Life appeared on earth as early as 3,800,000,000 years ago. The posts here discuss bits of that history and, most importantly, the connections that I see in them to my life. Disclosure: I’m a retired English professor, not a scientist. But science has always lured me, and what I’m learning about the epic of life stirs my imagination, intrigues and consoles me, and beckons me to see myself and all living things in its light.
To our human eyes, Nature easily separates into foreground and background. In the foreground are the grandeur of the earth and stars and the wonderful plant and animal lives around us. In the background are the details of, among others, biological processes that seem too complicated to grasp plus hundreds of millions of years of organic history.
In these posts I try to merge this foreground and background so I and other non-scientists might glimpse a richer dimension of living things. Ferns, a favorite example of mine, took on a new significance as I learned that they were among the first plants to thrive on land when life moved out of the sea, so long ago (400 million years) that they watched the dinosaurs evolve and then later go extinct. We live among—and are ourselves—continuous processes that are never finished. We may amount to less than our egos tell us, but we are also not as alone as it sometimes seems among all earth’s organisms.
So this blog turns out to be partly about time itself. We can’t see spans of a million or a billion years in the same way that we look at fossils or traces of photosynthesis. But filling in those zeroes with stories of life’s development can make long eras very meaningful. 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.