Obsidian Love

I find geology reassuring. I’m taking the Intro to Geology class at Carnegie Mellon and look forward to every class. There’s something calming about looking at a million years of time and weather as I drive past a hill-side. With a little bit of knowledge, I can look at this:

Obsidian Love (of Physical Geology)
And see a fiery explosion millions of years ago, so strong that it blew this lapilli of obsidian into a puddle of dust which embedded itself into the still-soft lava:
Obsidian labilli with dust embedded
An entire story, just in a piece of rock smaller than my fist. But the stories of fiery explosions aren’t the only drama which I see in rocks. Look at the weary wearing patterns on this slab of sedimentary rock:
Sedimentary rock warn down by a stream in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania.

The ripples are from the slow action of water weathering down layers sedimentary rock unevenly–it tends to come off in big flakes:
Sedimentary rock in stream in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania.

Pursuing a million years of slow change I have an excuse to climb all over my world. The piece of obsidian I got during a family trip to the Eastern Sierras where two branches of my family climbed all over 100 feet of piled-up obsidian pieces–stepping on it sounded like crunching broken glass. My cousin got stung by a monster wasp, but standing on top of a mound which centuries past was hot enough to boil bone.

The next set of photos came from a stream I’ve been biking past for 6 months but never really noticed. Then, on one of the first fine spring days, I glanced over and saw a lovely example of sedimentary rock and stream-weathering. I walked my bike down to the stream, laid it down, and started climbing around the stream:

My lovely junk bike.
I kind of figured no one would steal my beloved, junky bike.

Clambering around I got to use the balancing muscles I’d started building doing in-door bouldering. If anything, the only downside to learning to love geology is that I’m now judging the realism of my rock-climbing gym’s hand and foot holds most harshly:

Now these just seem...unrealistic.

Rock hunting may be the closest I ever get to time-travel. It’s also calming because when I look at rocks I remember that floods can rage, riots can wreck the streets, and my husband can live in Seattle, but sedimentary rocks will form, streams will carve them down, and come what may, lava can light the sky while throwing up lapilli’s of obsidian to land in pools of dust.

Inspirational Quote:

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”–Will Durant

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