Usually when we think of something as weathered, we see it as being old, worn out, a relic of some past greatness. Maybe, in some ways, this is true, but if you look at the natural world, weathering is a simple another process that connects many aspects of the world. It’s one more process or piece of the earth system. The picture above I took while traveling across the country. I was heading from Virginia to Oregon. I did this for many reasons: an old friend was there, I was going to talk to a professor about a research project, and I just needed to clear my head from life’s small difficulties. I was deep in graduate work and the stress was building. I had made an ill-advised attempt at romance as well. So, I was mentally weathered as well and looking to bleed out my frustration. Driving across that country was that remedy.
The picture was taken from a rest stop in the mountains of Utah. The rugged, carved layers of rock you see are undergoing physical weathering eroded by the high winds that blow through the dry region. You can also see bands of broken debris and even sand or dirt, where the eroded material is deposited. Here the ground is soft and has enough nutrients and water for the small shrubbery to grow there. Over time the root systems of these shrubs dig into the cracks in the rock and further weather the mountain by breaking the rock into soil. They are carving a home for themselves right into the rock. Over time, more plants and animals will begin to call the place home as the mountain is weathered.
Who knows what this place could look like many millions of years from now. The mountains and shrubs will change. The landscape could be vastly different all because of natural weathering processes. The identity of the entire landscape could be altered. Clues will be left behind in the strata of its geological history, but some of it could also be washed away and eroded by climatic changes or suddenly. The point is through all of this changing, these weathering processes, the land doesn’t look back. It can only move forward bound to the relentless forward pace of time.
I am also a time traveler and also bound to only one direction: forward. Time weathers us all, but it is an inevitable process and the desire to fight this process is not worth the pain of your assured failure. In some ways, the influences here are different. The mountain is weathered through natural external forces, while I typically feel mentally weathered due to some connection my mind has with an old memory or a past event, using those moments to define me. Time and age make me feel less weathered than when my mind is filled with perceived failures, past and future. I cannot define myself by a series of past moments and attempt to predict the moments ahead of me. Change doesn’t, thankfully, always bend to my ill-informed will. It just changes. So, I will flow with it. After all, we are but a series of moments connected together by neurons in the brain to make some semblance of a whole. The whole, the self, may even be an illusion, a way for the mind to interpolate a series of events as a linear life to make sense of the complexity. While this may not give many great comfort, it does work for me. So, when I look at something weathered, I see a sense of the fading past, the present, and the possible future. Something new always seems to rise out of the rubble of a mountain. That is a wonder of this world and our short lives.