I Can’t Show You This Picture, But You Must See It

I have this weird respect for copyright, so I didn’t want to embed this, but you really have to see it. Then come back and we’ll talk about it.

Yeah, that’s some kind of delicious, isn’t it just? More where that came from, at David Rankin’s website. So many sights there that reminded me of the not-so-halcyon days when I lived in Page. The only thing good about Page was the scenery. No complaints there, my friends – it’s truly dramatic. And David managed to capture an extra dollop of drama there. Fantastic.

I thought I recognized that old local icon, the Navajo Generating Station, but I wrote to him about it just to be sure. He advised, “The photo was taken with a telephoto lens from southern Utah just across the UT/AZ border looking at the Navajo Generating Station and LeChee Rock.” Four years I lived there, and I never knew that was LeChee Rock. We callow kids didn’t know the names of most of the mesas. We just kind of pointed at them and said “That one” when discussing them. I think the only reason we knew Page is built on Manson Mesa is because, hey, it’s Manson.

I used to go out at night up to the place on the edge of the mesa where it was rumored a whole settlement had blown sky-high one Halloween night back in the ’50s, and I’d stand there looking beyond the barely-lit airstrip out to the Navajo Generating Station. You wouldn’t normally think of a coal-fired plant as beautiful, but it was. Standing out there alone in the bare desert, the only light beyond Page for miles aside from the moon and stars, it looked like a ship in a sandy sea, sailing serenely among rocky icebergs. I mean, seriously. Go look at it again. Take your eyes off the lightning and really look at the plant. Doesn’t that look just like a grand old steamship, floating out there against the mesas? David captured it just as I remember it. Only he managed to capture so much more: the stark, dark cliffs standing against storm-torn skies.

This is what I was talking about when I told you about slickrock. Those mesas rose up from the desert floor, stark and still. The storms rolling in over them are bloody amazing to watch. Only you’ll want to do it from high ground. David’s shot what I’m talking about. It may not even be raining within a hundred miles of where you are, but suddenly, a sound, a roar, and water, swift and deep and treacherous. You can’t outrun it, and if you’re in a slot canyon, you can’t out-climb it, either. People have died because they didn’t understand this about the desert: even here, you can drown.

But to stand in a high place, to watch the lightning strike and the rain arrow down, to hear the wind roar through the barren rock – that you won’t trade for anything. To see the storm-light on the red rock, watch colors and hues change, dappled over ten or fifty or a hundred miles around you, painting an already painted desert – that’s a vision that will imprint itself indelibly. It stays.

I want to go back. I want to sit in the high places, and watch the sun explore ancient rocks. I want to hear a silence so profound it’s like a physical force. I want to lie back against that smooth, bare slickrock and stare into an endless sky. And I want to see the storms again, smell a petrichor so intense it tangles up and overwhelms the more prosaic scent of sand, feel that shock of chill air from a thunderstorm that washes over the skin like a mist and leaves you with goosebumps in a hundred degrees. I love and miss those things.

I’m glad I have such images to remind me.

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Volcanic Venerations: Elden

Mount Elden from Route 66 (San Francisco Peaks in background). May 20th, 2005

I’ve run out of sediments to get sentimental about.  So, let’s stand on the Kaibab and gaze at one of the mountains that loomed over my childhood, by way of transition.  That, my friends, is a volcano.  And it was considered middling size, where I grew up, although considering it’s smack-dab in the midst of Flagstaff, it seems enormous.  My elementary school was right at the base of it.  We probably sat on its deposits.  We could walk to it, and did, and walked right up it.

Funny how you can spend so much time staring out the window at something less than a quarter mile away, not to mention climb it, and have no real idea what the hell it is.

The teachers mostly didn’t mention Mount Elden.  It was just there, this great big brown lump, unremarkable in every way aside from the fact it was a volcano in the midst of a city.  Once a year or so, they’d herd us all into the gym and roll out the film projector, and Mount Elden would get its fifteen minutes of fame in an old video showing us what happens when runaway kiddies light campfires in canyons on a mountain in dry country.  The results were probably a bit reminiscent of when it erupted: lots of smoke and sparks and a terrifying orange glow that seemed like it would consume the world.  They thought they’d lose the city before they got the fire out, and the scars are still there.  Trees don’t grow back well on steep lava slopes in dry country.  Erosion undoes what our precious little water tries to do.  The mountain may not recover until the climate changes.  So, children, look upon Mount Elden and know why you should never, ever light a match.

