On friends and fossils

photo-6 copy 2I was walking in the Missouri woods yesterday morning, in rural Warren County, some 60 miles west of St. Louis. A beautiful autumn day—50, sunny, calm. Still some orange and brown leaves on the trees but most had fallen. As had some of the persimmons, which are just now ripening. Lots of birds about, too—a wood thrush, four kinds of woodpeckers, hawks, juncos and others.

At Dry Fork Creek, which still held some water from recent rains, I found the fossil pictured here—a screw-like creature (a crinoid?) perhaps millions or billions of years old. It is but one of countless fossils of various shapes and sizes in the creek bed, left behind from a time when this was all ocean, I believe.

Fall is always a somewhat melancholy time for me as, here at least, the Earth goes to sleep for a while, and my thoughts turned somber for a moment. Earlier in the day I was perusing my contacts on my computer and told myself, “Rick, you really need to clean up this list—a lot of your friends there are dead.” Yet for some reason I don’t delete them—perhaps as a reminder of how brief life is. Which is the same reminder I got from the fossil as I studied it. This creature had existed for an instant some billion years ago and has lain there as inert stone ever since. The same script I’ll follow some day.

So best not to fret too much when things don’t turn out as I would have liked—not to worry about outcomes, as the Zen masters advise—but to enjoy the sweet persimmons and bright days while they last.