The Noisy Water Review

The Juan de Fuca Plate

Megan Fortin

Longstanding and all-knowing, the strata sighs in relief as it has seen the ebb and flow of the tides and of seasons wandering past, it’s very certain nature wrapped up in deep time. I wonder if uncertainty disappeared epochs ago, or if this terrain knows nothing of incumbent events. The Eocene truly left it’s heavy-handed thumbprint with no painless tale to tell; everything here insists upon the dark beauty of the naturally profound. I walk upon the great cataclysm of tectonic law and volcanism that obliterated all left in the wake of the white-hot depth of an angry earth, unforgiving yet innocent, catastrophic yet a voice of revival, murderous yet innately true.

Evolution of the earth’s surface and of each organism that has graced it’s antique presence has inevitably crept upon each fractured piece of rock my bare feet balance on. Oh, to stand here and bear witness to a light-speed time lapse, to drink in the visuals that composed such a complex journey. These mysterious intricacies swirl in a breathless dizzying cloud around my skull as I scuttle along the fifty-five million year old sandstone and admit to myself how little meaning lies within the veins of our brief existence. Science is not well-suited for one who turns cheek at the humbling nature of the earth’s crust, of extinct bipedal ancestors with binocular vision and artistic capabilities. Are we strong enough to grasp the omnipotent truth that lies within each sheet of archaic rock? Well don’t look now: a primitive cranium that shares the same sequences of amino acids that code for your existence is being unearthed at this very moment, a lineage buried but inevitably buoyant.

This inert metamorphosis that birthed each mountain and brain cell is not unfamiliar. It lies between every cellular regenesis, in every step of mitosis, in the stretched expanse of rock-hard tundra that turned to soft, forgiving grasslands in the Pleistocene. It is in each perfectly timed glaciation that allowed our ancestors to fill their hungers and adapt. It is laden within the collective unconscious that gave us silent communication, reflecting the truth of a prefrontal cortex that could not stop growing. Within each molecule of stardust that composes our very nature lies the inevitable change that will continue until the end of time, that elusive schedule that evades our grasp and skips unhesitantly out of the peripheral.

When I was six years old, I asked my Sunday School teacher how rainbows were formed so elegantly in the sky, that expanse that always drew me in with it’s boundless stretching. She said God was an artist, that this was his divine promise, that he would never again drown the earth with such an unbelievable mass of water, that all living species were safe from his holy vengeance, at least until Armageddon. I accepted this answer as truth, slipped it in the pocket of my heart as I did with each and every theistic answer that followed every bit of my childlike curiosity. It is easy to squelch out the natural inquisitiveness of a child’s soul, simply by failing to admit that you just Don’t Know.

Here on this rock, the staggering clarity of immense duration offers itself to me, and all it’s simple yet circuitous implications. And yet I can taste the slight sour of being a stranger to this land, unable to match the wisdom of the rock I stand upon, unable to offer anything to the conversation. It is quite a thing to admit your own ignorant fragility. The truth of one’s surroundings is quite a thing to yield to.

Truth: I consider the word. I feel it hover around in the back of my throat and in the marrow of my bones, recognizing it’s precious potency as it scratches at my throat with it’s persistence, bruising up my insides in a manic swing of the fist. I am reminded of the sense of guilt I have buried under beloved anthropology textbooks and copies of Scientific American, as if to subconsciously protect it, to hide it from this new truth I have accepted. The world of science is a place my family considers blasphemy, a sputtering stepping stone to the gates of hell. The weight of this ideological animosity cuts into my shoulders as I carry it secretly. The monkey on my back, it leaves swollen red marks of dishonesty every time I leave my grandmother’s home. I’m the Quiet Closet Atheist.

Years ago, in my first adolescent introduction to the vocation of science, this shame negatively permeated my intellectual capacity, held my mind in two places at once. Sitting in class with the sequenced DNA genome of a chimpanzee on my desk, I would float between denial and acceptance, cognitive dissonance fighting it’s way through my consciousness, practically unable to admit that Noah and his ark were factually falsifiable, that the earth was so much older than six thousand years, that the ascent of man from a primal ancestry is all but a black-and-white reality, that we hold the puzzle pieces showing the step-by-step flourishing of our species carefully in brightly-lit museums and in twice-locked drawers. And so many, still buried.

There is enough cosmic magnetism in this world. There is enough natural magic that slips and slides between the reality of mathematics and the unknown universal phenomenon. Dark matter, black holes, quantum physics. This big blue dot is inundated with enough that leaves me astonished in the face of reality — a child seeing a rainbow for the first time. I don’t need resurrection. I don’t need farfetched stories of water to wine, immaculate conception, traveling angels, “on faith alone”. No, my questions burn within, embossing their enduring messages underneath my skin. I resent any hundred-times translated truth, for my truth is out there: In the Scientific Method We Trust.

Underneath the tectonic location I tread on, the ocean floor is parting. I imagine the two halves exchanging delicate sweet sorrow as they kiss goodbye. And between them — fresh, pristine, scalding magma from the earth’s interior rises to meet a more advanced existence, finally given a shot at a new formation that will take a more concrete shape, contorting itself into crust at the Bottom of Everything. I see my soul in that magma, set ablaze and soaring towards new growth, new formation — an ultimate divergence.

The subduction zone bursts with chaos; it wells up from within the inner depths of the planet and begs for release. The bottom of the ocean slips surreptitiously into the interior of the globe, igniting with friction and sizzling — it’s enough to melt surrounding rock. Here is where Mother Earth plays with red ochre, plopping new dots of crimson onto the canvas on which we reside, dots that will someday erupt and in their desolation, create something wholly new.

It wasn’t until the third grade that I learned about prisms; bending wavelength colors, specific angles of perfectly arranged droplets that lead to such an electric spectrum, a kaleidoscopic feast for the human eye, a form of art that could be scientifically explained. That morning in Mrs. Willie’s classroom as she drew a diagram of sunlight and droplets on the whiteboard, asked us the different colors of the rainbow and told us how they were formed, I began to settle into a new perspective: it was the notion that factual evidence would nourish me.

Geology says all living things inhabiting the crust that floats upon this plate will be subject to it’s rage once again. The wrath that carved sawtooth mountains and rocky caves of limestone will endure inevitably, sweeping up whatever part of Cascadia that may lie in it’s path. Sooner rather than later, natural disaster will rush into our windows, permeating every secret place: Mother Earth’s Armageddon.

Tangled in this veracity, suddenly flittering with nervous pangs of What If, I lighten my stride. Stretching each toe to give a humble whimpering thanks, ball of the foot hovering coyly out of utter respect, I tread lightly, as if any force of my stance will suddenly decide our fate.

And then all at once I am reminded of a sermon I once heard a man speak from the pulpit. He said, “Fear is the heart of love.” With that stark and sudden memory, all at once I detest the notion of tiptoeing around the raw edges of this truth, the truth I have nested within, the truth that pricks me with tiny stinging thorns of guilt but still rests on my heart with the softness of transparency. With one swift physical decision I pound my heels into the rock, quadriceps flexed with hideous abandon, and run.

Come if you will, forces of the earth. Death awaits like a cold hard stone, and I will be buried under immense time, like a Neandertal buried in flowers, my skull slowly pick-axed and examined by someone in search of truth. I live with this word coursing through my veins, so flooded it may even fossilize.

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