From Pangaea - with love
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
On the very last day of 2020 I found a quartz geode laying on top of a stone wall in our pig pasture. It's small – the exposed quartz is only about two square inches, but still, I'm not sure how I never noticed it before. I thought the pigs must have uncovered it, but there is lichen on it so it's been exposed for a while.
It was likely formed 200 million years ago, when our farm (along with the rest of North America) was connected to the northwest coast of Africa as part of the “supercontinent” of Pangaea. It was a time when T-rex ruled the earth and crocodiles were living, and leaving fossils for us to find, in Simsbury. It was also a time when the 30 foot long, fast moving dinosaur “Eubronte” was hunting in packs and leaving footprints in a muddy swamp in Rocky Hill. (Okay, I'll stop complaining about coyotes and bears...).
As Pangaea broke apart, Africa and North America slowly drifted away from each other and fissures developed from which molten lava oozed. (Apparently continents, like humans, are sometimes just not right for each other...). When the lava cooled and turned to stone, it trapped a bit of mineral rich groundwater in a small pocket and voila! Our geode was born.
As the fissures widened and the Atlantic Ocean was formed, the Metacomet Ridge (upon which Anne and I built our home) slipped down into a valley rift, tilting down its eastern edge, and tilting up and exposing the still visible traprock cliffs to the west. That might have been when our geode was dislodged from its birthplace, but it would have been subsequently buried again by the ensuing glaciers - which at one point covered our farm with a sheet of ice over a mile thick.
Eighteen thousand years ago, when the ice finally melted and our farm became part of a vast tundra where Paleo- Americans, mastodons, and saber tooth tigers lived and hunted each other, the geode was likely buried in glacial till far below.
Had the Europeans never settled in Farmington and our property never been farmed, the geode would have, probably, never come to the surface. It was the clear cutting of the old growth forest and the continuous plowing of the land that set in motion the frost heaving and erosion that brought the glacial till to the surface. Colonial New England farmland was relatively free of plow eating stones for several generations. It would have taken a hundred years or so of our farm being plowed for crops to bring our hero to the surface.
I imagine, when it did surface, threatening to damage an ox drawn plow, it was caked in mud and just tossed unceremoniously onto the wall at the edge of the field, where the pigs and I first noticed it.
I like to think of the geode as a parting gift from Africa, and I am extremely pleased to have found it, but somehow after 200 million years, it doesn't really feel like mine to keep. I'll leave it there on the wall and hope the pigs come to appreciate its historical provenance, and perhaps, at times, contemplate its inner beauty.