While my granddaughter was running through the sprinkler yesterday, a juvenile robin balanced on the wire above the kiddie pool waiting for his mama bird to deliver something to eat. Every once in a while he would let out a squeak of attention to note his location.
Adjacent to the lawn is a pathway leading down to a woodland area where our family has been digging up ivy and planting native trees. On my way down the path this afternoon, the little robin was laying on his side. He was gone and recently so. His feathers were perfectly smooth on his speckled breast. I gently picked him up and moved him to a side corner of the pathway and then sat down nearby.
I’m familiar with the tweets of robins, especially, their warning chirps, which are strong steady beacons that warn of danger nearby. What I heard in the forest was a quieter version of that warning sound but still steady. A robin flew on a log just a short distance to where I placed the little one. The robin continued her vigil with her mournful single note, flying over her baby from one side to the other.
I stayed there for a while and hummed a song for her,
Sorry mama robin, you did your best.
Soon it will be time to rest
For the sun is setting in the west
Maybe tomorrow, you’ll make a nest.
I left then returned hours later and could still hear the robin in the woods.
When I saw the wonder in Alex’s eyes as she gazed at the floating jellyfish, I missed something, that only revealed itself on looking at the photograph: the luminescence in the jellyfish and also captured in the hair ribbon.
Life is a beautiful, magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish. Charlie Chaplin
Across the American landscape, the tire swing stands as the ultimate repurpose. No longer able to withstand the rigors of road raging, the still very sturdy but flexible sphere becomes a vehicle of movement again, but this time in the gentle sway of back and forth from ground to sky to the laughter of children. Here’s the swing, twice.
Dinan, France, a well preserved, walled medieval town, with ramparts, towers and a castle resembles a storybook village, full of half-timbered buildings, some dating as far back to the 13th century. We came upon his café along one of the hilly cobblestone avenues, offering an invitation to come in and sit awhile.
The Island of Skye, off the Western coast of Scotland, had an otherworldly spirit, became even more so upon discovering the Faerie Glen, just east of the town of Uig. We passed through the gate, hidden from the main road, and followed a single-track car path through conical-shaped hillocks. Sheep dotted the landscape, their soft baaing breaking the silence of the hillsides. Further down the way, a narrow stream flowed into a pond where dancing sounds of water trickled through the deep green. Ferns and foxglove covered the lower elevations, and higher up deep ridges encircled the mounds. We peeked behind rocks and into crevices created by gnarled tree roots.
The first day of October brought me back to ride the rails again of the Wilmington and Western Railroad. On several occasions, I have boarded the train, pulled by the magnificent steam locomotive, the American 98, black, formidable and puffing grey steam out from its chimney. The train followed the Red Clay Creek, a mostly shallow winding stream through woodlands and fields. I photographed several Civil War reenactments along the creek. Now I looked forward to returning for another journey through the Delaware countryside, this time on a geological expedition.
This would be my first outing with the Delaware Mineralogical Society, joining folks who know a great deal of information about rocks, of which I have almost no knowledge, although I have always picked up a souvenir rock during my travels.
I have an affinity with rocks. Now I was about to get some education on the subject.
Building a Railroad through the Rocks
In 1872 the Wilmington & Western Railroad began service to bring goods and passengers among the mills along the creek. Building the line had many challenges including cutting through significant rock outcroppings. According to an article in the Delaware Public Media,
They didn’t really understand geology back then, and Delaware’s got a lot of rock and it’s the foothills of the Appalachians. So their construction costs skyrocketed. Robert Elwood
Not knowing about rocks can cost money!
Robert authored Special 50th Anniversary Historic Timeline: the Wilmington & Western’s Half-Century of Operation and reported that “two massive rock outcrops would require extensive black powder blasting to cut through.” p. 3. One outcropping at Cuba Hill consisted of blue granite; at Wooddale, the rock was more massive but softer. A powder keg exploded at Wooddale, and three workers died as a result. Even opening a powder keg with a sharp tool could cause a barrel to explode. The names of these workers seem to be lost to history, but their involuntary sacrifice noted in Robert’s timeline.
Subduction Leads to Orogeny . . . Really?
Delaware Geologic Survey scientist William “Sandy” Schenck, presented an introductory lesson to the geologic history of the land beneath our feet. The process is best described in this quote from the Geological History of the Delaware Piedmont,
It is surprising to find that although the Delaware Piedmont has passed through the whole series of tectonic events that formed the Appalachians, the mineralogy and structures preserved in Delaware were formed by the early event that occurred between 470 and 440 million years ago, called the Taconic orogeny. This event was triggered by the formation of a subduction zone off the coast of the ancient North American continent that slid oceanic crust on the ancient North American plate beneath oceanic crust on the overriding plate, produced magma, and fueled an arc-shaped chain of volcanoes.
The expression does make a quirky bumper sticker, if you’re into geological humor.
We boarded the 1929 railcar, “The Paul Revere,” to view and understand the rock landscape as it exists now.
If you like the sound of the train, here’s a video as we left the station.
Southeast of Greenbank Station
At our first stop, Sandy pointed out the metamorphosed igneous rocks jutting out along the track. We could see the fractures cause by expansion that crisscrossed along the formation. The third photograph in this series is a close up of the “bright eyes” feldspar surrounding black grains of magnetite, formed by the two tectonic plates colliding.
Studying the Cliffs
The Paul Revere headed back through the Greenback Station, letting us off at several different locations, allowing us to walk through the cliffs on either side of the tracks. It was amazing to imagine the labor necessary in 1870 to carve out a narrow space for the train to pass through what looked like impenetrable rocks. These metamorphosed rocks were originally sedimentary, now layered and jagged.
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Piedmont Prospectors Pan for Garnets
Part of the fun of rock collecting is panning for something, in this case garnets. Garnets are commonly a reddish-brown colored silicate mineral, which can be polished into a red gemstone. Prospectors can find garnets in stream-worn pebbles, as they are often found at the earth’s surface. Garnet often forms at convergent plate boundaries, a gift from the collision of the Appalachian Piedmont and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The prospector uses a pan to wash away the sand, leaving magnetite, which can be pulled out with a magnet, and the garnet crystals. Prospectors enjoyed the hunt for these little treasures. A woodland creek is a wonder in itself, creating the soothing sounds of rippling water over the rocks.
Garnet in the rough. Photo credit, Jeff Chalfant
A Stepping Stone into the Past
Rocks hold the historical record of the earth. The lowly stones we step over have a history and tell us about earlier environments on our planet. Reading the rocks could uncover how humans used the rocks or dealt with destroying them. The next time I ride the Paul Revere, I’ll recall the history of two plates colliding and the story that the rocks tell us on the hillside landscapes of the Red Creek Valley.
Many thanks to the Delaware Mineralogical Society for arranging the trip and Sandy Schenck for sharing his expertise.