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WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--




I have lately become unsettled by road cuts.


We have lots of them here in northern New England, spots where workers building a road dynamited through a hill, so the road could run straight and level, leaving a rock cliff on either side.


I have the same unsettled reaction to cliffs in general.


On top lies a few inches of soil, where grasses grow, and trees. Below that, it's granite or basalt or limestone—rock—down to the molten core.


What unsettles me is the thinness of that topside soil fringe. We see our world as blue and green, but in reality—except for that thin living layer—we live on stone.


I realize our New England soil is especially skimpy. I've seen spots in the Midwest where the soil goes down feet, instead of just inches. Even so, underneath, it's rock, all the way down.


Road cuts unsettle me because they force us to see life's fragility. Given a nudge, some kink in the climate, say, or a whack from a large asteroid, and our world of water and chlorophyll could so easily become what it's built upon.


If that top fringe goes, we might as well live on Mars, or some moon of Jupiter.



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