I have been reading….

I have been reading about all sorts of things: books on paleosols, the interpretation of coprolite fossils, root-traces, limestones, ash dating, the magnetic properties of shales. One topic leads me to reference the index of another book, drilling down and down into the materials.   Once, I’ve learned, there was a relative of the beaver with a special knack for digging corkscrew-shaped burrows, instead of building lodges.  Palaeocastor – whose fossilized burrows are found today just south of the Badlands, exposed in the Arikareean deposits of Western Nebraska.  What a beautiful image!  Locals, not knowing what these formations were, called them the Devil’s corkscrews.   I am left pondering the words of Walt Whitman, whose poems I loved, but who advised: “You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness – ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things.” Is this true, Walt?  Really?   The world fascinates me, in both minutia and grandiosity.  The more I learn, the more beautiful it becomes.  No mundane burrow or scientific description seems unlovely. How could you be right, Walt Whitman?  And yet you were right about so much.

Palaeocastor Burrow

Palaeocastor Burrow

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