Meet Loveland Magazine’s newest columnist. A long-time resident of Miami Township, Stephen McClanahan is retired from P&G and now active in environmental advocacy, search/rescue and emergency medical/disaster response. The title of his column will be Love-the Land.
It’s all my son’s fault that I became interested in adventure motorcycling. When my friends ask me what this is, I tell them it’s kind of like backpacking down remote roads but with a motorbike under me. I try to get away to experience places I’ve never seen yet at the same time, I strive to move in a way that leaves no trace of me having been there as well as minimizing my presence in the moment.
A few years ago, my son and I took a couple of weeks and traveled some of the incredible lands in the western US. One afternoon when we were on a backcountry road in Colorado, we stopped due to some road work. As I grew impatient, I looked to my side; there was a peculiar rock sticking up from the ground, probably 30-40 feet into the air. I surveyed the area; there were several of these formations. It turns out that it’s a good thing to take trips like this with my son who happens to have majored in the geological sciences; since I’m his father, I get to ask as many questions, intelligent or otherwise, as I wish, and he must answer. (Simple rules to my advantage; what’s not to like?)
Since I’m his father, I get to ask as many questions, intelligent or otherwise, as I wish, and he must answer.
I asked about the rocks sticking out of the ground and after a few moments, his answer arrived. And I literally spend the next several hours of motorcycling contemplating what I heard. The rocks didn’t stick up out of the ground; they formed within the earth and over time, the ground eroded away leaving the rock exposed. It turns out that the rock is of a mineral that is more weather and erosion resistant than its surroundings, so it survived the rains, the winds, the heat, cold. I’m a chemist; I understood this piece; some chemical bonds are stronger than others. But the question that left me dazed followed; how long has this been going on? My son commented that it was likely somewhere in the ballpark of 300-400 million years.
So here I am, sitting on my bike, impatient over the few minutes needed for new asphalt to be smoothed. And sitting next to me is rock that is in the process of being exposed for more than 300 million years.
So here I am, sitting on my bike, impatient over the few minutes needed for new asphalt to be smoothed. And sitting next to me is rock that is in the process of being exposed for more than 300 million years. Three hundred million years! I tried to contemplate the juxtaposition of these two points in time, of me and this rock. My focus was so small – the minutes I had to wait before continuing to ride. The rock has been waiting on me for hundreds of millions of years. I tried to seriously understand 300 million years and not just let it pass as another number. I started small. What does 10 years feel like? I could put my head around that. What about 100; could I really imagine what a century was like? Maybe. Moving on, I tried to understand 1000 years, a millennium. I lost it here; I couldn’t honestly say I fully understood what 1000 years was really like. Yet the rock next to me was 300,000 millennia old! And compared to many other objects in the world, the exposed rock was young.
l find there is always ample evidence of something much larger at work than me.
My experience is that the world is full of these kinds of intense places that shape me if I immerse myself in them. And l find there is always ample evidence of something much larger at work than me. In this case, I was reminded that, compared to the vastness of time from which our natural world emerged, I am a mere fleeting mist.