According to the Huffington Post, the life expectancy of a US citizen is around 79 years. That is a long time, right? Think about how long it seemed to take you to get through the grocery store checkout line, or how the clock sat idled while at work today. Our lives are long. But at the same time, we all know how “time flies”, and many this week have said, “It can’t be 2016!”, or “I remember when…”.
Well, today I sat for a minute, or was it an hour, or maybe even a year? I can’t remember now, because time is such an abstract concept when you sit alone in the desert, and allow your eyes to walk the rings of a petrified tree dated at 200-230 million years old. Million. MILLION. Maybe I got sidetracked in the sea of orange, or the streaks of yellow. Or maybe the white blinded me and I lost my sight. I do remember seeing the core, the oldest part, with colors so surreal. What have you seen? You stood in the tropical forests of PANGEA! You shaded a DINOSAUR! When you fell you ended up in a river. For some reason you sank really fast, and sediment entombed you. Over hundreds of thousands of years, while Pangea broke apart, and shifted your location from a tropical to a desert latitude, minerals seeped into your pores, crystallizing and becoming the colorful quartz I am looking at and touching. I am looking at…and touching…something over 200 MILLION YEARS OLD. How can I understand what this means? I am overwhelmed. Stressed at my lack of comprehension. My life is one tiny crystallized speck on this fossil of 200 million years. I am nothing.
A coyote howls. Suddenly, I am 38 going on 200 million. I feel reassurance knowing I am a speck. Peace floods me. Even as fucked as the world is today, knowing the age of this petrified wood fills me with blissful hope. The Earth will continue with or without the human species. And even if this hope lasts only until I read the news of the day or until my next venture out of this national park, at least I know it exists in this moment. When next you are certain the Earth is doomed, maybe sit for a quiet moment, and envision the minerals that created the oranges, reds, yellows, blues and whites of something 200 million years old filling your own pores with reassurance, with peace, with hope.