Thursday, April 15, 2010
During hundreds of millions of years.
I think that human prophecies often attach a little too much
importance and drama to a moment or seeming point of transition that we may grasp in our "native" time scale. Even when the planetary processes involved operate over a time scale grander by orders of magnitude.
Earthquakes happen. Many, many are small. Fewer are great.
My grandparents lived through the 1906 San Francisco Quake (7.8 Richter). I lived through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake (6.9 Richter). Walking around San Francisco in the days right after that quake, I had the uncanny feeling of being back in 1906. The damage was just like those early photos. Some of the buildings that fell in 1989 survived '06.
But I also realized that, in terms of the tectonic processes involving the San Andreas fault, the subducting remnants of the Farallon plate, the Pacific Plate, and all, fewer that 100 years (when dozens and dozens of major quakes had occurred in California) told me very little in regard to a subduction process that had begun during the Jurassic (sometime between 200 million and 150 million years ago).
How could I have any notion of the sum and magnitude of great earthquakes that shook this part of the planet over hundreds of millions of years?
What does change on this scale mean in comparison to a few dozen major earthquakes during a century that includes my own lifetime?
About 65 million years ago, for instance, the K-T extinction event shook the planet with a 13 Richter magnitude quake. Much life then living on Earth was extinguished, and new life emerged over the subsequent millions of years.
That sort of thing is just a fraction of the time span for the Farallon Plate subduction.
Maybe these recent great quakes will lead up to some marked change in 2012. The change may even involve most of human existence. But in relation to planetary processes, it will be a little blip.
Let me add that human existence as we know it is vital to me, to us. But I have come to think that a brief period of human existence going through some great earthquakes is probably not the prophetic indicator we imagine it might be. Considering what planetary processes involve.
My home town is located on Carquinez Strait (this place name commemorates the Native American Karkin people who once lived there), surrounded by California Oak Woodland. Most of the open savanna was then given over to cattle or sheep grazing. Looking around from my then industrial town the landscape was Pastoral. Hills dotted with stands of mostly Coast Live Oak among which herds of dairy cows and flocks of sheep wandered.
In my backyard, four trees grew--a kumquat, a pomegranate, a common fig, and an almond. All of them were mature when we moved in. Each bears an annual crop, and tending these trees offered a simple, direct, and delicious tie with seasonal cycles and all they may entail.
The most deeply transformative experiences of trees that I had as a child, however, involved Coastal Redwoods. Coastal Redwoods did grow in my home town, when planted. But their native habitat was some miles westward, nearer the coast, where fogs were more common.
When I was growing up during the immediate post WWII decades it was still possible to encounter--confront--the plentiful leftovers of the redwood logging trade in some of the public park lands. A wheezing few mills, one at least feebly present as a "company town," remained, and logs were still being felled.
One thing that I encountered again and again in the park lands (more or less not-loggable areas with the technology of the first wave of logging as well as second growth areas) was industrial trash. First wave logging was done here with hand saws, donkey steam engines pulling logs with cables, and temporary camps for loggers.
Often, moving to another felling area, equipment and garbage was just left to rust and rot. Heaps and tangles of industrial trash in the middle of a Redwood grove makes for a contrast.
And in one park on the Navarro River I encountered over the span of several years the slowly decaying stumps--10 or so feet high and at least that wide--of a grove of old growth redwoods. Us kids played on and within them like forts. Years of play had removed or compressed the inner wood so that these stumps had walls, sometimes 3 feet tall, around the perimeter.
I, as a child, stood again and again within the slowly decaying-- and gradually dying--stumps of an Coastal Redwood grove.
These remnant Redwoods, and the surviving living Redwoods surrounding them, impressed me. Not just because I felt that they were, in ways I could not describe, deserving of human
respect and reverence--but also because they, in ways I still cannot describe, instructed me about themselves, the Land, and magic of the Land.
As a child, I was not spiritually gifted or interested in the practice (as opposed to the imaginings) of magic. I first became a practitioner, as I trace my path, through no intention of my own, beyond being willing to learn lessons that were offered to me.
Still, time and time again, as my skill sets developed, I discovered that, in some manner or another, I often knew, appreciated, or had already gone through what teachers or the momentum of practical learning were leading to.
As I mulled this over, I realized that it had something to do with those Redwood stumps. They impressed me.