Wednesday, 9 March 2016

#1: Rock

This rock is half buried in the riverbank next to the stone wall which marks the end of my normal jogging route. It first drew me because of its stark black and white bands. What centuries- or millennia-old processes had formed those, I wondered, particularly the abrupt changes from black to white and back again? Why is there a wider vein of white within one of the black bands?

I started to look at it at the end of each day’s run, noting whether the water around it was higher or lower, how it was reflecting the light differently. It became a kind of touchstone, something to mark the end of a day often spent in the 2D virtual world. It reminded me of nature’s huge timescales, compared to which human deadlines are as nothing. I wish I could ‘read’ it easily – I guess it is quartz, but don’t know how old it might be, or what minerals and environmental pressures produced it.

And there are other patterns surrounding the rock – the fleeting uncapturable ripples of the water, the tiny waterfalls over little edges of stone in the river, the channels that the river makes in the earth (a mini-oxbow is emerging). And then the lines of time on the back of my own hand in the water, much closer to the ripples’ momentary timescale than to that of lengthy geological processes.

But ripple patterns are not always uncapturable. Occasionally a fleeting pattern made by water on sand is caught and fossilised as rock; I remember walking over one which had become part of a church path in Hassocks, near Brighton. The Natural History Museum also displays one. The pattern is on a horizontal face rather than in vertical layers like the quartz, and the sea has left wavy lines, without abrupt changes. A random moment has been saved, an enduring snapshot.



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