How can it be that I’ve never hiked this trail until now? Surely I’ve known it was here all along, even as I explored the main part that meanders through lavender spring lupine. Yet this cut-off has mostly gone unnoticed, until now.
So why now?! There seems to be no rational reason, only the need to get away from T.V. and radio, computer and tablet, with their stress producing news of our day:
A recent rally on the National Mall with 40,000 people demanding leadership on climate change, beginning with the rejection of the dirty tars sands pipeline, has, as expected, gone largely unreported by the corporate media; what is unexpected is the discovery that, during that rally, the president was golfing with oil and gas executives in Florida. And this morning, the local stations were a buzz over the new oil exploration under way in Nevada as a boon for the economy.
This day is a cold overcast gray; the air feels raw enough to snow: perfect conditions for a shade less trek. Nearly a mile in, we crest the ridge composed of grey Cambrian limestone and start downwards onto a plateau of red Jurassic sandstone.
The cause of this juxtaposition is contained in the name of this trail: the Keystone Thrust, a fault line that runs through this mountain range and extends into Canada.
The irony is not lost upon me: it is Canada’s Keystone XL Pipeline that has become the ‘place’ to finally take a stand for saying no to fossil fuels and yes to renewable energy sources.
Finding a secluded ‘sanctuary,’ I climb up on a slab of red stone beside a lone Manzanita blooming in the frigid February morning, glad that here in the desert my birth month means early spring flowers instead of just late winter snows.
But cyclical seasons are not the main source of wisdom out here. Geologic time is.
And therein lies the frustration. The human mind may be able to measure but not grasp the Time that is opened before me: this fault line marks the point where the ocean once ended and this continent began. The layer of the earliest explosion of life (there are the horn shaped fossils embedded in the limestone) has thrust up and over the layer that, millions of years later, supported the plodding of dinosaurs and the scurrying of mammals that would one day become us.
In between these came the carboniferous period that utilized and then buried enough carbon dioxide to cool the atmosphere and allow for a whole new epoch of life. Yet it is this sequestered carbon we are now releasing back into the atmosphere that’s reheating the climate. Were we to bring to the surface and burn all that’s still out there to find, Life as we know it will be over forever. There are already mass die outs, and we too will go extinct. Thus we must leave the rest of the carboniferous age fossilized coal, gas, and oil in the ground.
Science has made this all quite clear for us. So why can’t or won’t we transform that knowledge into wisdom? Claims that it’s inconvenient or obstructed by greed seem too easy.
Perhaps that question is what’s brought me out here; though mostly I just want to bang my head against this immutable sandstone, that intractable limestone.
I sit close to the fault that drove one crustal plate down and under the other: if there’s a key to moving from human understanding to action may it be here in this cataclysmic shift. But perhaps it is already coming to pass: that rally in D.C. might be the eruption of people power on behalf of the planet.
I actually worked on a pipeline in BC in 1957..it’s where I got the money to get married. But this was well before the tar sands in Alberta reared its ugly head. Neil Young said that the area looks like Hiroshima. We don’t need the XL Pipeline and neither does Canada. Good words, Gail and a nice picture of you as the Spirit of Sanity in what’s left of the outdoors.
We should be humbled at what Gail describes here — the ancient layers of earth, hundreds of millions of years old. We should be humbled to think of our brief moment in the history of this planet. We should be humbled at the magnitude and majesty of it all. But I see little humility in the human species. I see mostly a reckless arrogance that threatens to destroy our own species and most of the life on this planet. Maybe in a few hundred million years a new and wiser species will look at the layers and folds of the Earth’s crust and understand its place in the nature of things.