Robin Rendle
• San Francisco, California

Timefulness

I just finished reading Marcia Bjornerud’s Timefulness this morning. Marcia writes about Deep Time of the past— mountain formation and the Cambrian explosion—and Deep Time of the future—the disappearance of the Atlantic ocean and the rush of America into Europe and the creation of a single mega continent a few hundred million years from now.

She writes about how we’ve become “time-blind”:

With no appetite for stories lacking human protagonists, many people simply can’t be bothered with natural history. We are thus both intemperate and intemp_o_rate—time illiterate. Like inexperienced but overconfident drivers, we accelerate into landscapes and ecosystems with no sense of their long-established traffic patterns, and then react with surprise and indignation when we face the penalties for ignoring natural laws. This ignorance of planetary history undermines any claims we may make to modernity.

There’s something extremely good about Marcia’s work that reminds me what I love in any good chunk of writing: she makes the very small connect to the very large…

I often feel I live not just in Wisconsin but in many Wisconsins. Even when I try not to, I can’t help but sense the lingering influence of the many natural and human histories embedded in this landscape: the forests still recovering from nineteenth-century clear-cutting; the rivers that governed ancient trade routes, themselves shaped by moraines shoved up by the great ice sheets; the golden sandstones marking the shores of the Paleozoic seas; contorted gneisses that are the surviving roots of Proterozoic mountains. The Ordovician is not a dim abstraction; I was there with students just the other day! For geologists, every outcrop is a portal to an earlier world.