Reflection: Beach Pebbles

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‘What compels us to walk along the beach, our gaze fixed upon the sand?  We can’t resist the smooth, surf-polished stones that have been tossed this way and that by the waves.  Their intriguingly varied colors, patterns, and shapes draw us to the hunt, and soon our hands and pockets are full.  Something about beach stones is comforting.   They don’t age, die, or fade away.  We perceive them as paragons of permanence and immutability.

But in fact the timelessness of stones is merely an illusion born of our own fleeting presence on Earth.  Their features are a testament to impermanence, a witness to change.  Every spot, stripe, fault, and fold that tempts us to pick up a pebble holds a garment of Earth’s four-and-a-half billion-year history.

A beach is a strip of loose material at the water’s edge, a collection of sand and stones assembled, disassembled, and reassembled by the sea.  On the geology time scale, its ephemeral.  And for most stones, the beach is just the latest stop on a journey that began eons ago…’

~ Iselin, J. & M.W. Carruthers 2006. Beach stones. Abrams, New York.

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Book cover image

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