Geologic time

Our family arrived back from vacation last Thursday night.  We had all driven out to Kansas City, Eve and me staying for the Convention, Abbie taking Lily and Ila on to her hometown of Quinter in Western Kansas.  After Convention we joined up in Quinter and spent a week in the mountains near Gunnison, Colorado, in a cabin that Abbie’s grandpa built several decades ago.

It was a significant transition going from the hyperconnectivity of Convention – with face-to-face and facebook-to-facebook conversations happening all day every day – to a setting in which phone and internet connections were not even an option.  It was lovely.

Another transition was going from a setting in which change is measured in shifts of attitude and polity that occur over the span of years and decades, to a setting in which change is measured in the millions of years.  Convention was an exercise in the slow and painful nature of change at the institutional level, but when you’re standing on top of a fourteen thousand foot mountain, 60-70,000 years in the making, already having lost perhaps a mile of its peak height due to the slow and steady work of erosion, there is a whole different sense of time.

One place we visited which was a first for us was the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a National Park two hours west of the cabin.  Part of the geologic history of the Black Canyon includes heavy volcanic activity about 30 million years ago, and, importantly, the Gunnison River which has cut out the canyon and still flows at its bottom, dropping through one stretch of the canyon at a steep 240 feet per mile.  The canyon is still being formed, but as rapid as the river runs through it, it still only wears away the hard metamorphic rock about the depth of a human hair per year.  How’s that for (not) rapid change?

Cheers for the patient and faithful river, which is fed by the rain and snow and follows its course, slowly carving a deeper and more beautiful path as it goes.  And cheers for the urgent volcano, which, after pressure has built up over time, explodes suddenly onto the scene and, before you know it, creates a whole new landscape for future generations to inherit.