Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications. His first novel, Imperfect Solitude, was published by Casperian Books in 2010. Visit him at tommahony.net.
We climb the ridge and reach the summit overlooking the Pacific. A south swell textures the ocean and in the mountains we see the silent destruction of sandstone cliffs weathering to boulder and cobble and eventually sediment transported in creeks to the ocean. We glance around and see fallen Douglas-fir in various states of decay and vernal pools drying in the late spring warmth and a decomposing robin chick on the ground with insects buzzing around it to briefly live and die among the rot.
The mountains force us to think about the warped scale of time. About the few days of life for the chick, the few months for insects and vernal pools, the few hundred years for Douglas-fir, the few tens or hundreds of millions for the uplift and erosion of mountains, and the billions required for the formation of oceans and living earth. We wonder what will happen after the sun burns out and engulfs the planet.
What’s the point to any of it?
We haven’t the slightest clue but as we hike back down the mountain and smell the spring foliage and see the distant blue Pacific and hear the call of a red-shouldered hawk we think we’re an inch closer to the truth.