Quiet hours

IMG_2797I want to be buried in one of those deep-sea diving suits, the metal kind, like Sylvester the Cat might wear in some over-complicated and ill-fated attempt to eat Tweety.

One hundred million years after my demise, give or take a million, earth and ocean will have piled on top of me and subsequently receded. Meanwhile, in a mere blink of a century or five, there will be nothing left of even my bones inside that diving suit, and eventually the suit itself will disintegrate. But by then, that suit will have created a mould in whatever clay has settled on me. Millennia-long story short: I want to come back as a fossil.

I was thinking this during my recent vacation. I know: some vacation. But it wasn’t so morbid as it sounds. Deb and I and two of the kids were camping on Grand Isle on Lake Champlain, and we took a drive up to Isle la Motte, where there are remnants of the reef that once lay beneath the ancient Champlain Sea. During our drive, we made a detour to look at old fossils at the abandoned Fisk limestone quarry. I know: some vacation.

It’s true that old fossils, especially ones you find in abandoned Vermont quarries, aren’t so special to look at. They’re mostly just squiggles in the rock. They look like seashells, except even more boring. If you put your ear to a fossil, you don’t hear the ocean, you just get dirty ears.

But fossils intrigue us because they are something that lived hundreds of millions of years ago, which is far longer than any of us can imagine with our allotment of three score and ten, or with any luck four score and a few good years in a decent geriatric care facility where harmless canoodling with the other inmates isn’t entirely frowned upon.

And for something as old as a fossil to still have a presence today, even if it’s merely the shadow of its cephalopodic self, that appeals to the imaginations of us frail and finite humans. Fossils are essentially prehistoric graffiti that say, “mmfmfmmfmmrmmm,” which is crustacean for “I was here.”

IMG_2792We were camping at the state park. On our second day, we transferred to a prime site overlooking the lake. Sometime in the recent past, someone had built rock and driftwood stairs into the bank down to the water and made a small gravelly clearing, giving us our own private beach on the lake. Abby had read somewhere (probably Facebook) about a fish in one of the Great Lakes that allegedly latches teeth-first onto men’s dangly bits. As I waded out from our private beach, she warned me, “Watch out for the man-eating testicles.” The weirdest part is we knew exactly what she was talking about.

On one of the larger shore rocks, a previous camper, I’m guessing a girl about Abby’s age, had scratched her name: “KATE.” By the following day, it had washed away. But for one day, Kate was remembered beyond her time here. She might also have left behind the sweatshirt we found, something her mother will remember beyond her time here as well.

We all try to leave our mark, for a day, for a generation, maybe for hundreds of years. That’s the ideal, and one of the reasons we have children: to leave a bit of ourselves behind (and to pay for the aforementioned geriatric facility).

Why else do artists and writers create, perhaps tales of genital-snapping lake monsters, if not to leave something that may last beyond themselves? We’re all of us painting on our cave walls, though some would argue that these days there are too many painters, far too many walls.

Some people, on the other hand, don’t care about the longevity of their mark, recognizing that ultimately it’s futile. Instead, they shout their barbaric yawp at the world to demonstrate that they exist here, now. I think of the man camping beside us on our first night. Not content to pass his existence in the shadow of anonymity, he cried out, “Hear me, O campers! Hear me speak loudly of bargain shopping! Behold my one-sided conversation with my yapping dog! Listen, all ye people, as I declaim on the quotidian of my life. For I am here! I AM HERE! Know me, my neighbours, during this brief time we share together ere all become dust.”

Which is why I was really glad we paid the extra and changed campsites the next day.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Quiet hours

  1. uncharted586 says:

    I always wanted one of those!! Tweety must have one too then, I wonder what a bird under water looks like. Challenge accepted?

  2. Your erstwhile neighbour’s soliloquy – could be a Molson’s commercial…gone bad, that is. Yeah, the hazards of camping/cottaging: the noisy neighbours.

    Coincidentally, I was fossil collecting this past weekend. If you’re ever near Arkona, you should check out Hungry Hollow – world class fossil site.

  3. Ned's Blog says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize that was you camping right there. I went to apologize the next day but only found a few size 11.5 footprints in the mud on the lakeshore. I’m pretty sure they’re still there. Maybe they will be for the next millions years or so…?

  4. Tammi Kale says:

    Great post. Can’t really say why, but this reminded me of the trip my daughter and I took to Hawaii some years back. I’m not going to stop and look up proper names at this point or I’ll lose track of all the multitasking I’ve currently got going on, but on the north eastern portion of Oahu there is a state park that has an area of eight to ten rock pedestals with carved out tops, sitting in groups of two’s. They are complete with old-world carvings. These pedestals are birthing stones, actually used by the first polynesians on the island to birth their babies. Why you’re post reminded me of this, who knows. Just thought you might find it interesting.

