Lamborn Mountain rises 11, 397 feet above sea level, and almost 6,000 feet above the valley. The two peaks are part of a laccolith—where hot magma oozed up and intruded the Mancos Shale, an organic-rich clay layer, and baked it into coal. Erosion over the millennia has removed a lot of the Mancos Shale, revealing the igneous core of Lamborn Mountain.
Nearby and up the road, the geological picture includes three coal mines, though they’re not in this painting. But chances are good I’ll be taking my camera up the road toward the mines in the very near future.
Spring run-off was pretty incredible this year, starting in mid-April with more snow meltwater than anyone has seen in 40 years.
It still freezes around here in mid-April, though not hard enough to freeze the water in the irrigation pipes, it got cold enough to turn it to ice cubes as soon as it spewed out the gates. There’s just a little snow left up in the high country. Now our hopes are on the monsoonal rain.
Lamborn and Landsend are photogenic at any time of year, or day. And totally paintable, though I have not. Yet.
I can easily lose myself in Earth’s landscapes, especially the rocky ones. The textures and colors tell a story of chemistry, weathering and erosion. And, if providing a scenic backdrop to my life is not enough, with these rocks I make pottery and glazes.
The color palette is generally limited to oxides of iron: brown, reddish-brown, tan, yellowish tan, greenish tan–e.g. Earth colors.
Occasionally a little copper shows up, coloring the clay softly green or blue. Pottery glaze colors depend on these denizens of the Periodic Table. And so did paint, once upon a time before IKB.
I started with several gallon-size zip-lock bags of reddish, greenish and one highly yellow clay. The colors are the result of a certain degree of iron oxidation, and finely ground turquoise, which is a copper mineral.
I sifted out all the rocks, twigs, animal bones and other detritus, and let the colored clay settle in large jars of water. After siphoning off the excess water, I poured this clay slurry onto large pieces of gypsum board to dry. The mud cracks were amazing art pieces in themselves.
Painting with Clay
After the clay slurry completely dried, I crushed and sieved each into a fine powder. I added a little linseed oil to the colored clay powder and in a frenzy of inspiration, I painted
What else can I say? Inspired by rocks, enchanted by Earth’s landscape…
There we were, innocent boomer (and beyond) children looking up to Superman, gobsmacked by his prowess and great strength. Really? You can do that, Superman? Squeeze a lump of coalinto diamond? Not just once did we witness this feat, but time after time.
Perhaps somewhere along the way, a geologist sat Superman down and explained to him the facts of diamond formation, and how you theoretically could take a lump of coal and, given enough squeezing, make a diamond. But only if you add a lot of heat.
That would explain why Superman started using lightning to make diamonds.
Really little bolts, though. Hand-held, pocket-size lightning.
Lightning is very, very hot, along the order of 54,000°F, about 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun.
But, heat alone can’t turn coal into diamond and lightning strikes at coal mines are far more likely to catch the coal layer on fire than to make a single diamond.
Am I being too persnickety here?
Perhaps I expect my Superheroes to be omniscient as well. Or at least geologically literate. But is this fair?
In my own defense, it is not impossible for crows and humans to communicate (see Language of the Crows), and I offer a scientific, gene-based explanation for this ability.
Fantasy fiction takes us away on the gift of tongues, illuminating the path into the darkness of the silent unknown, tantalizing us with magical journeys that reveal the secrets of our universe. Hopefully we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.
I’m glad Superman saw the light, keeping his Superhero image intact in the eyes of geologists everywhere. In the late 20th Century, however, when cartoon characters leaped from the printed page onto the big screen, it seems that Superman lost a little know-how in the diamond department.
Alas, that Superman’s memory is less legendary than his great strength. What the cartoon knew, the “real” human did not.
That the truth of diamonds ever made it into a comic book is astonishing, however, and cause for a moment of gratefulness.
Diamonds form at the base of Earth’s crust, where pressure and temperature are very great. When pressure exceeds rock strength, an intense, but short-lived volcanic eruption occurs, and molten mantle rocks are shot to the surface through kimberlite pipes at the speed of sound.
That’s 768 miles per hour!
Kimberlite pipes bring up other minerals as well, like garnets, mined for use in sandpaper products. The Navajo Volcanic Fieldin the Four Corners area of the Southwestern US (not to be confused with Monument Valley), a few diatremes (the eroded remains of a kimberlite pipes) poke up out of the desert floor, Shiprock being the most well known.
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