Somehow, some way, we learned it was a volcano, which led to a few nervous moments until we were told it’s not merely dormant, but extinct.  Extinct was good.  Except, of course, on those days when it was sunny and brilliant outside and it might have been nice to have a merely dormant volcano fast becoming active outside so they’d have to evacuate us.

One of our teachers pointed to it as a prime example of a shield volcano, and for years, I thought that’s what it was.  Big lump of near-solid lava, what else could it be?

2,300 feet worth of dacite dome, is what.  Five or six hundred thousand years ago, thick, sticky magma that occupies that space on the continuum between andesite and rhyolite squeezed up through the old sedimentary layers, overturned them, and extruded itself out in globs and lobes until it built a mountain.  As it erupted, bits cooled, fractured in the process, and peppered the slopes with boulders.  Lava flows on those steep slopes sometimes lost their hold and became chaotic avalanches of hot gas and chunks of dacite that fanned out around the base of the volcano.  The rest of it piled into mounds and cliffs, incredibly steep, where a few rare resident bald eagles live.

Elden’s Cliffs, where the bald eagles dwell.  June 10, 2009

The result was a gigantic lump of a lava dome.  A lot of Arizona’s volcanoes are fairly symmetrical: even though different angles give you a different perspective, they’re recognizably themselves.  Not so Elden.  It looks compact and rather small from some directions.  Depending on where you are, you might see it as an actual dome, or a peak with a hump, as in the photo above.  Then travel round the compass a few degrees, and all of a sudden, it presents a very long, strange profile.

Mount Elden, seen from Sunset Crater.  June 10, 2009

There’s a trail that winds up it, right to the very top where all the radio antennae are.  It climbs gently at first, lulling you into a false sense of security before taking off through hairpin switchbacks that don’t do much to cut back on all the straight up.  The overwhelming impression is tan.  The old dacite is tan, and it gives rise to tan dirt, and even the trees that grow where they weren’t burnt down have a tan undertone to their green.  Occasionally, there are splashes of bright reddish-pink sloshed over the big tan boulders.  The massive amounts of flame retardant dumped on that mountain in the 1970s left some garish streaks behind.  It was still there in the late 80s, when my class climbed to the top.  It might still be there.

The mountain has human stories to tell.  About a little girl lost who nearly fried the city, and a little boy, whose family homesteaded on the flanks of the mountain over a hundred years ago.  There was a spring there, and water was precious.  There wasn’t much of it.  And when the homesteaders had to make the choice between watering their herds and family and watering a passing stranger’s mules, they chose to refuse the gift of water.  There was, after all, another spring not far away, with more water more easily spared.  The stranger, not happy with this reply, fired at the family, and killed their young son.  Being a little girl myself, standing in that meadow where water trickled through an old pipe, looking at the site where a home used to stand and a family had been forced to bury their child, I felt the tragedy of it acutely.

You can still see his grave.  And the mountain carries his family name, so it, too, stands as something of a memorial.

Mount Elden stands as a reminder of acts that cannot be undone.  With the strike of a match, the firing of a gun, something can be taken away that can never be replaced.

And that, combined with the fascination of its geology – I mean, a young dacite dome far from a plate boundary? – transforms it from an odd lump of lava into something truly beautiful.

Mount Elden from Route 66, photographed by my Intrepid Companion.  June 11th, 2009.  The chewed-up pile of cinders in front of it is the remnant of a cinder cone, now a quarry.

Methods and Materials of a Sometime Geoblogger: A Case Study

Ha!  Like this post will be anywhere near as scholarly as the title suggests.  It’s just that Karen got me thinking again:

I want to know how geobloggers (and for that matter, bloggers in general) find the time and material to blog frequently! I exhaust my blog-dedicated time just reading five or six of my favorites every morning! 

