Beautiful little piece of reddish rock, layered, I picked up along the side of the road west of the Salton Sea under the assumption it was chunk of petrified wood. Closer examination at home showed that it is more likely a fossilized and mineralized square inch of beach, or perhaps grains of sand laid down in the bed of a slow moving stream, or in an inlet of the long gone sea. Buried and compressed it hardened into sandstone and then was folded into the earth, under millions of tons or rock, and heated by the mantle below (or perhaps the energy displaced by the slow movement of the fault beneath our feet), which transformed the component sediments into something still layered but harder and more crystalline. Gneiss. Not sure where the red came from. Perhaps this was once one of the red sandstones one sees everywhere in the West, littered with dinosaur bones. There was iron everywhere once, it seems to have turned all the sediments red. Perhaps there was more oxygen in the atmosphere then, enough to turn a tree into a torch at the slam of a baseball bat, enough to oxidize all the traces of iron in the sand into a brilliant red. Perhaps. That’s the theory, anyway. Of course, most of California didn’t even exist when that famous red sandstone was laid down. California was still deep down in the mantle, or moving inexorably eastward as ocean floor before slamming into North America. No dinosaurs ever trod the sands that solidified into this stone.
Now I find this little rock here, in the sand, no metamorphic outcroppings let alone mountains for miles. So water dropped it here. Who knows how much weather that took? How many torrential rains and flash floods were required to drop this little rock here at my feet on these archaic flats? It sat there, glittering in the waning sun, surrounded by the sand verbena that clustered in vast herds across the ancient sea floor. They shivered in the dry wind, as if cold, though the temperature was near ninety and the rock was warm to the touch, as if right out of the oven. I picked it up and rolled it about in my hand, thinking of ancient worlds.