Life on earth began about 3,800,000,000 years ago. The posts here discuss portions of that history and the relevance that I see in it to my life. The epic of life on the planet stirs my imagination, consoles me, and beckons me to see myself and all living things in its light.
For most non-scientists, nature divides so easily into a foreground that we readily perceive and the obscure background of how it works. We take in the grandeur of the earth and stars and the plant and animal lives around us. But the biological processes and hundreds of millions of years of organic history in the background may seem too complicated to grasp. In these posts I try to merge a little of this foreground and background and always to ask how the process and history of organisms sheds light on my questions about my life.
Ferns, for example, took on a new significance for me as I learned that they were among the first plants to thrive on land when life moved out of the sea. This was 400 million years. They flourished even as the dinosaurs were first evolving – and long before the flowering plants. This longevity and history in a familiar houseplant shows me the larger picture from which all living things have emerged.
So this blog turns out to be partly about time itself. I, like most of us, can’t grasp spans of a million or a billion years. But all the zeroes become slightly less abstract when filled in with stories of life’s development and their relevance to the wonder and ephemeral nature of individual lives. What is true about time reminds me of what has been said of the deity: it can’t be grasped directly, but we see it everywhere in its work.