The Marks We Leave

In keeping with this year’s trend of hot weather and no rain, October in our neck of the woods is, well, hot and dry. The lawn has the consistency of shredded wheat, and a pair of Eurasian magpies has been busily digging it up for insects. I’m still watering plants to help them stay alive long enough to go into their winter sleep. At some point, the heat will break, and my guess is that we will segue right into frost and freezing nights. Again, not great for the plants, trees, birds, animals, or humans. We all need our regular cycles.

Autumn in the Jura mountains
Jura mountains in autumn.
Photo: PKR

I was out on a run – one of the most confusing aspects of this prolonged summer is how delicious the air is, how ideal for being outdoors – anyway, I was out on a run and trying to put aside my concerns and worries about the changing climate, when I came upon this little historical reminder on the running path.

Ammonite fossil on the running track.
Photo: PKR

We live at the foot of the Jura mountains, an area of once shallow seas that changed, epoch to epoch, into layers of sediment, of animal and plant remains, of rock, into the mountains we now have behind our house. The dirt path I run on is an agricultural road, and in the dry dust, there were countless footprints from the runners, walkers, dogs, and horses.

And among them, this little ammonite fossil. At least, I think it was from an ammonite. It’s an imprint fossil, which means at some point, this rock was soft material that held an ammonite (or other ancient marine creature), formed around its impression, and then hardened into stone.

A variety of ammonite forms, from Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature).
Source: Wikipedia

If, by some extremely unlikely chance, this path were to stay dry and then be buried under silt in exactly its current configuration, all the current footprints (including mine) would perhaps turn to stone, still surrounding the even older marine fossil. We are all just passing through. If we’re lucky, we leave a lasting mark.

In a strange way, I found this comforting.