The epiphany

Quite a few years back, at about 13,000 feet above sea level on a mountain called Long’s Peak, surrounded by the boulders of a massive hill slowly falling apart (and freezing my butt off) I decided that I simply love rocks. Why? It would bore the snot out of anyone reading this, but I will try to share some of my perception. I have always appreciated geology and physics. But it was that morning just after sunrise trying to “conquer” a 14k ft+ landmark that a unique focus sunk in to my being.

There is an obvious grandeur in mountains and canyons, but it is also in the details. The next time you get a chance to sit down and really look at a rock, try this. Look really deeply into a small section of it, like a quarter of an inch square. Try to see all of the tiny inclusions, cracks, folds and bends and shiny bits. Think about how they got there. Think about how old it is. Think about what it went through to be as it is now. Get it wet, then rub it a little. See how it changes. Now back your gaze away to take in the enormity of the place it came from. In all of it’s types, compositions, distributions, millions of varying properties and millions of varying uses, if it weren’t there, we’d have no place to stand. Maybe climbing up a fairly steep mountain trail at three in the morning, several degrees below freezing with pretty thin air to breath had something to do with it, but I think that’s pretty cool.

A little history of carving in stone.

Since the beginning of human civilization, people have been smearing animal shaped stains on cave walls and rock outcroppings. It wasn’t long before they started chipping the rock out to make petroglyphs, tablets, stelae and such. Some cultures went positively bonkers with the idea and carved stories into just about everything they built. The reason for carving messages and symbols in stone becomes obvious when you visit places like Egypt, China or the former stomping grounds of the Aztec- they last a long, long, long time.

For thousands of years the preferred method of carving in stone was pounding a heavy piece of steel on a pointy piece of steel. This method is still used today, though the pieces of steel have gotten much better. In the case of sandblasting, the pointy ends are made of silicon carbide which are really, really pointy and quite numerous.

Modern uses for stone with images carved into them differ a little from those made in the past, but are still surprisingly similar. “So and So live here” “John loves Martha” “I miss my cat” “You are HERE” “This is mine” “There will be corn growing here soon” “I made this” “You did a good job” “These are things I like” “This is who I am” “I want people to know this for a long, long, long time”.