I’m Still Here

steepbeachAccidents of erosion.

That’s how my first geology teacher explained the surface of our world.  He was talking narrowly, as scientists do, about seeing the history of the earth in its current landforms.

Landforms like this shoreline cliff and creek bed:


The phrase stuck with me. It covers so much. All the stuff I used to try to understand, that no one really can. Why why why I took the jobs I did, moved the places I went, lost these loved ones, saw those illnesses recur, effortlessly vaulted to success here, bashed my head against failure’s wall there. How it came to be so important for me to try to understand.

When I look at my life geologically, I see that things fall apart, and they form again in new ways, and what it looks like, well, it just depends – like erosion – on the weather.

What’s that the Buddhists say? You are the sky. Everything else, it’s just weather. (- Pema Chodron, maybe quoting somebody else).

Recently I moved, to be closer to the ocean. The move surprised people, including me. (More about that at some point.) My new neighborhood has spectacular views of the beauty of erosion. I especially love the trees, in varying stages of change.

This one I call Nessie:

Jurassic predator tree:

The alien and the protector of the cliff (you get to decide which is which):

(The WordPress weekly photo challenge was Waiting.)


Watching the Ground Shift

I love survey monuments (aka markers, aka marks). They get planted in the ground so that surveys can be done from exactly the same spot, at different times. If you measure from the same place over time, you can detect changes in ground position by comparing the surveys. If you don’t use the same place, you get bupkis*.

Walking the dog, I discovered that a neighbor has a monument on his property:

Wait - is that a monument?

Wait – is that a survey monument?

Interesting! According to the inscription, at one time the City of Los Angeles held sway over this area. (No longer.) And I didn’t know they printed the elevation on the monuments back then. Fancy!

"Elevation 1716.15 feet above sea level"

“Elevation above sea level 1716.15 feet”

I wonder if the neighbor got special instructions when he bought the house, forbidding him from messing with the monument. I wonder if that irritated him – gub’ment can’t tell me what to do! – or maybe he’s like me, and enjoys the connection with local history. Whoever first planted the monument is surely gone by now, the monument has been there for generations. Not all the monuments have led such sheltered lives. Monuments about a mile east got buried in a 1934 debris flow:


Photo from Mike Lawler, Crescenta Valley Historical Society

Photo from Mike Lawler, Crescenta Valley Historical Society

Admittedly, most surveys are done for boring reasons like defining property lines. But they can also reveal a region’s geology, its ground deformation – I love that term! – the movements related to earthquakes, subsidence, landslides. Given enough time, this monument will have quite a story to tell. After all, it’s because earthquakes are shoving the mountains skyward that I have a mountain view from my house:


Mountains going up, valley going down: earthquake country.

Mountain view courtesy of earthquakes.

Obviously I am fascinated by these hazards but it would be fine with me if, during my years in this house, I experience no geologic drama.

* Looking up this spelling, I discovered that bupkis means goat droppings! One really can learn something new every single day!

A recent WP Weekly Photo Challenge wanted to see a monument.

Sinkhole to the Horizon

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see horizons.)

I’m a disaster junkie. Natural disasters amaze me. I hate it when people get hurt, but the forces of nature that create the disasters leave me awestruck.

A couple years ago, I learned about Lake Okeechobee, a sinkhole that is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. That’s a big sinkhole!!

I also learned that tragically, in the 1920s, hurricane winds blew water over the tops of Okeechobee’s levees, which killed hundreds of people. Since that time, the levee tenders say they’ve rebuilt to withstand anything the Earth can send their way. (Hmm. Where have I heard that before?) There is apparently some controversy about whether this is true.

Knowing all this, I had to see Okeechobee for myself. A family reunion staged on both coasts of Florida gave me the opportunity I needed. As my son and I drove from the Atlantic to the Gulf, he agreed to a detour so that I could see my sinkhole.

I only got to make one stop at Okeechobee, and that briefly. (I hope to go back for a longer visit someday — probably alone.) Still, it did not disappoint.

Here is what I saw.

Okeechobee is surrounded by a waterway lined with houses and boat docks:

The "moat" around Lake Okeechobee.

The “moat” around Lake Okeechobee.

The levees are maybe 30 feet high:

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

Boats go through locks to get from the moat to the lake:

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

A person works in a bunker, opening the locks for boats:

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

The lake is low on water, from drought and flood control, leaving a marshy area just below the levee:


That glint on the horizon is the water of Lake Okeechobee, which is 20 miles across:

Florida has a lot of sky.

Florida has a lot of sky.

Many of the levees are topped with biking and walking trails. It could be fun to circle the lake!… Maybe… The circuit would take more than one day….

That is indeed a large sinkhole.

An Ode to Dirt

In between rainstorms, I just took the dog for a walk and it is so clean and fresh outside – it smells like dirt!

Dirt has always been important to me.  Dirt is being outdoors. Dirt is gardening, and the thrill of a plant thriving (okay, sometimes simply surviving) in my domain. Dirt is geology field trips, and reading the landscape to glimpse the history of the planet. Dirt is many happy childhood hours between the roots of the backyard tree, where I was determined to dig to China.

Dirt should not be confused with dust, however, which is a housekeeping annoyance.