I wonder the same thing meself, actually.  So I’ll be asking that question during ye olde Summer Interview Series.  Let’s begin with a willing subject: me.

Hullo, me.  How do you find the time?

The answer’s simple, really.  I haven’t got a life.

I’m not in school.  Job that requires no serious thought or overtime.  No significant other.  Not many local friends, certainly not many I go out with often.  No teevee shows I dedicate my time to (aside from Doctor Who, o’course).  Here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, me day off, pounding away at the keyboard, with no one but the cat for company.

I don’t go to the movies.  Don’t go shopping until lack of food or other vital items forces me from the house, and then it’s just a commando raid, in-and-out at top speed, often with my poor intrepid companion in tow since we’re in town for lunch anyway.  It’s only in the summer that I get out and adventure, and then only on the weekends.  I’ve just chosen writing at the one thing that must always come first, and shunted everything else off into the corners.  Not everyone can do that, but they manage just fine anyway – I’ve no idea how.

Mind you, I haven’t got much time for blogging.  I’m writing books (yes, plural), and that means the vast majority of my time is devoted to non-blogging activities.  I’ve carved out a four-hour chunk of time on Sunday afternoons to write the week’s posts, and I spend that week when Aunty Flow’s visiting to fill in any gaps, considering I’m no good for fiction writing then.

I’ve learned over the years that trying to do this on a day-to-day basis doesn’t work for me.  I can’t carve the day up into such tiny chunks and give everything the time and attention it deserves.

As far as blog reading, I’ve got some time in between calls at work, usually, and an hour or so a night while I’m scarfing dinner to catch up on whatever else I’ve missed.  Multitasking is key, people.

So that’s how I find the time.  As for subjects… that’s usually the easy part.  There’s you, my dear readers: you so often say something that gets me going.  Sometimes I’ll riff off of something I’ve read on another blog, or there’s a meme going round, or something I’ve read in a book recently catches my fancy.  Things come up when I’m worldbuilding that demand to be shared.  Important anniversaries, certain holidays, and other assorted special days are always good possibilities.  When I get maudlin and nostalgic, I’ll turn that into a post or several.  I’ve learned to just go with whatever shiny thing is glittering away in front of me, because I can’t guess what my readers will like.  Some of the posts I’ve published only because I’m a raging narcissist or too busy to write better have been the posts you lot like best, so I’ve learned to just throw it out there.  If it flops, ’tis not the end of the world.  There’s always tomorrow.

This present exercise in narcissism has gone on long enough.  I’m turning the floor over to you: care to answer Karen’s question?

Slickrock

I spent four years on top of a type section, and I never knew it.

Moi avec Page Sandstone, many years ago

I lived on Manson Mesa, in Page, AZ, where the type section for the Page Sandstone is located (pdf).  I knew it was sandstone.  I thought it had been laid down in a sandy sea during the dinosaur years, and there my geologic awareness ceased.

My geological knowledge back then suffered from, let’s be generous and call them deficiencies.  I wish I’d known then what I know now, because then I would’ve taken about ten trillion photographs of the place and gotten a lot more out of living there.  Still.  That landscape did settle into my soul.  Slickrock country settled into my soul.

It’s stark, sand-scoured, barren but beautiful.  I’d walk up the road from our house and along a dirt track, topping a rise on the mesa, and then partially descend the other side.  That’s when it would hit: the most profound silence I’d ever heard.  I’d stand there looking out over Lake Powell and just soak in the silence.  It couldn’t have been all that much quieter back in the Jurassic, when the Page Sandstone was nothing but coastal dunes marching along for miles.  They rested atop even older dunes, which are now the Navajo Sandstone.  Sandy then and sandy now.  You go to Page, you’ll become intimately acquainted with sand, both lithified and windblown.

Stand here, with me, on the sandy side of the hill.  Look over the lake.  Do you see that arm of the Colorado, meandering through the side canyons it’s carved into the ancient dunes?

The Colorado River, or at least parts thereof

You can play games with it, here, shift your perspective and spell things out.  Just there, from that vantage, it’s a J.  Move a few yards, and it’s a T.  Walking back in time.  Jurassic-Triassic.  There may even be some Triassic rocks around here – I’ll find out next time I go, now that I know more, now that I can love it for what it was and not just what it is.

