you could get in additional formal and informal education? What would you like from geosciences students, faculty, and professionals that would make your enthusiasm more informed and more fun?”

And these are the things I’ll say to you professionals and pending professionals, you professors and students, you who have careers at surveys and for companies:

Do not withhold your passion.

If there’s a book within you, write it. Let your love pour onto the page. Put as much of your knowledge and wisdom into words as you are able, and get it into my hands. You don’t even need a publisher in this digital age: y
ou can upload it as an ebook. I’ll take whatever you’ve got. And if you need a wordsmith’s help, well, you know where to find me.

If something fascinates you, blog it. Even if it’s complicated and you think it’s of doubtful interest to anyone outside of the geotribe, post it up there where I can see it. If you love it enough to spend time explaining it, chances are I’ll love it enough to spend time doing my best to comprehend it.

If you’ve written a paper, share it. Blog about it, maybe even offer to send me a .pdf if you can. There’s a huge, expensive double-barrier between laypeople and papers: the language is technical and hard, and the journals charge so much that even if we’re willing to put in the work, we may not have the funds. We’ve already spent our ready cash on books and rock hammers and various, y’see. But if you’re allowed to send out a copy, and you can give me an iota of understanding, I’ll read it, struggle with it, combine it with those other precious bits of knowledge until I’ve made some sense of it.

Show me what you see. Post those pictures of outcrops. If we’re in the same neighborhood with some time to spare, put those rocks in my hands. I know you’ve got a career and a family, and can’t lead many field trips, but if you can take even a few of us out, do it. We’ll happily keep you in meals, beer and gas money just for the chance to see the world through your eyes, in real time and real life.

Answer questions as time allows.

Point us at resources.

Let us eavesdrop on your conversations with other geologists and geology students.

And hell, if you want to make some spare cash, and you’re not in a position where there might be a conflict of interest, consider teaching some online classes for a fee. There’s plenty of us who can’t quite afford college, but could scrape together some bucks for the opportunity to learn something directly from the experts.We’d practically kill for that opportunity, but the days when you were allowed to break rocks in prison are pretty much over, so there’s not quite as much incentive to break the law.

In other words, mostly do what you’re doing now, with maybe a few added extras.

That’s what those of us without the cash for a college degree and not even a single community college class on offer need. We just need you to share as much as you can, challenge us as much as you can.

And you there, with the students: make them, like me, adorers of the good science of rock-breaking. Send them out into the world with passion, a hammer, and a desire to babble to the poor starving, parched enthusiasts hoping for just one more bite to eat and drop to drink.

Lockwood, Dana, rocks and rock hammer on Doherty Ridge. Photo by Cujo.

This post is dedicated to the geobloggers who adopted me, answer questions and write remarkable posts and answer my plaintive “I can haz pdf?!” cries with a grin and a quick email. Dedicated most of all to Lockwood, who taught me how to properly break a rock, and gave me such rocks to break! Thanks will never be enough, so when you’re next in the Pacific Northwest, my darlings, I shall give you a fine road cut (or several), a substantial meal, and more than one beer. And I meant what I said about being your wordsmith, should you ever need help writing a book.