In the fall of 2021 I began learning about ICM photography and this was one of my first photographs using this technique.
These pebbles are found on several Lake Ontario beaches close to Toronto. With no cliffs or outcrops of bedrock adjacent to the lake, how did they get there? They were likely eroded from Paleozoic limestone by glaciers during the ice-age and deposited by associated rivers. Their final shape is dependent on the original rock fragment’s shape, texture and composition.
Are our memories like pebbles? Eroded and smoothed by time, leaving only traces of their original form and tenuous links to what we had once been a part of.
Fine coral and shell fragments form calcium-rich muds and silts laid down in a warm shallow sea. Subsequent replacement of calcium by magnesium alters those sediments to dolomite. Although, by their nature, the resulting rocks are hard within our hands, they become flexible, fold and distort through forces in the earth’s crust. From their simple origin their makeup is altered. They adapt to new environments, and their final form, as we see it today, retains the imprint of each event.
Like rocks, we go through phases of influence and change. Flexibility allows us to bend even as environmental forces distort the fabric of our being. However, these changes leave a spiritual as well as visual mark on our lives.
At depths between 13 -18 km, rocks in the Earth’s crust experience pressures and temperatures that facilitate change in the nature of their constituent minerals. Within that environment they become malleable, reacting plastically rather than fracturing. Their ductile flow transforms original fabrics, creating folds and dislocations.
Likewise, when we are young our malleable and ductile minds are shaped by external influences. This helps us learn but also intricately transforms the fabric of our character. In later life, cognitive flexibility allows us to simultaneously think about multiple concepts and adapt to new situations.
Rock colour is determined by the proportion and light absorption characteristics of minerals within them. Geologists use colour to evaluate and classify rocks, describing the hue and primary and secondary nature of what they observe. The breakdown of minerals and leaching of certain elements changes primary colouring and bleaches or stains surfaces.
We have long-used minerals to create pigments to produce art, but nature, being the ultimate artist, creates works that we can only hope to mimic. We have also used colour to distinguish race and purity, yet our genetic code, like most rocks, is anything but pure.
Throughout their geological history rocks are created, altered, broken and transformed. Their transformation is often not a singular episode. Some rocks are billions of years old. Consider that time span and imagine how many episodes of generation, change, destruction and regeneration they have undergone. As they deform, fractures become conduits for fluids and chemical reactions within those fluids create minerals that infill and heal those fractures. There are times in our lives when our physical and psychological well-being are also fractured and healed. Our bodies have remarkable mechanisms for healing and regrowth but breaks that we experience often hurt.
During orogenesis rocks are buried, metamorphosed and deformed. Deformation also produces faults and the latter often juxtapose rocks of different age and character. Sometimes it’s easy to see, but in certain settings the relationships are obscured or subtle. Geologists need to guard against bias because our brains are adept at creating connections between simultaneously observed objects.
The daily juxtaposition of cultures can also be obvious or subtle. Our feelings are often communicated by comparing and contrasting places, people, objects and ideas. Bias is an inherent part of the process. In the current environment, we deal with the juxtaposition of not just Good versus Evil, but what is real and what is fake.
Almost thirty years ago I had the privilege to visit the Big Island. Hawaii is incredible and I was lucky to meet the then head of the Volcano Observatory. He directed me to watch the lava going into the sea near Kalapana Beach.
A crack in the lava surface; a freshly created part of the island, provided a window into Pele’s world. Not far beneath my feet was an active lava tube. The magmatic fire within, creating and extending new land into the ocean. As I stood there, the soles of my boots became tacky from the heat of the still cooling surface, a large wave broke over the lava ledge showering me with warm seawater covering me with shards of volcanic glass. The fire within me was my passion for understanding geological processes and my enduring love of nature. Neither have waned. They are a part of who I am.
From simple to the exquisitely complex, symmetry is a natural wonder of our world. Flowers and butterflies come to mind, but it also defines the crystal forms of minerals and is used to describe folds in rocks. Examples of perfect symmetry in rocks require a unique set of circumstances of formation. It’s no wonder that we’ve incorporated and created symmetry in our architecture, art and the quest for human perfection. However, as with rocks, perfect human symmetry is rare. Our focus on visual perfection often, obscures the unique beauty of what’s hidden within.
Rock deformation occurs at all levels of the Earth’s crust. The resulting fabrics and features are the natural expression of the transformation of original layers and crystals adapting to stress. Geologists describe them as contorted, buckled, warped or wrenched. We see beauty rather than malformation. The rock features are real. The image is a distortion of truth.
If a fossil I could be, which one would you like to see?
A foram, or a graptolite, maybe pollen from a tree?
Those are important indicators of environments long ago.
They’re interesting choices, but ones many would not know.
Should I take a coral’s form, that had felt the tides go by?
Or the bones of a dinosaur? Now that‘ll surely catch your eye.
Instead, I’ll pick an ammonoid, nature’s masterpiece of design,
Preserved by quartz and calcite with a spiral so sublime.
Quartz-filled fractures are often found in rocks that were compressed under high stress within the earth’s crust. Sigmoidal Tension gashes form when compression is accompanied by high strains creating shear zones.
Many of us live our lives and work pressed for time, under the strain and stress of deadlines, duties, expectations and conflicts. Pulled in different directions we cannot think clearly and cracks inevitably appear in our facade and mental well-being.
Via zones of least resistance,magma moves through the mantle and crust to form igneous bodies that conform to, disrupt or assimilate the rocks they intrude.
Whilst normal and part of our human condition, intrusive thoughts disrupt our rational minds. In most cases they are ephemeral and minor, but for some they are overwhelming and consuming.