Back then, I’d just stand and stare at the sapphire-blue lake incongruous in the pale red desert, and wonder how the fuck anyone could possibly call a rock surrounded by nothing but rock “Lone Rock.”

View of Lake Powell from Manson Mesa.  Lone Rock is that rock in the middle ground on the right.

On the other side of Manson Mesa, the wind has swept the stone clean, and you understand why it’s called slickrock.  It’s smooth, almost slippery, although the grains of windblown sand locked in their matrix do a pretty good job providing traction, if you know how to work it.  And I worked it.  In slick-soled boots, on dunes turned rock that weathered into rounded tops and tiny ledges on steep slopes before becoming sheer drops.  I’d run, flat-out, on ledges no more than a few inches wide, with nothing more than a few hundred feet of air on one side and high, rounded stone on the other, and I never once feared I’d fall.  The slickrock wasn’t so slick for me.  It gripped me, assured me it wouldn’t let me go.  I could trust it implicitly, even the crumbly bits where erosion was returning the stone to its original sand.  We understood each other, this sandstone and me.  We knew each others’ limits.

There was a place on the edge of the mesa where flash-floods had carved a gully between rock walls, and those stood high above the desert floor like castle turrets.  They were my citadel.  When I was up there, I was queen in my castle.  I could stand at the top of a turret and gaze over my treeless domain.

And it was treeless.  Sagebrush, a few straggling junipers, and some unidentified bushes growing along the washes were about the limit.  This is a stark, startling place, to someone who’d left an alpine paradise behind.  No mountains, no ponderosa pines reaching for the sky.  Just rock and sand with a desperate bit of biology barely clinging on, far as the eye could seen.

There used to be trees up there, legend says.  This is a landscape for legends.  You can believe nearly any wild tale you’re told, up there.  You can believe the trailer park built to house the folks building Glen Canyon Dam exploded at midnight on Halloween night in 1959.  You can believe skinwalkers stalk the darkness.  Just listen to the way the coyotes’ howls echo off those stone walls, refract and reflect and become something supernatural.  You know where those legends arise, now.  You know why, when people tell this story, you can believe it:

Back in the 1800s, a cowboy was passing near Manson Mesa on his way to Lee’s Ferry with a Navajo guide.  No lake there, then, and precious few ways to cross the Colorado, which had been cutting its way down into the Plateau for millions of years.  But there was this mesa, and the cowboy wanted to go up there and have a look.  The Navajo guiding him refused to take him up.  The cowboy demanded, the Navajo steadfastly refused.  The cowboy finally demanded to know why.

“The top of that mesa used to be covered with trees,” the guide said.  “There used to be a forest.  But something evil came to the mesa.  It scared the trees to death.”

The cowboy scoffed, went up alone, and never came back down.

Something so evil it scares trees to death.  Yes, sometimes, that’s what you feel up there.  But only close to the city.  On the side of the mesa, where it’s still wild, you may keep a weather eye out for skinwalkers, and you may feel like a very tiny thing lost in the vastness of the desert, but lean back against the slickrock and absorb the silence and you’re suddenly more at peace than you ever thought you could be. 

Besides, if you’re a geologist, you’d probably like to find that evil thing and thank it profusely for getting rid of all that pesky biology in the way of the rocks.

There’s another place, and another way, to see the rocks round there.  Down by Glen Canyon Dam, you can hop in a raft and run the river.  I never did, but my mother did, and thanks to her, we have some views that only a few people ever see.

My mother, with Glen Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam as her backdrop

I believe that canyon is cut from the older, far more extensive Navajo Sandstone, but you’d be doing me an unkindness by holding me to it.

Still.  Go up on the bridge over the dam.  There’s a walkway for pedestrians, and you can look down down down into a chasm where the Colorado flows, through sandstone walls painted dark with desert varnish.  You’ll get deliciously dizzy, standing there with a vertical drop and vertical walls.  If you’re very lucky, you’ll be there on one of those days when clouds are scudding across the sky, and you can watch sun and shadows play spectacularly artistic games on the ancient stone.  You can watch them release water from Lake Powell, keeping the Colorado flowing and the power generating, and see how wild the river can be.

