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Brought Up

March 8, 2017


Every morning I traverse the 80ft to the barn where I work out.

To my left is a line of boulders that connects our house to the barn and retains the raised grade to the existing lower grade to the north – and provides for a massive Chipmunk Condo.

Those rocks vary a great deal, some sedimentary, some igneous, some metamorphic. They are newly cleft and crisp, tumbled into soft shapes and sometimes broken from larger, softer shaped boulders.

They were harvested when the 200 ft of trenching connected our gas, water and electric lines to the street 34 years ago, and more were popped out of the ground 15 years later when we extended those same lines to the barn to the east.

Those boulders are there for 2 other reasons: we had to go 5 feet below grade to insulate the water lines, and we live on a glacial morraine site, where, 20,000 years ago glaciers stopped here, melted and dropped these 100 or so hijacked rip-offs from Canada, Vermont, Massachuessetts and all parts north.

They ended up here, buried, and sat for those 20,000 years subsumed in dirt, just as they had been subsumed in ice and, before being kidnapped, had been part of another foreign landscape.

These stones are now clearly arrayed by human hands to a purpose – retaining earth (with a side benefit of looking pretty snappy, I might add). But they have also added a function to their mute presence (besides protecting chipmunks from the elements).

They harbor life. Lichens. Their inert, lifeless, infertile, rock hardness has become layered upon with a tapestry of living stuff. Unplanned, but not unexpected, as the density of the large rocks found in glacial moraines and exposed bedrock attract enough condensation to be just damp enough that if placed in shade (oh, and that’s not a problem on our site) the dampness lingers, spores find fecundity and Voila: life.

I was ripped out of my home in 1969 by the Ice Age of a very odd marriage. The glacier that took me 600 miles to the northwest was caused by confused, and often drunk, parenting. I did not understand it, did not feel angry or abused, just scared to be living in downtown Buffalo at 13, with only part time in loco parentis.

But life happened upon my arrival for the same reason it happens on my refugee rocks. Life is unstoppable: we may do hideous things to ourselves and this planet, but life goes on in the cockroaches of Hiroshima, the mosquitoes of Global Warming and the lichens on my boulders.

I think life happens because its clear, to me, that it’s completely irrational. The reasons for boulders are clear: stuff gets compressed, molten, whatever to extreme density and hardness – it’s lifelessly reshaped.

Life is different: it creates its form from water, air, and tiny bits of the same stuff that made the boulders. Logic would say there are too many millions of tiny molecular sequences to allow any life to sustain itself. The extreme complexity of life is completely invisable in the simple realities of lichens growing on boulders. And that exquisitely fragile sustaining of that powerful complexity in explosive spontaneity is, to me, completely irrational.

As was my surviving downtown Buffalo in the 1970’s.

Although I designed the placement of the boulders and lived through 4 years of abandoned uncertainty, I did not cause the life that resulted: I know, for me, that God did that – as surely as he has annoyed me enough to write these things in Lent just to mitigate the debt I owe to him.


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