  5. Life seemed long about 25 years ago, but now I feel like Kate, scratching my name in a place that will soon be overtaken by time. Keats’ gravestone says it best, “His name was writ in water.” Well, his name isn’t any longer, but I’m pretty sure mine is. Any post that includes Whitman is a winner in my book.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Time will tell, I guess.
      I wrote this at the campsite and had to remember Whitman from memory. Almost got it right. At least I spelled “yawp” correctly.
      Guy wouldn’t keep his friggin’ yawp shut.

  6. Trent Lewin says:

    I don’t know about coming back as a fossil… I mean if I turn into a fossil, it kind of means that I never really left, right?

    I hate camping. But I love writing. And I agree, I think there’s a strive (for some) for some form of permanence. It feels a bit self-serving, but don’t artists want to be remembered somehow? I hate to think that’s the point… I guess it might be. I try never to question why I do what I do, it keeps me more or less sane that way.

  7. Paul says:

    Ah, feeling the years in the bones (some millions of years old) today are we Ross? I think you would make a delightful fossil. Some may already be calling that – the ratbastards – pay no attention to them. I hope that the testicle eating fish don’t get you before you’ve had a chance to be fossilized – it would be confusing to future generations when a reconstruction of a 21st century humour writer showed parts missing. They might get the idea that that was a job requirement for such an endeavor. But let it not be said that you have no balls – we all know better (from your writing that is, not from direct experience – or at least not for me). You know Ross, there is another possibility. You could end up petrified instead of fossilized – there is a lot of potential humor there. Depending, of course on your state when the pertification took place.

    If you’re concerned about leaving your mark – your children will take care of the physical side. Your genes are out there Ross, they have been set free upon an unsuspecting world. May heaven help us. Keep in mind that your children are the result of about 250,000 generations, each one the result of a winning sperm finding a home. How could that many generations of winners be anything but winners?
    And if you’re concerned about your intellectual promulgation – I am currently reading your book and it is hilarious. No doubt amongst the best of mastadon pictures on the wall of humour. (Wait is that mastadon missing something? – Has he been swimming with the testicle eating fish? – damn, oh well a fine looking mastadon it is.)

  8. If I can be serious for a second…Whaka Whaka! (Oops, apparently, no, I can’t)
    But seriously, these are thoughts that keep me wide-eyed and staring at the bedroom ceiling at 3:30 in the morning. That, and a good corned beef on a kaiser at 2:15 am. (darn it!)
    But seriously, to quote Bill Bryson in his book ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’: “Only about one bone in a billion…ever becomes fossilized. If that is so, it means that the complete fossil legacy of all Americans alive today – that’s 270 million people with 206 bones each – will only be about fifty bones…That’s not to say, of course, that any of these bones will ever actually be found.”

  9. ksbeth says:

    perhaps your neighborcampernewsherald, was a living fossil, the ultimate oxymoron. they are rare and ever elusive, like sasquatch.

  10. It’s pretty clear: You were “stoned” when you wrote this.

  11. We don’t camp so much. My wife and I are big babies. We worry about discomfort and all-day bed hair. I’m not bragging or proud. It’s sad. We’ve always said that if we’re sleeping in a tent, something when horribly wrong.

    Thanks to the internet, we can rest assured that everything we put out in the ether will be there long after we’re gone. Just try recalling all the personal data you’ve put out there. You can’t!

    Man-eating testicle fish sound awful, although some guys pay extra for that.

  12. Letizia says:

    I remember when they found King Richard’s skeleton last year – it was so fascinating to see his hunched back and his fractured skull. The scientists said his terrible temper could have been caused by his terrible scoliosis. I wonder what future generations would make of our skeletons – knowing what bones we’ve broken and determining that we were grumpy, haha!

  13. My 11 year old is not making enough money NOR showing an ability to SAVE the not-enough-money for my geriatric facility. This concerns me greatly. But, if he reads this, he just might throw me into a quarry to fossilize, instead. Thanks for the facility opt-out 🙂

  14. pinklightsabre says:

    Really enjoyed this, and the theme plays a lot on me DAY-IN, DAY-OUT to quote that Joy Division song. We were out camping around the same time you were, last weekend; seems being in nature can conjure these thoughts. Happy Friday Ross…this was a nice way to start my day, end my week.

  15. Elyse says:

    There is something to be said about a nice hotel room with indoor plumbing!

  16. pieterk515 says:

    Well at least us Bloggers will be here until the Zombie apocalypse hit because if folklore is anything to go by, the Internet will disappear like a fart when that happens.

  17. List of X says:

    You know, if you really want to preserve yourself as a fossil, you need something more durable than a diving suit. And you also have to deposit the body somewhere where it would not be touched by erosion, air, temperature changes, and so on. So I’d suggest encasing the body (or the diving suit, if you’re partial to it) in a block of concrete with an opening and depositing it on the ocean floor (you need an opening so that sediment can eventually seep through and fill the concrete from inside.
    Incidentally, that’s exactly the same method that the mafia used to get rid of the bodies. Possibly so that 10 million years from now, people of the future would still know not mess with Don Corleone.

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