Old Rocks ?

Multigenerational Geologies
Figure 1. One-Off Non Series #00 “Multigenerational Geologies.”

With a few gravelly thoughts in mind, compiled from the week that was, rather than relay those pebbles and peas, frustrations and disappointments, I’ll instead focus these few blogable words on this notion of multigenerational geologies, or old rocks. I’m not a geologist, and I’m not even all that geologically curious in any deep and sustaining way. Not a reader of geology books. Not someone who stops for long to look extra close at rocks.

I do notice rocks; they’re all around these here Blue Ridge Mountains. Like when I mow, as I did earlier this afternoon. In one spot, on the neighbors’ ten acres, where they cut wood for supplying winter heat, and where I make a couple of passes with the Gravely, today I dinged a rock, scarring its rounded protuberance with a tiny nick, but a nick big enough that I will notice next time and raise the mowing deck manually until it is high enough to clear the rock. The rock is in its right place, after all. In another spot, at the base of the fifth black walnut, mid-hollow, the deck snagged a loose rock just enough to unearth it a little bit. I felt that one and happened to be quick enough to remaneuver so the rock would stay mostly planted and the mower blade would not kiss it, sparklingly. It has always been like this around here, the surfacings of a crumbly surface, rocks old and brittle, shifting right along with the rest of the soil course that is a holler/hollow.

But this drawing, Multigenerational Geologies, is from a different location maybe 30 minutes from here, Giles County, along the well-travelled lower path to Cascades, where I hiked in late June with Is. and M. who were visiting from Michigan. At the Cascades the water course puts rock formations on a better-lit stage; they’re all around and invite notice because they express geologic timescales with exaggerated forms. What I mean is that most of the lawnmower run involves rock formations underfoot or encased in dirt. But these run-off rock formations have settled into a differently observable light; rock-earth relations thus are more private compared to these rock-water relations.

The jut appeared to me to have a face. It’s sort of like face pareidolia, but more along the lines of rockface pareidolia, or possibly even golem-sighting, a brush with a camouflaged earth elemental. Knew I had to attempt to draw it. And slowly began to understand that it would carry valences of memory, acting as a fleeting statuary confirming an understanding I carry with me and consider now and then, about how a principal function of this life, of living, is as a medium, or go-between, who ferries what was (in my particular case) by my mom, Linda, expressed in a multitude of ways (from joy to kindness to to good humoredness to principledness to resolve and so on) to my daughter, especially, who as mixed up timing would have it, missed the opportunity to know my mom. You wouldn’t get this just from looking at the drawing. And that’s okay. I’ve withheld it, as I’m sometimes prone to doing, because it sits at that extra-personal edge of things not readily on offer for public consumption, much less scrutiny. So I suppose this is a nod to those extradiscursive gifts, associations that feed into and through the piece, but then back again, a quiet, inobservable boomerang sent that comes back around, neatly looping, the source of a blend of feeling, parts proud and grateful, parts long-lost and missing, parts calmed and serene for an art practice that allows such hazes to hold.

The Bituminous Time It Takes to Rebegin ⏳

The obvious pattern here is that I write Earth Wide Moth entries on breaks. This time it’s Wednesday of spring break, the middle of a week in the middle of a semester—that temporal middlemost divot for a slouch and an exhale and a say.

I was thinking of bitumin because ever since I learned of the (by now well-known?) Queensland U/Professor Parnell pitch drop experiments, bitumin comes up as a terrific example of patience and the taffy-pulled reward of studying for many years things slow, old, and transforming though inobservably so. I’m no geologist, but this solid-seeming bitumin fascinates because even while it is friable, or ready to crumble, so too is it viscous. Given time enough, it forms and relinquishes droplets to gravity. Bitumen drips, if you leave it alone. Wait for it. Wait.

This spring break, like so many other breaks I’ve shoe-horned in and amidst WPAing responsibilities over the past five years at VT, has meant once again driving 500 miles from SW Virginia to Michigan, jeans and sweatshirts shoved into a luggage, watching the weather along the route so as to avoid freezing rains or patches of snow, fetching groceries, and upon arrival generally going along with the anything-whatever of granddaughter time, Is.’s club volleyball schedule, and then some. The practice, if it can be called a practice, is to be easy with it all. Equanimity-crafted lifestyle. And this time of year, there are thesis and dissertation chapters to read and comment upon (two on Monday, two more on Tuesday), continuing teaching prep and some comments on the short-form writing we’re practicing in Food Writing, a boomeranged second-time-around review task due next Tuesday and too long put off across the accelerated and travelsome and also cough-hacking throes of February. Yeah, sure, it’s work, but I experience it as slowed down during the break. Meanwhile, the email inbox has quieted. This week it has lessened to a trickle of reply-all-good job-all-well done-all congratulations among faculty colleagues and a few one-offs about the latest surveillant impulses and precise questions people have about AI-screened computing activities disguised in the protective father logics of cybersecurity, like if robotic dogs chased aggressively a twenty-first century suspicious hermeneut. If you can imagine these as blue-skied comforts, it’s some kind of time at some kind of beach or the like.

Warming up again to the ms review is next on today’s to-dos. I first read the manuscript and wrote 914 words of reviewish guidance ten months ago, May 2022. And because those ten months since have proven to be the most locally extreme and austere in what is now a decade of WPAing, I find it’s requiring more concerted effort to prioritize and focus upon this routine work, to muster a bituminous rebeginning and to return to the manuscript so I can read every bit as generously as before. At sloth’s pace, it stably holds together; quickened, it crumbles and fragments: I get it.