I'm terrible at remembering anniversaries and worse at communication, so this post commemorating an important anniversary is a day late. Lockwood reminded me that yesterday marked our fourth year since meeting in person. Happy anniversary!
I can easily say that if not for Lockwood, I'd not be here talking geology to you. It takes a geology community to propel an unknown amateur from total obscurity to blogging on the Scientific American network. I owe more people than I can reasonably call out to on one post, and I know I'll miss some critical ones, but here's the brief list:
Ron Schott and Silver Fox were, I believe, among the first to discover this neophyte, potty-mouthed political blogger who'd started writing about geology on the side, and claimed me as a geoblogger. After that, there was really nothing for it. Had to geoblog!
Anne Jefferson and Chris Rowan, two of the first geobloggers I'd ever read, held my hand, gave me encouragement, and told people to take a chance on me.
Evelyn Mervine has been my cheering section, field companion, and inspiration since nearly the beginning.
They are just some of the many people in the geoblogosphere who mentored me, taught me, and kept me fascinated with earth science, including aspects I'd never considered interesting before. I owe them all the success!
But due to accidents of geography and circumstance, it's Lockwood who became my most important geology teacher. He's only a state away. He had time and the impulse to teach. He saw an absorbent brain and poured his knowledge into it, even when it leaked. A good proportion of what I'm able to do in geology is thanks to him, not only due to his personal instruction, but because he's one of the hubs the geoblogosphere revolves around, and so through him I get the opportunity to meet and follow around people I otherwise may have never had the chance to encounter. And all of that may never have happened if a local business hadn't thrown out some leftover bits of countertop.
We'd interacted on Twitter a bit, prior to that September day, but we hadn't made solid plans to meet in real life. Then Lockwood mentioned a nearby restaurant had remodeled, and he had some pieces of gabbro they'd thrown out. Anybody who would come fetch them or pay the shipping was welcome to them. Well, wave a shiny rock at me and see what happens! Of course I'd come get them. And we'd go looking at some Oregon geology while we were at it.
Alas, I managed to take a curve on a wet road much too fast and murdered my beloved Nissan Sentra on the way down*, but my awesome and amazing friend Suzanne rescued us. My incredibly understanding insurance company got us into a rental and back on our way. So my friend Cujo and I ended up in Corvallis after all, and got our gabbro, and saw some jaw-dropping geology. I'd barely known turbidity currents were a thing, and here I was staring at massive cliffs formed from them. I saw the most outrageously beautiful outcrop of pillow basalts I'd ever encountered in my life, and got to know zeolites.
There were sand dunes, and basalt headlands, and marine terrace deposits, and fossils, and a chute eroded from a fault that I will never, ever forget for the tide pools and the cannon-like boom as air driven by the waves slammed into the end with the oncoming tide.
I spent most of that day and a half drooling like a fool. I wasn't just salivating over all that magnificent geology, but standing with my mouth open and not a useful thought in my head as Lockwood tried to ask me questions about what we were seeing. He's not enamored of just telling you stuff, he wants you to grasp it, and be able to figure things out based on clues he's giving you. Being brand-new to geology outside of a few popular science books and blog posts, not to mention having totaled an automobile for the first (and hopefully only) time in my life, I was in prime condition to herp and derp and just generally not get a damned thing. But as the time wound on, and we saw more, some things started to click. And somehow, I left Lockwood with the impression I wasn't a lost cause.
There were other trips, and he says I became his padawan. Which, considering what a geology Jedi knight he is, was a huge compliment, and warmed my geeky heart clear through.
Because of that trip, I tripled-down on geology. I took it seriously. It wasn't a hobby anymore: it was a calling. I was utterly desperate to understand how the earth worked. I stopped relying on pop-sci books and dug into the scientific literature. I followed Lockwood and others all over Washington and Oregon, pounding on rocks with them, listening to them explain, following their clues. With more knowledge and confidence, I didn't stutter-freeze when they put me on the spot and expected me to figure things out. I didn't always get it right, but I wasn't always wrong, either. And sometimes, I'd spot things they hadn't noticed yet. They'd trained my eyes to see with their special earth-discerning vision. So what if it wasn't even close to 20/20 yet? It was awesome!
And I want more.
Here's to many more anniversaries with Lockwood, and my other geoblogosphere companions. And here's to paying it forward to the next batch of overwhelmed amateurs who need a guide, a teacher, a geologic Jedi master. Here's to the future. Here's to the teachers and the students. Here's to you, and here's to Earth - and beyond.
*Important factoid about Oregon Coast Range roads: just because they look dry doesn't mean they are. Drive carefully! Also, the airbags in a Sentra are worth more than the car to replace, but they do a bonza job of ensuring you can continue enjoying a vacation with only a minor interruption if you screw up.