Once upon a dealion

We have passed it many times.  On the right on the way, and on the left on the way back. Because of a busy schedule or bad weather, we usually drive by. This time, however, the sky was clear and we were in no rush.

How unlikely that the stones should have settled in just this way. Then I thought, improbable events are just that, in the short-term. As time lengthens, what is improbable becomes probable and even certain. I remembered the made-up term, dealion, defined as the likelihood of a perfect deal in the game of bridge. The odds against this happening are 2,235,197,406,895,366,368,301,559,999 to 1. If you could deal a bridge hand every minute, you would expect to deal that perfect hand once in every 70,877,644,815,302,079,197 years, 74 days, 3 hours, and 59.98 seconds. That’s a very long time indeed, much longer than the entire history of the planet. But, does this unfathomable degree of improbability mean that the perfect deal will never happen? No. And, who knows, perhaps it has already. Improbable means neither miraculous, or impossible, or even unlikely. Turn your thinking around just a bit and consider the vast number of highly improbable events that occur each and every second of every day.

So, what does this fatuous ramble say about my cairn? It says that my initial reaction, that the arrangement was unlikely, was thoughtless. The Ice Age, here in North America, lasted three million years. During that period, glaciers advanced and retreated across the landmass several times. Think of the many millions upon millions of tons of stone that were locked into the advancing ice and then released as the glacier retreated. Some stones settled to the ground while some settled onto others. Given the extended time horizon, I am sure that the striking arrangement you see here occurred over and over again. So, try not to think about events you believe to be rare or unusual in only that way. Try to understand how it is that seemingly miraculous events can, and do, occur all the time.

To end this post, look at the photo again and consider the right side of the upper boulder. Do you see it? I didn’t, as I lay on the ground just outside Bennington. It wasn’t until we were home, and until she looked over my shoulder, that the Ursine visage came into view. I was glad to have photographed the cairn from several angles so I can report that the striking, and fortuitous, profile was caused only by the interplay between surface detail and light, shining from just the right angle. If you look at images taken from the right (and, looking directly into its eyes) there is nothing, even remotely, resembling anything but rock.


25 thoughts on “Once upon a dealion

  1. Cross-over of genres is one post is your forte 🙂 It seems you cover more and more more different aspects in shorter and shorter posts! Amazing! Yes, I noticed it immediately, before reading the post! But I rather saw a pig, a dinosaur, or some alien life-form!

    1. Each of your comments gives me a lift Elke. Really, they are very kind. I am glad that my approach is to your liking. I will always turn to your observations as a barometer of my work. Thank you.

  2. Although I agree with you 110% (just to have a little fun with Steve …I also agree that the concept of giving 110% is silly) regarding likelihood and actually happening, I don’t often buy lottery tickets. 🙂

    As Ansel said, where we stand is everything in composition. Our point of observation makes all the difference. This burl only resembles the human visage from one side of the tree … and maybe only in my mind as well. To the point … I know I have shared this video in places but not sure about here, so forgive me if I am repeating myself, but this is an awesome installation.

    PS: Sorry about the trick at the end … I had never seen that attached to this video before.

  3. Love this. I see the bear, and at least three other faces, too, two human, and one pig. Makes me think of George. She could always spot faces in images like this. 🙂 (L w/E)

    1. Are the humans to the upper left … and middle? Let us all remember George, and especially her straight-at-ya comments, observations, and (always good) advice.

  4. If I can swing the discussion briefly into algebra, let’s consider factoring (over real integers) sums of two squares. The chance that a randomly chosen sum of two squares is factorable is practically zero, yet it’s still true that there are infinitely many sums of squares that are factorable.

  5. To me it looks like a pig and reminded me of Lion Monument at Lucerne. It is rumored that because the people of the town never payed the artist for his work, he carved out the space surrounding the lion in the shape of a pig. You have to really look to see it, but it is there. The same dynamic is at work in your photo. Love it!

