Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spring Fever

It’s spring, and time again for the fever. You know, that fever that grips us uncontrollably, and makes us intoxicatingly happy, uncontrollably hopeful, and looking for love. Every spring, like fools, we geologists fall in love. Winter has done its work, exfoliating dull old surfaces with abrasives like snow and ice, then rinsing the earth clean with snowmelt and rain. In spring, the rocks show just enough leg to beckon us, enticing with beauty half veiled and full of mystery. Who could resist this siren’s call? Maps, like old love letters, are drawn from file cabinets, and the drooling begins. Sooooooo many rocks, so little time.

When enough snow has melted and the last school bell has rung, it starts. Hunched and shriveled from the long season under fluorescent lights in artificial stone buildings, the Geologists start emerging from the dark caverns of their offices. At first they squint, not used to the light—only the shadows of light. They stretch in the summer sun, and head for the Suburbans. Like ants, geologists fan out over the surface of the earth, zigzagging, carrying ridiculously large and heavy loads, and bumping into each other as paths cross in the middle of nowhere. Nose to the stone, they peer, and ponder, and pound out pieces of mountain in search of truth.

At summer’s end, the affair is over. The rocks have delighted us with their mysterious ways and their intrigue will bring us back again, but the fling has run its course. We must leave the rocks and return to our caves. We bring back tokens of remembrance—rocks, data, maps—then sink down at our desks, backs to the door. In the classrooms, we show slides of our time outside of the cave, and the students, as if interpreting shadows on the wall, picture half of what we’ve seen.

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