Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


The Present

The Present

Sometimes it’s difficult to place ourselves in time. We think in terms of a good day or a bad day, hopefully plenty of the former, and few of the latter, but imagine the four thousand years it took for the last ice age to melt back from Olympia to the Canadian border, that’s over 133 human generations! Our islands were covered in ice three times the height of the Columbia Center building in Seattle, while deer and those that fed upon them were again wondering the terrain around what is now south Puget Sound.

In a previous post I described the moraine of gravel left at the north end of Griffin Bay by the receding glacier, and in our time how the hill of gravel was slowly dug out and taken to Canada on barges. The top photo shows the height of the original hill and the depth of the hole left from the digging process. In the center of that photo, nearly invisible, is a family with their dogs out for a stroll in the bowl. They are a bit more obvious in the center scene, and as I zoom in, the bottom shot shows them clearly.

While I was cruising down memory lane today on “Google Earth,” I would duplicate that zooming process, going from the entire state of Colorado down to the residence my daughter and her husband bought in Mountain Village, a new town built around the ski industry on a bluff above the old mining town of Telluride, Colorado. This peeking in from space, which utterly fascinates me, shows the scale of geography and our memories that don’t seem to fit that scale, our minds recording those times in human scale, most often from five or six feet off the ground, and, unless we’re pilots, seldom being aware of the “bigger picture.”

Time is the same way to me. The ice sheets built up over hundreds of centuries to incredible depths, so heavy they pushed down the islands we now enjoy, but which were once mountain tops…all now gone as we enjoy the present, then the linear timeline moves forward. The present, we’re told, is going to change the future, with sea levels rising, and people being displaced similar to what the ice sheets did to the local animals back then. We tend to care less about herds of animals than we care about other humans, and we tend to care less about them than we do about our Gross National Product, so we sign the Kyoto Protocol but don’t ratify it.

Oops, there I go riding off on my white horse called “Soapbox.” Closer to home, they’re talking about putting baseball diamonds in that hole where the gravel pit used to be, but that idea has been around awhile, and appears to be moving at the speed of an ice sheet, so I’m not holding my breath. Quite the contrary, I get a great cardio exercise hiking around that bowl, and the view out over Griffin Bay or of Mt. Baker is great!

Photo location: just outside the Town of Friday Harbor at the property once known as the Friday Harbor Sand and Gravel, now owned by San Juan Island Parks and Recreation.


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