  6. I saw the bear immediately, but I was as intrigued by the image of an akuaba, a Ghanaian fertility doll, on the rock beneath. It’s a reminder that our experiences shape our seeing. Absent my years in Africa, and absent the akuaba that’s graced a bookshelf for years, I never would have seen that image on the rock.

    Your use of “cairn” for the stones caught my attention. I’m not sure I’d choose that word, since cairn implies both intentionality and multiple rocks. When I lived in Utah and did some hiking in the Wasatch Mountains, I invented a saying for myself: “Two stones a cairn don’t make.” Three stones used as markers were called “ducks,” and cairns were larger piles. Learning to read them could be confusing, especially since so many people constructed personal markers on bad trails. Today, a new phenomenon has emerged: building personal cairns. The practice isn’t always admired; I’ve heard them referred to as “geological selfies.” The expression’s funny, and in some circles the occasion for heated argument. If you’re interested, here’s an opinion piece that certainly occasioned some debate.

    1. Lots to respond to Linda. First, we have a very good friend from Tamale, Ghana. I first met him when he was a college student. His family lived across the street and we got to know him well. He has since gone on to be a great success and we have kept in close touch. Many years ago now he agreed to help us turn-over our garden. We got out the shovels and, after about five minutes of difficult going he said, “I’ll get you some real tools.” Several weeks later he presented us with two mattock-type tools that he had shipped from home. He called them genuine Ghanaian hoes and I can report that they worked worlds better than anything else I had at the farm. I’m not sure what they were called, but a quick internet search suggested that perhaps Khasu might be right (http://l7.alamy.com/zooms/f928d7b52dcc46919a7a2c28e0bc17e4/a-young-african-child-with-a-hoe-over-his-should-returns-from-working-bxyr7j.jpg … excuse the long link). Anyway, I took a look and saw your akuaba in the image … thanks for pointing it out. And, finally, and with regard to the use of the word ‘cairn,’ you are right and I stand corrected. I have read some of the argued discussion regarding cairns and must admit that I have been guilty of the practice in the past. I’m not sure where I stand on the issue but suppose I will think more carefully the next time I set about constructing a geological selfie.

  7. Some animal profile caught my eye when I first saw this. Just proves that you can go from 0-100 just by looking at something from a slightly different perspective! Makes me think of a porcupine. Kind of creepy and wonderful … all at the same time!

  8. Interesting contemplation. I was awake for a long time last night thinking something similar and realizing that something which has seemed amazingly coincidental was inevitable, given enough time and the choices that preceded. What seems to challenge us in probability considerations is how unlikely we think it is that our own small lives come to intersect such amazing discoveries. Nice post. And, to me it seems that a bear is looking off to the right.

    1. It makes me think there’s something to the adage All things come to those who wait … and to Patience and Perseverance. Apparently the folks who come up with these things really know their stuff!

  9. After reading your post, I looked at the image, and was left with : “Whoa.” And all I can see is the profile of a pig. A physicist friend of mine posted the other day about the moment during his lecture when he realized that table salt is composed of sodium, which reacts explosively in water, and chlorine, which forms a deadly gas. And we eat them both almost every day. Whoa.

    Today I attempted to express a sort of ‘whoa’ moment in my physiology class. I used the duck foot example to explain the ‘whoa’ of countercurrent exchange, drawing a duck with a peg leg (I’ve been watching a lot of Pirate shows lately). I turned back to my class to see most of them with their arms crossed and frowns on their faces. Alas, whoa is just me, this morning. I’ll have another chance in the osmoregulation chapter, so my hope is resting on kidneys. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the reply Renee. It made me laugh! I totally empathize. Don’t give up on those ‘whoa’ examples, keep them coming … your minions will appreciate them once they’ve had a chance to think a bit. Also, please don’t forget to discuss the fellow who claimed …’I shot a 25 pound grasshopper.’

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