Helping create a world where wildlife and all of nature are known as neighbors.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Nature's Rock Hammer (Pine Creek Gorge near Ansonia March 5, 2021)

At the Pine Creek Gorge I feel a sense of peace and of mission, because those who call it home ask only that I give them space and that I help to tell their story. I receive from this wild community so much grace, mercy, and sense of call that it feels more like home than any city or town I've ever lived in.

Gazing up at steep canyon walls, I find myself reflecting on the natural history of this place on the geologic timescale. Like Andy Dufresne who used a tiny rock hammer to escape his prison cell in the movie Shawshank Redemption, here water and ice are nature's rock hammer. Water and ice work with seasonal cycles of freeze and thaw aided by gravity to dislodge small chunks of sandstone from steep canyon walls little by little, and over the course of hundreds of thousands of years the face of the canyon is totally transformed! This ancient process of canyon cultivation continues to this very day. You can see it for yourself with just a short walk south of Darling Run Access Area. Find a rocky face where water drips over melting icicles as Winter turns to Spring, and look at the ground beneath it. There you'll find many small pieces of dislodged rock resting on top of the snow that fit well within the palm of your hand; these are the result of water getting into cracks between rocks, expanding with winter's deep freeze, and releasing those small pieces that have been pulled away from the parent material with the Spring thaw. Sure, there are times when a huge boulder of a rock is removed and tumbles down the steep canyon wall, but the usual work of nature's rock hammer is to carve new rock faces, one tiny piece at a time. Think of nature's rock hammer as less of a demolition crew and more of a sculptor.

Ravens, vultures, and peregrine falcons depend on the canyon carving creativity of nature's rock hammer since flat rock perches on horizontal cliff faces are perfect for resting and for raising families. 

What a gift it was to spend time at the Pine Creek Gorge between Ansonia, Leonard Harrison, and Colton Point; rocks, water, ice, winter-wind, ravens at Peregrine Rock, the Kinglet of the Gorge, and me.

Ravens dance through the air with such enthusiasm that I can't help but wonder if they might feel the same sense of deep joy as I in places like this; where the sun shines bright on rocky cleft and hemlock bough, and where steep canyon walls carved by nature's rock hammer angle steeply towards the cool flowing waters of Pine Creek far below.

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