Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Handful of Fossil Shells and Vast Reaches of Time

One of my favorite memories of the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas, was the parking lot outside of the restricted area. While we were waiting for everyone to return to the shuttle vehicle, the guide reached down and grabbed a handful of what looked like gravel. He put it in my hand. "Fossils," he said.

2011 photo by Kathleen Scott
I looked at the material more closely, and sure enough, they weren't tiny pebbles. They were tiny shells. "Wow," I said. "How old are they?"

"Thirty million years old," he said. "All this land used to be under water. Millions of years ago, tectonic subduction pushed this land upward to where it is now."

Thirty million years is more time than the human mind can comprehend. Even though that much time is less than 1% of the age of the Earth.

How about 2 million years? Can you comprehend that? That's about how long humanoid species have existed.

Or 75,000 years? Which is 25 times as long ago as when Christ lived. That's how long modern human have been around.

Or 7,500 years? When written language was invented.

Or 1,000 years? That time-frame isn't so hard. That's how long we've had printed books.

Here's one for the kids - 60 years since the first digital computer and digital text files.

I love looking at these shells and contemplating the awesome reach of time since they were live creatures. That really happened. The Earth really is 4.5 billion years old, and it has an amazing history. We live on this planet. It's the only home we'll ever have. I think it's important to learn all we can about it, so we can appreciate it when we decide to pay attention to it.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Kathleen Scott said...

There's a comfort in seeing the ancient today. The feel of continuity and connection. The world has suffered cataclysms since that sea creature lived but earth is still here.