Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Rocks of My Life

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I was born and raised along the Champlain Thrust Fault. Perhaps this underlies my interest and obsession with boundaries and interfaces of all sorts.

My first field trip was an exploration of the glacial remnants of the recently-carved Grenville orogeny—the Adirondack mounains. I participated in diapers from my nest at the bottom of the canoe, pre-verbal, pre-science.

In elementary school, I thought rocks were gray and boring (preferred stars, clouds, snakes) but I climbed the dolomite-carved sides of the driveway to our family home. Schools and girl scout camp summer camp were all along the Dutchess County Barrovian Zone. I collected garnets & mica during stream-stomping expeditions in the Taconic orogeny.

I have hiked most of the Applachian trail from NH to PA. Not all at once, but spread out over 20 years.

The more famous Forty-Sixers Club has an ignored little-sister, the "Mini-46ers". As founder, I have hiked most of the smallest 46 peaks in Eastern New York State.

No rocks, only sediments, sat directly underfoot in college. Though I remember a night on the flat boulders of the Boundary Waters watching the aurora borealis. And I remember the outing club field trip to the caves of Indiana. Once inside the rocks, surrounded on all sides, I suffered from claustrophobia.  Later our caving leader assured everyone else: “In a group of first-timers, there is always a person who cannot handle the cave.” I spent the whole day exploring IU Bloomington, with no bag and nothing in my pockets.

I did not study rocks in college, directly. But I studied materials. So I knew everything that there is to know about rocks, right? Wrong. I knew nothing, but didn’t know it. I still know $h^t about rocks but I know more about what I don’t know, and am increasingly exploring.

The state of California introduced me to geology. I fell in love. Yet as a scientist I feared the field, preferring the simplicity, the forward problems, the control of variables, allowed to me in the lab.

After my PhD I migrated East to spawn. Made my nests amidst Watchung basalt, green pond conglomerate, trips north to my Adirondack and Hudson valley homes.

The varied and ever-changing landscape of California called and I returned. My nest shakes occasionally. I am the secret guardian angel of serpentinite. I return annually to Adirondack Anorthosite. I am slowly beginning to understand the P,T progression of my youth.

My attraction to rocks, both physical and chemical, grows.

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