Monday, May 7, 2007

Living at the Bottom of the Ocean

The past couple of days have been filled with dust storms. Here in the high desert, at 4,200 feet, these dust storms do not look like the Saharan sand storms you may have been imagining. For the dust is far finer than sand. In the high Spring winds, our dust just greys out the sky, lowers visibility, and gathers everywhere on your belongings even in the most hermetically sealed household.

Of course it does. After all, we are living here at the bottom of the ocean. Yes, even here at 4,200 feet, we are on the ocean bottom. Or what was the ocean bottom, not so long ago in geologic time. That's why our rocks fall apart so easily - they're only compacted sand and mud after all. And why our mountains change shape as the softer coverings erode away and only the hardest rock peaks remain.

If you look at a map of New Mexico, we sure look a long long way from water. But what is now the Gulf of Mexico reached way up into the landscape here. As the Rockies rumbled and crashed upwards and the land lifted, the water receded. And that ocean bottom is now our landscape.

And so fossil rich it is hard not to become a fanatic about this strange ancient beauty. Geologists fight each other for the chance to come to teach and research at one of our Universities - as one said to me just today - it's the dream location.

And it's not bad for normal humans either. I find it hard to get too verklempt about present day concerns with all this history around. Kinda lengthens my perspective willy-nilly, doncha know.

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