Monday, November 05, 2007

Pennsylvania Bluestone

Two old quarries scoop into the side of the mountain. Rusting tools mark where they broke the stones and carted them down to the road.

There, they built foundations which still survive. (At the bottom of The Stairs, the example.)

Pennsylvania Bluestone. A very hard form of sandstone deriving its shade from the mineral feldspar. When I hold it in my hands, I imagine the Pocono mountains piling up, young, before millenia wore them away. I imagine the pressure fusing ancient deposits into layers of stone.

But farther back, the mountains fall, and inland seas wash toward the east. Tidal flats stretch in vast deltas where rivers meet the warm Catskill Sea. 360 million years ago, Proto-North America had not yet drifted. The land basked in tropical sun three degrees south of the equator.

It is the Devonian period, after a collision of continents formed mountains to the northeast. Erosion from those mountains flows in the rivers here. Heavy sand sinks near the mouths to form Bluestone, while lighter mud and silt travel far out to sea, forming shale deposit to the west.

The Devonian Period ended with extinctions eliminating 70% of all species. Some believe that the proliferation of plants and trees consumed carbon dioxide, cooling the planet and lowering the levels of oxygen in the water. In the Catskill Sea, coral reefs and other warm water species were decimated.

Some also believe that we are part of the sixth great extinction right now--perhaps a reverse of time represented by the Bluestone in my hand. The great forested lungs of the planet dwindle to silence. Carbon dioxide and heat return.

So now, new meets old. Mirror eras coexist. We build with the memory of another world's tropical sand.

I wonder what world will build with the memory of ours.


Suzan Abrams said...

As always, your picture stories hold history, heart & soul, Jason. Some telling, some warning, others resting but all wound into a careful introspection.
I wonder that left on their own in which to flourish, they wouldn't make for an exciting book collection. :-)

SzélsőFa said...

Speaking in terms of eons, if a future world is to be built upon what we leave then there's either not much hope or that life will be completely different from the one we know now.

Mad Munkey said...

I keep trying to fathom why people think we control the planet upon which we live. What will happen, will happen. We are just along for the ride. Don't like it, better get your space suit on and start building a new place to live somewhere else. :-)

the individual voice said...

Love geology. Pennsylvania bluestone has an evocative structure.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

Is there any poetry more beautiful than that carved by time into the very heart of mountains? The whole world is fluid, and we don't recognize it as such.

May I ask what the structure is that you photographed? Or will that ruin the mystery?

ybonesy said...

Lovely photos. The second one seemed to have influenced the words you chose to describe the geology of the area. Did it? Or maybe only subconsciously.

Billy said...

That last line is pretty weighty. And appropriate. Who indeed will build on our remains, especially when we seem fond of destroying ourselves. Great thoughts, great prose. Kudos.

Jaye Wells said...

The top shot would make a good contest image. I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Suzan, I like the way you describe this piece. Very intuitive and correct. I've often wondered if I might be able to create a kind of anthology or picture book.

Szelsofa, life completely different...yes, over eons, I wonder if that will be the future.

Mad Munkey, I agree that the systems are way too tremendous and powerful to control. We may be able to tweak some of them, though. The more of us are there are, the bigger that tweaking might be.

Individual Voice, I still have a little difficulty really accepting how old these stones are. They pre-date much, if not all, of the animal life on land.

Electric Orchid Hunter, the fluidity of the Earth is so hard to see from a human perspective, but these formations do capture it. As for the first picture, that is the face of a different boulder on the mountain. The stairs are from an abandoned cottage that we now own. The basement, as well as a nearby ruin, are made of Bluestone.

Ybonesy, yes, the quarries and the broken stone and boulders everywhere are so striking. It's hard to dig in this ground, actually. Sometimes I'm amazed a forest could grow at all.

Billy, something will succeed us, I'm sure, if we fail. The question is how long will we be able to endure.

Jaye, I did consider that one. The contest photo is a bit more dramatic, I hope.

Bernita said...

My post didn't make it through again.

Vesper said...

Poetry in geology...
Beautiful, Jason. Our spirit is big but we are so small compared to the forces of the Universe.

bekbek said...

I like feeling insignificant in the face of time and the universe. You capture it here. It's powerful and beautiful.

And the lung analogy is apt. I've heard a lot of people lately say that because human activitiy contributes to only a small part of what is gradually happening to our world, we don't need to stop doing what we're doing. Yes, the lungs expand and contract. I'm just asking if maybe we could quit smoking.

pundy said...

That's a beautiful post. Maybe the empty landscape of the future will be just as beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, sorry about that. Did it accept the comment and show up, but then disappear later? I didn't see it or get a Blogger notification. I hate when the system fouls up.

Vesper, my wife and I were just talking last night about the immense span of these time frames. Life changed so little for millions upon millions of years. Now, in the last 100,000, look what happened.

Bekbek, what a great way to put it! Stop smoking indeed. We can do better. The easiest choices are rarely the best.

Pundy, thanks for the visit! The more I think about vast stretches of time, the more I think it is inevitable that we will be replaced.

The Anti-Wife said...

It really does emphasize how short our lives on this planet are. If you live to 100 each time, you would have to live 1,000 lifetimes to see 100,000 years of evolution.