Template:Terra Talks About Place
Some years from now you are living in a SolSeed village in Central Frontenac Township, Ontario, Canada. It is early on a summer Friday evening. You have spent a long week teaching children, tending to the unfarm, cybernetically participating in the swirling AI which lives in the internet and loving the world. Your mind is racing with all that cultural creativity. You are tired and need to disconnect from the swirling activity and reconnect to the inner calm that you have learned to nurture. You climb the hill to the north of the village. The climb strains your muscles and you feel the endorphins spread across your brain and the burning in your muscles becomes more distant.
The path becomes so steep that you lean forward and reach above and ahead of you to grasp stone and root to aid in your climb. But it never becomes so steep that you are actually rock climbing. Your eyes take in moss and fern, bracken and branch, oak and cedar, root-cracked-rock and detritivore-made-soil and slowly the stress falls away as you feel a gentle awe in the face of this biological creativity.
Your reach a shoulder and rest and look back over the view. The forest is shrouded in mist from the afternoon's rain. The steadily westering sun is playing colours over the mist, oranges and pinks. You breathe in the fresh air and then continue climbing toward the peak.
You approach the peak and come to the stone steps that lead to the final stone plateau at the top. You fully expect to see the giant Gaia statue that your people placed there all those decades ago. What you don't expect to see is two such statues. The second statue looks a lot like Gaia but she is not the same figure. Her body has no greens or blues but instead blacks and greys and sharp gashes of reddish orange which glow like fire. The two statues are sitting beside each other, their heads leaning together, their arms around each other's back, their eyes closed, and peaceful smiles upon their lips. In the lowering sun, their shadows reach almost to the edge of the stone plateau at the top of hill.
The two of them open their eyes and gaze upon you. Gaia's eyes are a watery blue green. But this other Goddess's eyes glow red hot. You start and almost tumble backward back down the steps before you catch yourself. It takes you a second to realize that this second woman is Terra.
"Gaia?" you ask, "When did Terra come here?"
Gaia laughs, "Little one, Terra has always been here. In fact, here is Terra."
You laugh a little embarrassed at your foolish question. In order to move away from it you ask another, "Terra, could you tell me the history of this place from the beginning of time?"
Terra laughs and her flames dance in her mouth. "This place has not history at the beginning of time. Place is one of your digital concepts that you force on the universe despite the quasi-analogue nature of the universe at large scales. This place, these hills are young features. I am a young world, barely 4600 million years old. Nothing about this place pre-exists the collision that formed the Moon. But even, a long time after that, this place has no traceable existence. This place is much newer than me."
"But," you ask," have you grown in size since you came into being. How else could you have new places added to your surface?"
"No, I am pretty much the same size I was when I was born. But if this is a place, it is a place on one of my plates. My plates have been drifting around my surface for almost my entire existence. But there has always been plates completely covering my surface. So as they drift there is no place for them to go but over and under each other. When one plate is driven down it melts into the mantle and is destroyed, while where two plates move apart, new material from the mantle rises up and forms new plate. Slowly my entire skin is renewed by this process of subduction and extrusion."
"At every time-scale, the permanence of the next shorter scale becomes the effervescence of the next longer scale." you recite, "But surely, this place can be defined in terms of latitude and longitude."
"Over these time scales," Terra shakes her head, "My axis wobbles about; on those kinds of time scales latitude and longitude have no meaning."
"Then when can this place, this hill, be said to have come into existence?" you ask, frustrated that there can be no simple answer to your questions.
Gaia laughs and jokes, "Give it a few more seconds and it will have completed its coming into existence for you."
Terra laughs at her lover's joke and then speaks to you again, her face has become more frightening as the setting sun bathes it in sharp shadows and strange colours of fuchsia and purple, "It depends what you mean by this place. There are rocks deep down that are old. But they have been buried and stretched and folded and twisted and half melted and invaded by molten rock from deeper down still so that their relationship to any kind of "place" that has meaning to you is tenuous." Terra slaps the rock under her with one grey hand, "This is marble; it formed in a shallow sea some 1200 million years ago. Calcium carbonate precipitating out of evaporating water before any animal learned to use the process to form shells or teeth or bones. But it is marble not limestone. It had a long history as limestone before it even became marble, let alone the marble it is today. When it was limestone it was flat, not the hill you see today.
