Monday, February 05, 2007

The Bones of the World

When the world was young, when the continents were still new and hissing and hot, a mountain chain as large as the Appalachians was born. It stretched across what would someday be called North America. Over millenia, these mountains were worn away by wind and water and weather and time, until only the roots remained. This vast expanse of primitive, raw rock formed a foundation from which a continent would grow, impossibly slowly, sediments and arcs and crust adhering to it by accretion. For a billion years the core would stand firm, unbroken, never bent, as world-shaping raged around it.

Every continent has a rigid heart. This is the craton, from the Greek kratos, strength. It is the guts of the continents, the basement of the planet, the bones of the world, the rock at the soul of it all. It is the stable center around which the ever-changing, shifting sediments ebb and flow. It roots us to the core, the essence, the white-hot molten heartbeat of our living Earth.

It is quartz and feldspar. Granite. Pink and gray, garish but painfully beautiful. The oldest thing I will ever touch. It fits in the palm of my hand, though the weight of the 1.2 billion years it has weathered should bear me to the ground. It looks like any other shiny novelty from beneath the dirt, but to understand its scope is to feel infinite and infinitesimal, all in one breath.


  1. Yay!!! I enjoy these bits of geekitude, mainly because I share them. And I'm pretty sure that rock you are holding is the reason the roads in Iowa are pink.
    That's about the only way I *like* pink.....

  2. Evilduck773:47 PM

    When you put it that way, it seems disrespectful somehow that rich people get kitchen counters made out of that stuff.

  3. I took Sophie to a Nature Habitat store a few weeks back and we had so much fun picking out "a bag of stones" - all kinds of gemstones, among them pink quartz. We got stoned and she loved it!!

    This was a lovely reflection and actually I feel educamated and can't wait to make friends with the Appalachian Trail which winds not far from my new hometown (I do believe).