A Billion Years in a Day...
Real Life Journey Through Natural History
The Den
Finding Oneself in the Fountain Formation
Have you ever kissed a rock?...don't knock it 'til ya try it!
February 10, 2009
What can you tell about the movement in a frozen moment?
Can you say uniformitarianism?
How 'bout holoparallelism?
How 'bout tree dancer?!
Welcome to A Billion Years in a Day...

  ...A Real Life Journey Through Natural History...
Tree hugger you say?...
...or should I say the moment in a frozen movement?
As promised a few days ago on February 5th,  I headed outdoors to commune with some sandstone...to see what I might see. The above photos and thoughts are part of the result. I hope they convey that this is no ordinary course in geology or natural history.

In fact, while the earth and elements provide the foundation and backdrop of our classroom, this is really more of an interdisciplinary study...a journey of discovery...an exploration of one's self and one's natural environment...and a consideration of that mysterious place where the two intertwine. This is a course in both science and art.

As seen above, there are many ways to look at things...and in turn, many ways to express what one feels and sees. Writing and photography are two of my favorite forms of expression, but I also enjoy playful acting and impersonation, video production, as well as a bit of painting and music making with my Native flute. Gymnastics on rocks and dancing with trees are other mainstays. The point is, there are many ways to explore and many ways to express oneself.
I made-up that second word...but there's meaning there nonetheless...as in everything else...
Here's the rock I spent my afternoon with....

This is only a small section within a much larger layer of rock that geologists call the
Fountain Formation...
The Fountain Formation is a layer of mostly sandstone. It was layed down between 290-296 million years ago (that's 50 million years before the age of the dinosaurs). The formation is over 5000 feet thick near Manitou Springs.
There's a lot more to be said about the Fountain Formation. But let's just stick with sandstone for now. Sandstone is a type of sedimentary rock. It is formed by the deposition of various types of sediments, which in this case are the eroded remnants of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.
See how grains, pebbles and rocks of different sizes make up the sandstone. This gives us a clue as to how the rock was made and the type of environment in which it was formed.
If we want to understand how this sandstones is formed, we can look at the world today and see where such deposits occur. Where on earth today do we find such "sandy" deposits?

Solving the mystery of sandstone in this manner, we are applying a principle of geology known as uniformitarianism...which is often paraphrased as "the present is the key to the past." This basically means that processes shaping the earth today, are the same processes that shaped the earth in the distant past. 

In this way, just as an historian better understands present conditions through perspectives of the past (uniformitarianism works both ways you might say), the geologist better understands the past through perspectives of the present. As Newton's Laws of Gravity became a powerful tool for physics, so too did the principle of uniformitarianism for geology. By the way, here's a good example of where the sciences of physics and geology are inseparable... 
That's enough geology for one day. But sitting within this deep time of history, gets me thinking about our own roots as human beings...how we came to be and how long ago in the past we were made.

It was perhaps a billion years ago, give or take a few hundred million years, that we were swimming and/or floating around some primeval sea as simple single-cell creatures. Minus the exact time, evolutionary history shows we can be quite certain of that statement's truth.

But there's another way we know that statement is true. How? Because only 46 years ago, at the moment of "Dean's conception," I was a single-cell creature...and nine months before that, I was two of them in fact---one with a tail frantically swimming upsteam like a salmon running, and the other floating along a sea of tranquility...awaiting its mate. (Again, in the theme of this overall work, this just gives more pause to consider, "Who am I really?")

As a quick aside, this is an example of what I call holoparallelism. Similar to uniformitarianism and derived from the new science of holon theory and the holography model of reality, holoparallelism means that what we observe in the whole, we might infer something similar (or the same) about the part, and visa versa. Much more on the concept of holoparallelism later as more examples will follow.

For now, thanks for joining me on this journey! Until, next time...you know where I'll be...

a look at the present...
...and a look at the past.
So, back to the question, where do we find "sandy" deposits today? Check-out the dune fields of the deserts...the oceanside beach...the rivers and creeks...
These boulders tumble down the hillside due to the force of gravity. This is a type of large-scale erosion known as mass wasting.
Along with rock formation, uplift and deposition, erosion is one of the main processes that shape the earth.