You stand on the seashore feeling the mutability of time. Under normal circumstances you would gaze at the steady horizon, trying to absorb the enormity of the ever shifting ocean. Its depth, its strength, its unknowable currents and flavours. Under normal circumstances you would be awed by the way it has sanded and pebbled and beached the world. But here, today, the mystery of the sea is insignificant compared to the dark hexagonal column beneath your feet.
The shush of the tide is far away but your fourteen-year-old self is so close you can feel her, looking down at her white-socked and school-shoed feet framed by the face of the six-sided basalt. The words of your teacher feel close, telling you about places of significance: Gaping Gill, Durdle Door, Arthur’s Seat, Lyme Regis, Fingal’s Cave, and the place where you are now, Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Here, millions of years ago, the earth was so hot it was liquid. When something shifted in the atmosphere and the lava finally cooled, its chemistry of minerals chose to coalesce as interlocking columns, creating stepping stones of the most elegant kind. There is legend that these columns were created by feuding giants to bridge the sea-silver gap between Ireland and Scotland, but why create a fantastical story when the truth is so fantastical? Is it not enough that the earth itself designed these perfect and consistent polygonal shapes?
Like the enormity of the ocean you find it difficult to comprehend this, but then you see how your feet step easily from one stepping stone to another, quickly as though you are in a child’s game, or slowly where you have to climb and the waves have worn their surfaces to slippery slopes, and you realize that the earth has designed you too, and all the other people that are stepping from stone to stone across the world.
A world that great thinkers have decided is not a being but a thing.
Today is your forty-eighth birthday, and you’ve been brought here by your new lover. He can’t fully comprehend the value of this gift, and you’re not sure how to explain it to him. Neither of you know that your relationship will only last another month or two, merely the blink of an eye in the moving cogs of both your lives, a moment’s brush with the tide in the moving cogs of the earth.
But now, as you write about this moment of standing on the top of a volcanic column, you know his gift was a wondrous demonstration of the world showing its capabilities. The gift of moving through time to transform a school-girl to a woman, her passions intact and still burning, from the imagined to the real.
2 thoughts on “…on shaping the earth”
I love this, Sally. I have always wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway!
Thanks Steve. I’m hoping to make it to Fingal’s Cave one day – a longer trip but I think it will be worth it!