Geology lesson

Northern Territory, Australia, 2016

“Watch your left,” I reminded my father for the twentieth time that day. We are in Australia driving a camper car through the desert in the lower Northern Territory. My father has only been driving on the right-hand side for the last 50-plus years of his life. Why shouldn’t this be an easy reflex to break after one week driving on the opposite side, right?

We joke about the constant reminders. Laugh at my mother. She hadn’t lasted two hours in the front seat as co-captain.

“Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare overtake that car! Oh my word!! I can’t believe you. You are so irresponsible. Julia, you come up here! I refuse – absolutely refuse – to be in the front seat with your father.”

Father and daughter continue laughing about these things. Mother plugs in her music and ignores us.

Extrude: to thrust or force out

We arrive at Devil’s Marbles – Karlu Karlu as the aboriginals call this place. The mostly flat brush land was broken up by a pile of red boulders, as if a someone had lain them there to be forgotten. An odd and surprising sight that merited an unscheduled stop.

Most of the surrounding area is sandstone, but interestingly these boulders are granite. Geologists hypothesize that it extruded through the sandstone and arrived in block form at the surface.

Are these things God’s way of messing with our heads?

As if conglomerate extruding through sedimentary rock wasn’t fascinating enough, these boulders succumbed to another unique phenomenon; onion-skin weathering. Due to the nature which they were formed, the rocks exfoliated after years of exposure to water and the weather, slowly peeling off layers of their exterior until they rounded.

We walked through the boulders amazed at the size, the form, the simple fact that they are here in the middle of nothing.

“I mean look at these Julia!” my father exclaimed. It was from him I got my love and awe of nature.

A hard rock like granite can seem unbreakable, but hidden beneath the surface stress fractures will weaken it from the inside out. One day with enough stress, CRACK! What was once whole will split in two.

Straight smooth lines. Forever leaving a mark that two stones which used to belong together, are now forever separated. The thing about exposing weakness though, is that often it creates something unexpectedly beautiful – if you can stop to appreciate it.

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