The many types of folds and styles of folding seen in the Earth’s crust are a testament to the incredible plasticity of rocks adapting to the forces acting upon them. The human brain has the ability to structurally adapt by responding to our experience of life’s ever-changing conditions. This amazing plasticity allows us to alter our behavioural skills and defines our individual uniqueness.
The untrained eye is frequently fooled by the lustre and hue of the world’s most abundant sulphide mineral; Pyrite. So much so that it is also called Fool’s Gold.
Our desire for physical and mental perfection can be likened to our lust for gold. But the glitter we see, is not always the precious prize we crave. In today’s fast-paced, social media-driven world, the need to be accepted and desired often overpowers wisdom and common sense. Wants take precedence over truth and the the brittle visage of skin-deep, ephemeral online personas crack under the pressure of daily life. True beauty is held back by our fear of failure and rejection. Surely our imperfections also define our individuality and how beautiful we truly are?
Rocks are often compositionally heterogenous, and, as in this image, structurally complex.
Intruded after the first phase of deformation, a granitic dike crosscuts the pronounced penetrative fabric of its host. Due to its stiffness and the rheological contrast between it and the host rock, it resisted flow and buckled under the strain. Continued slip parallel to the schistosity folded, stretched, boudinaged and faulted the dike.
Like rocks, humans also exhibit non-Newtonian behaviour.
Even though we adapt to different environments and stressors, the introduction of deleterious substances and abusive activities weakens our complex heterogeneous physical and mental composition. Over time, this diminishes our ability to reason and change. It reduces our emotional flexibility and damages our health and relationships.
The telltale signs of the physical affects of stress are obvious in rocks and humans. However, because of our unique individuality we each react differently. Thus the affects on our emotional, psychological and social well-being are often hidden and much harder to discern.
Unlike the majority of North Americans, Halloween was not part of my childhood. However, I've grown to love this annual event, especially the incredible costumes people wear, but definitely the ones they create themselves.
I Let my imagination loose this year and had some fun creating some geologically inspired ghouls and goblins that add a new twist.
This creature from a watery grave
Beware it’s revenge and don’t be brave
Life long extinguished in a caustic domain
Its scars will be yours in an endless refrain
A dark force from within earth’s core
Seeps through crevice, fault and pore
Its unseen fingers dendritically stalk
Through rocks and beds of sand and chalk
Nothing resists its transforming goal
When your life ends it takes control
Attacking with its aqueous knife
Destroying cells that gave you life
Dissolving each part with cruel relish
Supplanting you and all who perish
Changing you from flesh and bone
To something formed in cold hard stone
Altering your chemistry
Left fossilized, no longer free.
Origins (Folded Dolomite)
The relationship between volcanic and intrusive rocks is not always obvious, even to geologists. Though they appear physically different, their formation can be interdependent
Intrusive and volcanic rocks are produced by melting of oceanic crust in collisional orogenic zones. In these environments, different terranes are juxtaposed against one another and the earliest-formed rocks are often intruded by later upwelling magmas. Fragments of older lithologies are often caught in these and, under the right conditions, assimilated into the magma. If enough material is incorporated, new magmas can be created. Surviving fragments and minerals preserve evidence of their connection to the past and this cyclic process is a testament to the geological balance of nature
Fragments of our early life lie beneath the surface of our psyche’s shell and deep within our memory. Regardless of their perceived character they are interdependent and represent the connection between who we were, who we are and who we may become. In geology we say, “The present is the key to the past”, but our past, is the key to the present
Whilst some experiences can overwhelm and lead us along destructive paths, others can be complimentary. Positive traits and experiences are not the only foundations for building future success. Yang doesn’t have to defeat Yin; they are part of the same system. Our full potential is achieved through integrating and harnessing the energy created when we harmonize both. We can become stronger when we break free from our biases and isolation, learn from our mistakes and overcome hardships. Thus, we evolve by creating balance in the flow of opposites and ultimately dissolving the Yin and Yang of life
Exposed after aeons of tectonic upheaval, these breccias are often found at the margins of igneous intrusive bodies. Their textures, a product of later intrusion of magma, attest to mechanical and forcible disruption of earlier-crystallized phases
Although the fragments can be incorporated, altered, and sometimes assimilated into the matrix, their presence is a testament to their resilience. They provide us with a window into the pre-existing environment in which they formed
The ability to physically, mentally and emotionally adapt to changes determines our psyche’s health and well-being. The constant pressure and stress on its foundation leads to its fracture and disaggregation
As much as we wish, life is full of (outside) intrusions and, for many, seldom stable. This is especially true when we are faced with life-altering and sometimes cataclysmic global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic
Momentary, repetitive, and long-lasting traumas affect each of us differently. The more resilient are able to survive, but for others the resulting damage can manifest as PTSD and ongoing care is an essential part of their support
Is resilience only a product of a stable upbringing and social structure, or are the preserved foundational fragments only partially severed? Whatever we decide, it is also a function of how well we’ve honed our emotional intelligence and whether we can tap into our innate inner strengths and capabilities
Negative thoughts are common when the curve-ball of fate comes out of nowhere. Even so, as with Yin there is always a complementary Yang
Now more than ever, many of us have the freedom and opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for life and our connectivity with nature and the world around us
By focusing our energy on identifying, recognizing and building upon our existing identity strengths, we can experience greater personal strength and stronger relationships
These moments can build confidence and also provide spiritual understanding and satisfaction
A positive attitude can be likened to a healing balm and helps us fight illness, depression and anxiety
Spending time with family and reconnecting with friends, provides many of us with daily support. Supporting those who live alone and don’t have the luxury of working from home creates a stronger and better community
Work in progress
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