During the design process for a series of sculptural tables (think chain saw plunging into a length of silky smooth, oiled walnut), I came across a glossary of geologic terms. What to call a piece whose hand-planed surface is a broken crust, fissured, a dip-slip fault fragmented by centrifugal forces? Techtonic table? Too cutesy.
Geosyncline, glacial striation, granitization - the G’s have weight, consequence, gravitas. The D’s get me thinking about the brutal majesty of nature: debris avalanche, dendritic drainage, diatom ooze, diagenesis! F-ing hell, it’s a wonder our creamy bodies managed to survive at all between falling rocks, folds, flumes, fault block mountains, friction breccia. The E-words are almost encouraging: epoch (longer than an age but shorter than a period), eon, era (longer than a period but shorter than an eon)… yet I, almost half a century old, a mote, a fleck, a particulate, engage with the effects of earthflow, ebb tides, ephemeral streams and evapotranspiration, parrying with a tube of Strivectin. An aged land mass just sitting there crumbling is elegantly described as angular unconformity in repose, but when we get old, we’re sediment.
A differentiated planet like ours ages gracefully: a metal-rich core, surrounded by a rocky mantle, discreetly cloaked in a pashmina of low-density minerals. We wrinkle, scar, pit, shrivel, in an accelerating decline no serum, superfood or surgery can counter. Decay is not a good look on flesh and blood, while Disintegration is the Earth’s new black! Give me an Ice Age, I’ll give you fjords, lakes, great glacial valleys, Bjork! Too much sun, too little factor 50 and I’m a dream deferred (literary reference, see Harlem by Langston Hughes). Erosion, in the geological sense, feels almost tender: a wearing away of matter by gravity, wind, water and ice. Rock of Ages, hear my plea! Be kind to my alluvial fan. Help me embrace my continental shelf as my convergent boundaries, well, converge. And should I be lucky enough to sail through my Quaternary period with negligible subsidence, don’t hate me for my isostasy. Blame it on my Mohorovicic Discontinuity – yeah, blame it on my Moho.