Saturday, February 07, 2015

News from the rock face

I paid a visit this morning to the cliff across from our house. From a distance the rock appears static and stable, but up close it tells a different story: tiny fissures deepen into fractures and chasms where water freezes and thaws and propels large chunks of rock down the slope.

Recent rockfalls expose fresh surfaces glowing with subtle swirls of color, while older rock weathers gray and brown and eventually becomes colonized by lichens and liverwort and tiny climbing vines. In the spring I've seen phoebes making nests in the thick vegetation, and high above the cliff face stand tall trees offering habitat for squirrels, chipmunks, and many kinds of birds. At the highest point is a hawk's nest, currently vacant. Will the hawks return this spring? Will the hillside once again host a den of foxes?

Down below we watch the changing profile of our own Old Man of the Mountain, whose nose has become more chiseled over the years and his eyes more sunken. A new fissure makes him looks as if he's about to open his mouth and speak, but what would he say? Every time I see him, he reminds me that time, which turns the hardest rock to dust, creates beauty even through decay.    

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