Saturday, 21 August 2010


Standing about on some granite earlier, I was wondering just what kind of an effect a rock has on a person. I spent hours in Norway in the pursuit of that famous pastime, 'Norwegian-Rock-Based-Sea-Gazing' and the habit hasn't worn off yet. So I wondered, you know how some people look like their dogs? Well, maybe some people look and even feel like their rocks. Ah ha...a new game... spot a person's place of origin with the help of a geological map.

Take Aberdeen, otherwise known as the Granite City. If you happen to be born there, does it mean you are grey, or pink, very hard but likely to glitter in the sun? If you live on the slopes of Castle Hill in Edinburgh, perhaps you were once prone to volcanic explosion, but, having attended anger management classes, you've settled down now. If you were brought up in a Glaswegian sandstone tenement, do you have a softer side, and are your pores prone to weather-induced erosion? If you are from Tyndrum, might you have a heart of gold? With Skye often referred to as 'Dinosaur Island' due to the seven species of dinosaur that have been found there, do you feel like something out of 'Jurassic Park'? And what of all those people in the Outer Hebrides who live on top of the Lewisian Gneiss...we know they are all very, very nice indeed but do they feel like the oldest people in the world?

I know I'm starting to hallucinate, but there is a mind-bending side to geology that can take the imagination into the realms of lurid fantasy. Take those people who live in the Outer Hebrides like Lewis and Harris, North and South Uist etc. Their 'Lewisian Gneiss' is reckoned to be one of the oldest rocks on the planet, a shattering 2,800,000,000 years...that's almost 3 thousand million years'd need to be a Time Lord to comprehend what that means. But the truly splendid thing about Lewisian Gneiss is that they've got it in North America too. So, if you're in Stornoway and feel a sudden, haunting, telepathic connection with someone in North East Labrador, don't be surprised. You're just in tune with the planet.

We're talking 'plate movement'. Even now, the land on the Earth's surface is constantly on the move. Rocks speak you know, and what they say is that at one time, Canada, Greenland and Scotland were all part of the same geological plate...we were physically attached. We were also situated south of the Equator, so we were 'hot', which would account for all the desert sandstone that crops up around Scotland. However, even now we're on the move, shifting further and further away from the same speed as my toenails grow (fashionista that I am, I painted them as part of a scientific experiment ....any motion is disappointingly invisible to the human eye, but it is none-the-less interesting to observe that some parts of me are still growing, even if it is just in an outward direction).

The other equally startling (and some would say ironic) fact about plates is this...Scotland was completely separate from England. The two were divided by the Iapetus Ocean, with Scandinavia off to the side somewhere. About 400 million years ago, the Iapetus Ocean decided to close...just like that... so Scotland and England crashed together (creating some rather splendid mountains - The Southern Uplands - in the process) and we've been stuck with each other ever since.

Rocks just can't help but influence us simply because their structure dictates what happens on top of them. We might mine them, quarry, drill, grind, farm on them, sculpt and build with them or just use them for outdoor leisure and entertainment. We're lucky in Scotland in that we have a cracking selection of rocks from all the geological periods...excellent news for anoraks and other likeable nerds. So, whether you're standing on something Sedimentary (Jurassic, Permo-triassic, Carboniferous, Devonian, Silurian, Ordovician or Cambrian), Igneous (Intrusive or Volcanic) or Metamorphic (Dalradian or Lewisian), I hope it's showing you a good time.

Next time, no more rocks, promise...but for now, having gained permission from a well-connected acquaintance of mine to use the following lines, I leave you with the thoughts of poet Hugh MacDiarmid.

'We must be humble. We are so easily baffled by appearances
And do not realize that these stones are one with the stars.
It makes no difference to them whether they are high or low,
Mountain peak or ocean floor, palace, or pigsty.
There are plenty of ruined buildings in the world but no ruined stones.
No visitor comes from the stars
But is the same as they are. '


  1. This reminded me of:
    'The atoms which constitute our body may in their past be in a volcano, in rocks, in the oceans, in the atmosphere, in an oak tree, in an eagle, and in other people both past and present. What has changed over the eons is the combination the atoms have made with each other, not the atoms themselves.'
    (Peter Russell The Awakening Earth)
    'Our roots go deep, we are anchored in the stars'
    (Larry Dossey: Space, Time and Medicine)
    Beatiful Poem!

  2. I love this post too and have linked you on my blog for tomorrow. Hope that is OK. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Cath, lovely quotes, and v thought-provoking, thank you for those.
    Freda, v nice of you, tusen takk!