The Colorado roaring down Glen Canyon

There are some places you have to leave to love.  For me, Page is that place.  All I ever wanted or needed while I lived there was to get the hell away.  Now, I’m older and wiser and miss it quite a lot.  My beautiful, barren, bewildering slickrock country, I’ll come home soon.  Just for a while. 

And I’ll come away with a piece of you, just so I can waggle it at visitors and say, “Ha!  Look at this, bitches – a piece of the type section of the Page Sandstone!”  Because there are few things in this world that a geology buff could love doing more.

Moenkopi

Flagstaff isn’t known as red rock country.  But there’s one place, just a bit to the north, where the world changes in an instant.  Drive past Sunset Crater, and you’ll suddenly leave the black basalts and the towering ponderosa pines; the volcanics abruptly change to sediments, the Painted Desert appears on the horizon, and low, rolling hills broken by bones of rock appear.  At first, everything appears to be a subtle shade of rusty tan, nearly hidden beneath tawny bunch grasses and sage and occasional pinons and junipers.  But you reach Wupatki, and sudden, vivid red-orange rocks leap from the land.

Moenkopi Formation

The low ridges and hills crumble in slabs, broken along bedding planes.  It’s a completely different world from the ones you just left.  In parts of Flagstaff, the Kaibab speaks of shallow tropical seas.  Young volcanics, looking as if they erupted only recently (and, geologically, it happened just a moment ago), speak of fire.  But here, in this place, you’re on a tidal flat.  Rivers ran a lazy course to the western sea; worms burrowed in the mud.  This is the Moenkopi Formation, an expanse of sandstones and shales that remind you that this place, once, was on the edge of the sea.  You’re on a coastal plain in the high desert.  It feels like a different time and place; you can’t believe you drove for only twenty minutes, that the volcano you just left is only a few miles away.  But:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Sunset+Crater+Volcano+National+Monument,+Flagstaff,+AZ&daddr=25137+North+Wupatki+Loop,+Flagstaff,+Arizona+86004+%28Wupatki+National+Monument%29&geocode=Fcm7GwIdOJFa-SHnKuV0cRg0ow%3BFUYMGwIdAf9Z-SHtQm6jqjxIOw&hl=en&mra=iwd&sll=35.347616,-111.518097&sspn=0.642956,1.674042&ie=UTF8&ll=35.34733,-111.54012&spn=0.05198,0.0719&t=h&output=embed
View Larger Map

There it is.

The Sinagua found the Moenkopi a very friendly formation indeed.  It splits off in flat bits absolutely perfect for building a stone mansion.  Enormous blocks of it that hadn’t weathered so conveniently merely got incorporated into the design, forming solid and rather artistic walls:

     
Building Before Bulldozers

I wonder if any of those ancient pueblo peoples wondered.  They could see cross-bedding, where the tides stirred the sediments.  They could see ripple marks and mud cracks.  They probably found fossils when they split larger slabs into smaller.  Did any of them pause and ponder?  I’m certain they admired.  The way they incorporated the monoliths into their walls doesn’t seem merely a matter of necessity, but one of aesthetics.  There are places where they seem proud to show off the attributes of the stone they used to build their big house.

The sedimentary rocks here look out on the upstart young cinder cones with some indulgence. 

Wild weathering and young volcanics

It’s almost as if the Moenkopi knows it will be there long after the cinders have eroded away.  Yes, wind and water wear down those ancient tidal flats and coastal plains, but it started its life as mud and sand.  What does it matter to the Moenkopi that it will become mud and sand again?  Someday, conditions will change, and loose sediments will be compacted into firm stone once again.  Millions of years from now, new pairs of hands may choose out pieces to put into a wall.  It might be darker then, having incorporated basaltic sands.  It might be formed from eolian dunes rather than fluvial processes.  But it will always have the echoes of the coast in it. 

This is one of the finest places in the world to just sit.  Look at the ancient coastal plain lapping up against the baby volcanics.  Sit here where the desert and pine country weave together.  Listen to the wind blow over fantastically eroded rocks.  Absorb the colors: the red and the black and the brave traces of green.  Remember the people who built their stone houses here. 

