Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Sexy? Geology.

AW #37 has been accreted here.

This month's Accretionary Wedge topic is Sexy Geology; the deadline is tomorrow, Friday August 26, but as usual I'll add in anything I get before I post this edition, and tack on late entries for a week or two afterward. Also, Twitter has been giving me its "Sorry! We did something wrong. Try sending your Tweet again in a minute." BS since yesterday morning, which line I've now seen probably 40 or 50 times. I'd really appreciate it if a geotweep or two would tweet a link to this post.

In February of 1981, I started a student job at OSU's college of veterinary medicine, as a "glassware technician." That is, I washed the horrifically dirty dishes that are part and parcel of any medical work. Only a few months later, I was approached by the head technician in Clinical Pathology, Suzy, and was asked if I would like to work in her lab. Absidefinitely, I didn't say, but absidefinitely thought. Enough with the stinky stuff, already.

I quite liked my job upgrade, and was very fond of Suzy and her husband Gene. So I was disappointed when, in the summer of 1983, they were offered jobs at the trauma center in Lone Pine, California. I traveled with them to watch their two boys, John and Brian, while they interviewed, went house-hunting, and did the various sundry tasks associated with moving to a new town in a new state. It was my first visit to that area, and though I didn't have a lot of time for sight-seeing, what with one youngster in hand and in tow, and another mostly conked out and drooling on my shoulder, one thing you should know about Lone Pine is that pretty much any random glance that isn't directly groundward rewards with scenery that is completely bind-moggling.

So shortly afterward, Suzy and Gene moved away; I was less than happy with my new boss, who was a conservative (expletive deleted), a male chauvinist pig (to put it mildly), and while he may have been medically competent to do his job, struck me as mentally inferior to most fenceposts I've met. It was nearly a year before I found another job, but when I did, it was more appropriate to my interests, and most importantly, came with a boss and crew I could respect.

But I digress.

For spring break of 1984, Suzy and Gene invited me down to Lone Pine, sort of as a reward for helping with the munchkins the previous summer. I readily accepted, and hopped a Greyhound south. All sorts of great adventures on that trip, but the pertinent one was the day we went over to Death Valley.

A young geologist never forgets his first time.

Coming down off the Panamints, one can see the rugged geology of those mountains, but the wider view of the valley floor is mostly obscured until rounding a corner a little ways above Stovepipe Wells. Suzy was sitting in the front seat looking back at me the moment we went around that corner. As she recounted later, between gales of laughter, I leaned forward, my eyes went wide, and my jaw slowly dropped. I gasped, "Oh. My God. Look at all the naked rocks."

So all that is just lead-in to make this point: I've been a sucker for sexy geology for a long, long time, and age has done nothing to blunt that lust. On the contrary, I find THOSE urges stronger and more difficult to control than ever. I'm more practiced, less frantic, now, and more inclined toward gently and slowly working my way through a site instead of feeling like I have to bang on everything RIGHT NOW. But there is still nothing like figuring out what an outcrop wants from me, and wants to give me, to make my heart go pitter-pat, and to make me sigh blissfully in the afterglow.

So picking one example of sexy geology is something of a conundrum. Do I go for scantily-clad rocks, or the complex, deep ones? Shall I pick based on the perfection of color and complexion, or the vividness of the the story she wants to tell me? Do I want the vixen of volcanic heat or the chilly snows of deep, dark sedimentation? The tortured tales of difficult childhood and dignified recovery from a metamorphic mistress?

So hard. To choose just one, that is.

With last week's adventuring still fresh in mind, it should be no surprise I'm going to select a location from that trip. Given the ground we covered and numerous stops made, though, it's still a difficult choice. In the end though, the Pinnacles at Crater Lake National Park wins this pageant. I feel like it combines some likenesses to all three rock types, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic, it presented us with beautiful tones even sans make-up, a gorgeous early evening lighting choice, and (at the risk of sounding like a serious perv) is barely legal from a geological perspective, at a nubile 6800 years old.
Look at that glow!
For the evening gown segment, she arrayed herself in a stunning forest green fashion of her own design... the symmetry and self-similarity are breath-taking.
Zooming in to savor the details...
Skin tone is only skin deep, but oh what skin tone it is!
Study in contrasts.
For rocks, this complexion is perfect.
Secrets for those patient and willing to search them out.
Soft, sensuous curves flirtatiously revealed to a wooer willing to get a bit edgy...
...followed by a J.J. Abrams glamour shot.

Early evening glow.
Seductively teasing

Coyly sharing secrets...
...and a fond farewell after an early evening rendezvous.

Whew! Excuse me; I need to go wash up!

As a postlude, another story of Suzy and Gene: they met as students at U of O in Eugene. Gene had a summer job as a firewatcher, and was posted on Mount Scott for a while. That peak is the tallest in this park, and located not far from Kerr Notch, which is where Sand Creek, the stream that carved this gorge, originates. It's lower eastern flank is visible in the uppermost left of the photo captioned "Secrets for those patient and willing to search them out." Though thunderstorms are painfully rare here in the Willamette Valley, they are fairly frequent and brutally violent in the Cascades. The iron-framed bed in the watch tower rested on thick glass casters, and Gene had been advised that in the event of an electrical storm, the bed was the safest place around. Suzy, upon visiting him one weekend, and happening to be there during a serious storm, was, shall we say, less than convinced that Gene's intentions were honorable. And of course, the louder and more forcefully he insisted, the less convinced she became...

Face it: sexy geology is more straight-forward than human relations. With rocks, you can be sure they're not playing mind games, at least not on purpose.

Post Script: Almost forgot, I wanted to mention that one year our Geology Club tee-shirt was a line drawing of the Grand Canyon, showing both the layers of the horizontal Paleozoic section, and the tilted layers of the Precambrian Grand Canyon Series. Drawn by classmate and friend Michelle D., with whom I recently reconnected on Twitter, the caption was "So many beds, so little time."

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