Michigan
 

 

 

How can we compare four day to a million years?

It could be measured within the different scales of life. Even if seconds tick like years, life has its measurement is some way. The land of the desertís past is aged with the flow of its current rivers. Like a heart beat to a human, the river carves the life beat out of stone and earth.

It took four days to float from bridge to bridge on the John Day River. The only development was natureís creation of the crags, crevices, valleys, boulders, bends, and curves. The carved canyon walls edges look like they stretch for 1000ft upward. There are no human structures for seventy miles. The air blew warm and the water even warmer, sheets of sagebrush blanketed the surrounding hills. Bass swam in the corners and eddies of the river. The sun rays were heavy and lit up spectacular view of the surrounding high cliffs with reds browns and yellows. And the most peculiar of insects burrowed circular holes in the sand to trap other bugs.

The John Day River flows north 281 miles linking into the Columbia. Itís only raft able in April, May or June. At one point of geological time Eastern Oregon was a lush thriving forest. It had a mild and wet climate that grew conifers, maples and supported forested ecosystems. Tortoises and three-toed horses lived in the area. At a time before that, the land was under water and the Cascade Mountains werenít yet born. Shells can be found in the ground. During the time when Eastern Oregon was a forested area a series of volcanic events occurred. Million of years ago, eruptions of lava blanketed and engulfed the forest and animals rapid and violently. Today, layers of fossils entombed in rock are found through out the John Day fossil beds signifying these volcanic events. I wonder what the Paiute though of the fossilized big leaf maples? Obvious the terrain is quite different to produce such a tree. The fossils are ancient photographs through out canyon layers.

We packed up personal Sevlor rafts with camping gear, beer and food. Jason, Laura my brother Jacob and I learned to live on the river during these four days. The languid drift of the river etched a period of tranquility into our lives and memories. The volcanic events that covered the earth with basalt layers in the life of the river, where like four days in our life in the desert. We floated along as the canyon walls stacked layers of columnar joints spaced 10ís of millions of years apart in time.

Timing of our trip had to be about perfect. The river sauntered along its path drifting us past watering holes and shallow ripples leading to shoots of rapids. The heat wasnít too extraterrestrial and plenty of sunshine prevailed. The sounds of trickling water soothed our tempers and pace. "Did you guys go over the Clarno Rapids?" asked the river ranger from the side bank, "You guys are nuts." The ranger takes the opportunity to photo our drift as he shakes his head to see inflatable kayaks used as water craft. The ranger knew every bend and heel of the water course and has written several guidebooks about rafting the John Day. Maybe we will make it in his book under the chapter; This is Not for the Feeble. My personal impression was that the other rafters we encountered were more nuts. The crap some of these parties brought, oh my! Propane tanks, table and chairs coolers full of cans with full size pop-up tents. I wondered if the other rafters either idolized Lewis and Clarkís adventures or are they just plain Americans with too much junk.

The desert usually gives the impression of expanding indefinitely. A distance looks virtually close until you start walking toward an object and it forever looms. This type of land yields a greater size scale compared to our normal perception of space. Itís fascinating to learn about the physics within different size realms. Quantum mechanics is derived from the humanís view of theoretical and experimental physics of the atomic and subatomic level. Sir Isaac Newton first described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. The physics associated with Newtonís laws, humanís can understand by physical movement, touch, feeling and intuitive sense. Newton also wrote a whole new language of mathematical calculus. Interactions of the greatly huge and expansive universe are explained to humans from Albert Einsteinís Theories of Relativity which are erratically intuitive. Yet these laws and theories canít apply equations to the otherís applications, therefore a cohesive model is lacking.

One of the biggest questions that ponder astronomists is whether the universe has an end or not. Is it infinite? Does it have some barrier or border? What I wonder about is the limitations of size. Does small reach infinitely small, will there will always be something smaller than what in relative to you? And what is beyond that? Does infinitely big just keep expanding as well? Or is a total size of the universe quantitative and therefore, nothing beyond. Maybe the universe is like a circle as the earth represents. In this case the ends can connect at both sides and form a big loop. If this were to be true, history can be written with a video game company first documenting that the edges of the universe connect to each other. This recorded theory would be from the creation of the Atari game Asteroids.

There has to be some quirky relationships between size and time. If you are bigger your perception of smaller objects portray the the object to be traveling at a slower rate. This perception has to be relative, viewed only from the eyes of the gigantic object. For instance, say if you are gigantic all other people would move slower relative to how fast you could move. Letís say you were tiny like an ant, now the bigger objects are moving much faster and covering more ground than the time it would take you to. If there were no limit to size, then becoming infinitely big would at some point pretty much render the infinite small as not moving at all.  Not completely stagnant of course, maybe something very close to absolute zero.

What if we really big and could look through the relative eyes of a small object? Now the small object would seem to be moving incredibly fast. Smaller size things would seem to be traveling much faster. For instance humans looking at a molecule at a moleculeís size view would see the molecule moving incredibly fast. Humans see the planets at a planets view moving slowly. The time of scale of this smaller object is set at a lot faster pace. If you were to shrink down to the size of an atom, your time would speed up greatly.

So why then, depending on size, would any thing or animals Ďtimeí be any more important than anotherís? The amount of time in a certain size is only convenient to that size. As if humanís time were worth more than ants, yet ants may just live an average of seventy years on their own time. Can then humans look down upon ants piously? Ants also build empires which crumble just the same. It didn't take that long for Babylon to become ruins. Intuitively, planets and the universe for that matter have a much longer life span compared to the size of a humanís. What a truculent universe we are apart of that very well may, expanded or contract to infinity.  Find the ends would be like a dog chasing it's own tail around and around.

The desert installs a peaceful relaxation in me when I think about how old it is.  As we ended our river trip packed our boats and drove back to Portland I felt extremely calm and mellow. The wisdom of the desert has something to do with it? I came to a realization that the city is just a infant compared to the old desert winds. Driving off of I-84, the busy city life instantly exploded with a jostle for a person's personal time, aggression, movement, laughter and anxiety about not being somewhere one should be. Portland will have to disappear at some point and the desert sands of the John Day River will still blow when it does. After this river trip, it made me think that people get to frantic about their days, while clueless about the grand time scale of the universe. The John Day River made me feel real sublime about life, and interested on how much a day means to a human's life. Let's see, 70 yrs (average human life) = 25,550 days. 10 million years (the youngest layer of rock) = 3,650,000,000 days. Is that why we feel a need to rush, when truthfully would it not really matter? Will it start to be more about the way things happen. The next few weeks after our trip to the John Day, I sunk into a melancholy content of life and checked my speed to match the river's. Then I got honked at and flipped off by some busy ants. 

 

 

 

   
     
 

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