"By perhaps 1100 million years ago it was in the process of becoming marble. It had been buried below layers of younger limestone and the pressure was changing it. But then another plate was passing under this one. The plate melted and molten rock from that melt rose on its heat and melted its way into the marble forming huge underground balls of hot basalt that took thousands of years to cool. The heat from those balls of cooling new rock baked the young marble changing it further so that it became less like limestone. But it was deeply buried layers of rock, not the hill you see today."
As Terra speaks the sun is setting, the shadows are spreading over her face, so that the glowing cracks in her skin stand out more strongly, "About a 1000 million years ago another continent on the plate that was subducting below us, crashed into this one. Continents don't subduct well because they are made of lighter rock, with less iron in it. Both continents want to float above the mantle. Usually only relatively young oceanic basalts with their heavy loads of iron subduct below another plate. Two continents that crash into one another instead fold and fault and pile one on the other to form a jumbled up pile of sharp rock, mountains formed. In this folding and piling of rock some of the marble was pushed down into the bottom of the pile, the weight of the pile pushed it down into the mantle where it melted and was no more. Other parts were piled high above our heads into one of the greatest mountain ranges that I have ever been. Many places became one place and each place that was part of the coming together became many parts of the new place. This marble we are sitting on was buried deep in that pile at the root of a mountain. The weight of the mountain changed it again. It became less like limestone.
"Some of the rock pushed down into the mantle and melted, separated. Lighter minerals with less iron in them bubbled upward while heavier minerals with more iron in them sank deeper into the mantle. By about 900 million years ago some of that melted rock filtered up through cracks in the rock, melting the cracks and making them wider, forming tubes and veins. Look closely at the marble and you will see these hard felsic sills and dykes crisscrossing the marble. Still deeply buried the marble changed again by the heat lost more of its sedimentary limestone character."
Darkness has closed in, the stars are coming out, but the glowing eyes and cracks and flaming mouth of Terra is all that you can see of the two Goddesses, "Slowly over the aeons, the mountain above this rock wore down, by wind and sun and running water and earth quakes shaking down rocks. Several times over the years, another small continent or island crashed into the side of this one from the direction of the Atlantic and the mountains were rebuilt or new mountains were built further East. These rocks, still deeply buried were pushed so far down and the mountain was worn so low that seas formed above us and new limestone was laid down above us. This was maybe 300 million years ago and the seas had fish swimming in them. Gaia was growing into the woman you know today. But this place was not yet this place. It was buried below another place that was much different.
"The seas drained away as the water that made them reformed glaciers at the poles. Erosion continued and all the limestone that had formed above this rock was worn away. This rock got very close to the surface and even as more cycles of melting and rising seas and cooling and falling seas passed, no truly thick layers of rock ever formed over this rock again. Then particularly huge glaciers formed, not just in the north but they slid south threatening to cover the world in a snow ball. As the glaciers slid over this area they wore the rock down and smoothed it forming the hill you see today. Now it was this place perhaps. But it was still very different. The swamp over which the sun just set was not there. Deep below it the ice was grinding bare rock smooth. High above this hill ice was sliding by.
Slowly your eyes are adjusting to the dark and you can make out Gaia sitting and listening to her lover by the glow of her lover's flaming mouth, "But 12000 years ago the glaciers melted and the water from their melt formed a large inland fresh water sea called the Champlain sea by your geologists. The sea was held back by the shape of the land and a large ice damn to the north east. When the damn melted enough that it could no longer hold the sea the sea suddenly burst forth and washed down the St Laurence valley shaping that valley. This hill emerged wet and glistening in the sun. The sea had deposited soils in the deepest hollows including the swamp to the north of us. And so perhaps this place was born on that day. But it wasn't the forest you know today. That took millennia to form as the trees grew.
The Moon rises behind in the East and suddenly bathes the scene in a cold white light. Terra continues, "This place as this address on the highway that your people cut through my rocky hills, is only decades old. At every time scale, this place has to be defined more vaguely than the shorter timescale within it but can be defined more precisely than the longer timescale it is within. There are no edges in the real world, only gradients between not being and being."
Gaia speaks, "Use the light of the Moon to return to your village now, Little One. Dream of about place. Let the concept of place as effervescent sink in."
You return back down the mountain to sleep through Sabbath night while visions of Terra and Gaia dance in your mind.