It’s a fine place to be.

Kaibab

I feel like waxing sentimental about sediments again.  And one word, just one, is all it takes to put me in an altered state:

Kaibab.

Just say it: kye-bab.  Short.  Slightly exotic.  Maybe it doesn’t roll off your tongue.  Maybe it sounds a bit hard, truncated, abrupt.  It’s a Paiute word that means “mountain lying down” or “mountain inside-out.”  It’s a good name, appropriate for a formation from which you can see a mountain that blew itself inside-out.

In a land of black volcanics, red beds, and tan dirt, it’s a dramatic snowy-white in certain light, shading to a pale golden beige.  It was my first experience with the ocean.  It’s astonishingly beautiful.

Promontory of Kaibab Limestone, with ruins in the distance

Here we are, at Lomaki Ruin.  Look at the crumbling Kaibab.  Long, long ago, this area was submerged under a shallow tropical sea.  Two hundred and fifty million years later, Sunset Crater laid down a sea of cinders, which you can see lapping against the promontory.  The limestone shrugged off the young volcanic upstart here.  The Sinauga used it to build their homes, perched on cliffs of it.

Box Canyon Ruin, San Francisco Peaks, and the Box Canyon

You can see its bedding planes here in the canyon walls, with the San Francisco Peaks forming the backdrop.  Fishes swam here once.  Brachiopods, mollusks, sea lilies, and corals went about their lives in shallow warm waters, generations of them.  There was a time when oceanfront property in Arizona wasn’t a joke.  Depending on how you view matters, it still isn’t.  The ancient peoples who lived here probably never knew it, but they had ocean views.

Lomaki Ruins, with the Painted Desert in the distance

Look at that bright line of rock, far in the distance.  That’s the Painted Desert.  You can sit on the Kaibab here and look over ages, laid out in delicate, sweeping colors in the far distance.  That’s the kind of land this is.  Everywhere you turn, there’s a new scene.  And I didn’t know it as a young college student, reading about karst landscapes for the first time, it turned out I’d been living in one all along.  My old house backed onto a forest filled with limestone cliffs.  Just down the road from here is an enormous sinkhole, which we shall visit sometime soon.  The land beneath us is riddled with caverns, and in one utterly magical place, the wind blows from underground.

It was in a shallow pond at the bottom of a Kaibab canyon that I caught my first tadpoles.  The first (and only) time I shot a rifle, I was standing on a ledge of the Kaibab, aiming at a fallen log across that self-same canyon.  Hit it, too, which pissed off the boys I was shooting with – they who couldn’t hit the damned thing to safe their lives.  The shot echoed off the ancient sea walls, and a little puff of dust went up from the log, and the boys gasped and then grumbled, because a girl had just outgunned them.  They got over it.

Later, we’d ride our horses down those blocky limestone walls, finding a sure path down.  Lichen grew in shades of gray-green and brilliant orange and delicate yellow on the old stones.  Sometimes, you’d come across a surface many people had walked over, and it gleamed, polished and smooth and cool to the touch.  We had an old white-and-gray boulder of it in the middle of our yard.  It had defeated my dad, who’d had delusions of neat and tidy landscaping.  When he mowed down the weeds, he’d have to leave a little island around that boulder, which in turns became my own personal mountain to climb or a throne to perch upon, depending on what imagination required that day.  And if you turned over bits of it, you might find a nest of spiders or some really brilliant velvet ants, which would scream a squeaky sound like “help!” if you flipped them gently onto their backs with a stick.  Those were amazing creatures, black with their furry abdomens in bright shades of scarlet or orange.  They stood out like little drops of fire against the serene cream stone.

The Kaibab provided a solid foundation for excellent childhood memories.  And so you can understand why I grinned so widely, coming across a spectacular outcrop of it at the Grand Canyon:

Mi con Kaibab, snapped by my intrepid companion

Beautiful stuff.  And now that I’m older, and while perhaps not wiser but at least more well-read, I can sit upon it, gaze out over the rolling hills toward distant mountains, and dream of wine-dark seas.

