Opinion » Range Rover

Bedrock: memories are made of geology



The accumulation of rocks in my life feels like a geological process unto itself. Loosened from the outside world by the stochastic processes of encounter or discovery, they're carried downstream by the hands of experience and deposited in an eddy of my existence. Sometimes I find them in a pocket, sometimes on a counter or in a drawer. The latest was lodged in the side panel of my car, on the passenger side, a place fairly predictable for discarded objects. Still, to find a rock amidst the bricolage of bobby pins, maps, scrunched up Kleenex, and non-functional pens is a rare treat. Being a life-long (and still) aspiring geologist I'm pretty sure it was some kind of calcite, but given the vagaries of mineral identification I know I could be wrong. Its identity would probably have been easier to suss out if I could remember precisely who put it there. Easier still if I knew where it came from. So there was no forensic geology to be conducted this time — at least not the type I'm capable of. But no worries, it's always nice to have an interesting rock turn up at your door.

Most of the rocks in my life, of course, are self-delivered, carried home from near and far for either an intrinsic aesthetic or souvenir value. In either case they're most often reminders of outdoor travel and adventure. In my living room, under the glass of a display table can be found the crystals, chunks and weathered stone of beaches, benches, rivercourses and mountain ranges from the four corners of the globe — though which corners are which is more elusive over time. Fossils like trilobites and ammonites abound in this collection, along with non-descript, brown-grey shards of Ordivician and Silurian coral reefs, some fetched from the climbing cliffs of Ontario's Niagara Escarpment and limestone plains, others from the depths of riverine gorges hiked on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Which fossils are which may become lost in the shuffle of moving, dusting, arranging and rearranging — but the collective memories remain vibrant. Ditto, for instance, the bright yellow sulfur, pink salts, and other minerals that journeyed home with me from a trip to Chile's Atacama desert, a memorable sojourn that included excursions through phantasmagorical canyons, across salt lakes, and to the summit of a 6,000-metre volcano. Perhaps most of my wayward rocks, in fact, come from volcanic landscapes — whether rubble ejected far from the cone in a cataclysmic explosion or one of the myriad lavas in a spectrum of colours, cleavage and grain that have variously flowed down volcanic flanks into the cooling regimes of air, water, snow or ice. Fetched from locales as diverse (and sometimes) unlikely as Mexico, Iceland, Greece, Chile, New Zealand and Canada they now form a mute collective for the esoteric trope of volcano skiing. I can add to that a handful of lava chunks and pumice from the Whistler area: there are many ancient volcanoes in this part of the Coast Range, and more recently active ones like the Black Tusk and Garibaldi have dispersed plenty of lava flows and pyroclastics around our neighbourhood.