Wind, Stones, Time

Southern California continues to receive comparatively little rain from the storms that have brought snow and rain to areas to the north, but as January fliDSCF7110pped to February, we experienced powerful winds up to 50 mph in Long Beach.  Serious damage in the LA basin included downed power lines and many trees falling on cars and even a pedestrian.  In its humble way, the Petriverse serves as a weather barometer.  Pierre Jardin is always curious to see what stone stacks stand strong under different conditions.  It was no surprise that the gusting winds toppled several cairns, but it was rather mysterious to find that the one pictured here survived intact.  The stone on top is light; it has a small hole in the bottom that allows it to rest on the rounded top of the stone below.  Given how many heavier, less precariously balanced rocks succumbed to the storm–not to mention a shrub torn out and being turned into a tumbleweed–it must be that the this stone was aligned almost perfectly with the wind direction, which blew left to right along the top stone.   And so, if one looks at it as a bellwether, the Petriverse can be used to register rainfall and wind strength and direction.

Pierre Jardin sees in stone stacks an intersection between the ephemeral and the geological, between human daily lived time and the deep tectonic time of the earth.  Stone stacks, like us mere mortals, stay upright for an uncertain amount of time, minuscule in comparison to geologic ages.  The powerful winds issue from global weather patterns, and so their effects on the garden also mark an intersection between planetary processes and the local lived time of this specific environment.

The coverage El Nino receives on a daily basis reminds us that we live in a geologic now–that human history and natural history are no longer separable from one another.  For Pierre Jardin, this marks a major change in his relation to time.  Growing up, geology and earth history generally were a kind of pre-history: cycles of ice house and green house, glaciation and global warming, were all part of ancient times that had passed, paving the way for a temperate climate convenient for humans.  Extreme climates still existed at the poles and in equatorial deserts, but generally the earth had settled into comfortable stasis.  The naive feeling Pierre Jardin had about time was that nature’s history preceded human history; fossils, dinosaurs, geologic strata, mountains, meteor crates were all almost mythic elements in a past so long, so deep, it no longer had a discernible history or chronology–it all was a sort of abyss of deep time.

But today, that separation no longer obtains.  Climate change, rising ocean levels, droughts, more frequent and stronger storms, hurricanes and tornadoes–all of these symptoms of planetary processes are part of our daily consciousness and sense of passing time and where things are going.  We are more ecological creatures as a consequence–becoming attuned to our actions and their impact on global scales will hopefully change behaviors destructive to the environment.