Smooth Stones

When I find myself looking down through water flowing over a bed of smooth rock, my mind wanders back in time. Not months or years, but ages. Eons. More years than I can imagine. And when I see a large, smooth boulder in the water, resting on top of the smooth stone bed, I wonder how much force the water must have exerted on the stone to move it to its current location. And I wonder how much the force of the water must have diminished to have deposited it there. Finally, I wonder how much time must have passed to have ground smooth that stone and the bed upon which it rests.

I try to imagine how the image I am looking at would have appeared to my father when he was my age. And to his father at the same age. And to his father at the same age. And on and on and on. How many years ago would that smooth river bed comprise rough, ragged, sharp rock? Of course the surrounding vegetation might have looked radically different years ago. And the banks of the river or stream would have been more abrupt. Time and water must have smoothed them over the ages. Maybe the water would have flowed over a different course a millennium ago. I suppose it doesn’t matter. My father did not see the water flowing over the smooth rock, nor did his ancestors. It’s all just me, playing a game with time. But it does matter, in a way. It matters that I understand that the so-called ravages of time are not necessarily devastating. The ravages of time can transform one form of beauty into another, sculpting monuments to wind and water out of shrines to the rawness of the Earth.

I’m fascinated by fast-motion animations that show the transformation of deserts into oceans into mountains; and back into oceans and deserts and so on. I watched an animation that showed how present-day Colorado was, 300 million years ago, quite a distance below the equator. The animation showed the tectonic plates drift northward; it then showed Colorado under the sea, as a desert, and it showed several iterations of mountains rise and disintegrate into sand. Truly fascinating stuff, though admittedly only an animator’s approximation of reality.

Time as we know it and experience it is compressed. When I attempt to understand it in its full scope, I have to remind myself to breathe; breathtaking is not just a expression of amazement, though I suppose it’s that, too.  In trying to comprehend time, I try to equate it to the thread on spools. If I extend a role of 200-yard-long thread to its full length and cut 1/16 of an inch from it and say that little piece is equal to one century (100 years), I would need more than 25 additional spools of thread tied end to end just to get the length of thread to equal 300 million years. It’s mind-boggling.

Watching fast-motion animation videos, I realize that the smooth bed of the river I see is probably just the latest of dozens, maybe hundreds, of expressions of land mass that existed in that spot over the course of many millennia. There’s not enough thread in a sewing hobbyist’s house to stretch that far.

Here I am contemplating time. I’ve written before that I believe time has completely different meanings, depending on context. A hour on planet Jupiter is vastly different from an hour on planet Earth. But we’re stuck here on planet Earth, so in practical terms, time is what we experience. Yet we cannot possibly experience its full scope, simply because time is longer than our minds can comprehend. Enough of this. On to personal drivel.

And here’s today’s journal…

This business of getting up well before four o’clock in the morning seems to have become habitual. Today, the clock claimed the time was only a little after two o’clock when I awoke, but I forced myself to stay in bed for almost two hours until I could no longer tolerate the Groundhog Day-style daydream any longer. It’s odd, knowing one is fully awake yet being unable to turn off the repeating scenes from an unsatisfying daydream playing in one’s head. Getting out of bed after such an experience is a little something like salvation; I have to admit, though, I know little about the experience of salvation aside from what I’ve read. Perhaps relief is a better word to describe the experience.

Relief is one of “those words.” Those words whose multiple meanings seem to have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with one another. The most common definition involves the alleviation or removal of pain or anxiety or stress. But the word also can refer to “the differences in elevation and slope between the higher and lower parts of the land surface of a given area.” Another definition, also relating to differences in elevation, concerns printing (relief printing). Though I do not understand the derivation of the definitions in different contexts (and I’m not sufficiently motivated to go looking), I find the different definitions quite interesting.

I should not complain about my habit of much-earlier-than-normal rising of late. My wife has been having a very difficult time getting any sleep at all. If she slept at all last night, it was just a little, sometime after midnight, in her recliner. She came to bed just after I woke up after two o’clock, but stayed there for only a short while before returning to the recliner. When I got up before four, she was in her recliner, but not asleep. She had gotten up, she said, because she was afraid her persistent cough would disturb my sleep. I sent her back to the comfort of our bed; I hope she is sleeping now. I suspect she will sleep in this morning; I hope so.

Yesterday, we finally went to the Coronado Fitness Center to sign up for membership, using a new benefit supplied by our individual supplemental Medicare insurance. Many others have told us about the wonders of Silver Sneakers. Until January 1 this year, we had no such benefit; we now have one (not called Silver Sneakers) that costs $25 per month, versus the unacceptably expensive “regular” cost of membership in the fitness center. The next trick is to use it. I am sufficiently out of shape to need coaching on how to recover from indolence lasting for a year and then some. Exercise. That’s what I need. Lots of exercise. And a diet geared toward health. I could use a magic pill that would give me the body of a forty-year-old athlete and the intellect of a forty-year-old renaissance man who possesses doctorates in physics, literature, mathematics, sociology, and pharmacology; I’d be willing to pay full fitness center prices for such a pill. Absent that little pill, I’ll just have to enthusiastically live the life available to me.

Part of my day today will be devoted to creating a list of repairs and renovations (and the like) we need to have done to and around the house. After I compile the list, my wife and I will attempt to put it in priority order. Some things, like finishing the painting of the deck, will have to wait until we can rely on several days running of clear, warm weather. Others, like trimming a tree near the “sky room” off the master bedroom should be done soon, before the tree begins to leaf. Others will depend on our willingness to spend money; for example, both the master bath and the guest bath need updating (in my opinion). And I’d like to change out the lighting in the kitchen. Dozens upon dozens of little things need to be done, too. Things like changing out fan-speed rheostat switches, which I can do, but for which would I like a helper (who can take charge of flipping breaker switches on and off). I’d rather do all the little things I can do than spend my time fulfilling commitments I’ve foolishly made to organizations in which I am involved. Oh, I’ve mentioned that repeatedly on this blog? Yes, yes, of course I have.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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