How It All Began

Here we are, then: the first in the series of user-generated topics.  Glacial Till writes:

I think a post on your blogging history would be cool. What led you to blogging? Who are your inspirations and such. 

Oh, my.  Let’s see if I can remember back that far…

Got me start on LiveJournal, actually, many years ago, babbling about writing with and for some excellent writerly friends.  Started me own (now-defunct) website after a bit, still writing on writing, but this was the height of the Bush regime and so some political rants crept in as my liberal tendencies were unleashed.  Because friends had forced me to sign up for a MySpace account and because it was easier to blog there, I migrated for a bit – you can still see it here, if you’re that bored.

And those, you might say, are the prequels to ETEV.  So why did this blog start?

Because I couldn’t take it any more.

The rampant political stupidity that made me want to howl from the rooftops.  The rampant IDiots, running about mucking up biology education and making hideous movies like Expelled.  Not to mention all of the other rank stupidity stampeding through the world.  MySpace wasn’t a good platform for the full-throated rants necessary to counter it.

PZ’s the one who inspired me to start this blog, and to celebrate science upon it despite the fact I’m no more than an interested layperson.  This post, right here, is one you should go read right now, because it explains everything this blog became.

Well, nearly.  Getting adopted by the rock stars of geology set ETEV on a whole new course.  Somehow, it had evolved from a foul-mouthed baby blog focused on political stupidity with a smattering of science into something that geobloggers recognized as one of their own, even if I couldn’t see that.  But they inspired me to work me arse off delivering the goods.  And that’s fostered my interest in science, which feeds back into my writing, and ever onward in an endless circle.

This is still very much an amateur effort.  Someday, maybe even sooner than I expect, I’ll make the leap into full-time professional writing.  And I’ll get there because of the bloggers like PZ and Bora who showed me the importance of this medium, and the geobloggers and other science bloggers who showed me that all it takes is hard work and passion to write something worthy of reading.  But they’re only part of the equation.  I’ll get there because of the inspiration provided by my favorite authors and fellow fiction writers/bloggers like Nicole.

I’ll get there because of my readers.  Yes, you – the one sitting there reading this post right now.  Without you, do you think any of this would be possible?  Do you think I’d still be dedicating so much time and effort to these pages, if it wasn’t for you?  Without you, I’d spend that time in front of the teevee, or tucked in bed with an improving book, or practicing karate with the cat, when I wasn’t struggling on alone with a very difficult fiction novel.  And I’d be less of a writer because of it.  Not to mention, I wouldn’t have half the motivation to go out and have adventures and take the very best pictures I can.

So, dear reader, when you ask where my inspiration comes from, the very first thing you should do is go find a mirror.

And now I shall take the opportunity to give a special shout-out to my geoblogging inspirations.  I read more geoblogs than I list here, but these are the folks who, combined, form the star I revolve around.  In no particular order, then:

Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment
Lockwood DeWitt at Outside the Interzone
Glacial Till at Glacial Till
Ron Schott at Geology Home Companion
Brian Romans at Clastic Detritus
Ann Jefferson and Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous
Dan McShane at Reading the Washington Landscape
Wayne Ranney at Earthly Musings
Elli Goeke at Life in Plane Light

I want to mention four bloggers in particular who have provided more support, encouragement, and food for thought over the years than I ever expected.  They’re fantastic bloggers and even more fantastic friends:

Cujo at Slobber and Spittle
George at Decrepit Old Fool
Suzanne at Two Ton Green Blog
Woozle at The Hypertwins Memorial High-Energy Children Supercollider Laboratory and Research Center for the Inhumanities.  Okay, so it’s not technically a blog, but who cares?  Especially with a name like that!

A special shout-out to the man who made me believe in bloggers, and who got me thinking and writing about politics so many years ago: Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly.  Before him, I didn’t really take blogs seriously.  He’s an incredible talent, a wonderful human being, and still the one political blog I turn to when I haven’t got time for more.

And, finally, a very special shout-out to Karen, whose comments have so often given me that much needed prod in the arse necessary to keep me going.  How I wish you’d start a blog!