Geomorphology (from Ancient Greek: geo, “earth”; morphe, “form”; and logos, “study”): The study of the origin and evolution of Earth’s landscapes.
Geomorphophilia: The feeling of being in love with the way the landscape changes.
I walk cautiously down the narrow forest trail, avoiding little orange-bellied salamanders. (Are they star-gazers slow to seek their daytime hideouts, or just pine-needle loving amphibians out for a morning stroll?) I don’t stop to wonder. In my sleepless bed last night, I listened to the ocean until the light came, then I set out to answer the call.
The trail ends in the dunes, where nothing so permanent as a path can hold shape. I disperse with it, running suddenly, my body doing a vertical writhe as my feet strike the soft sand. When I reach the waves, I stop — or my body does. There’s always a part of me that keeps going, that leaps and churns in the waves for a few hours. A few lifetimes.
Last night at the house: I sort baby pictures and photos my parents took of the coastline when they arrived, equally fresh-faced, from southern California. Southern California to Southern Oregon may as well be Southern Earth to Southern Moon. That sheltered ocean has nothing on ours: The Pacific I grew up with rips apart her decorating scheme and rebuilds every winter. It was a wonder, clearly, to the middle-aged city kids with their heavy bags of film.
Crack open a photo album. Here’s me on a miniature orange teeter-totter, my older brother grinning on the other end. Then five pictures of ocean waves crashing into the sand dune on the other side of the lake, just a few hundred feet from our back door.
You can’t blame them: It’s impressive.
Here’s a picture of me again, my arm in a sling. Water moves earth; gravity shifts bone and, somewhere back in time, a brother laughs with delighted malice.
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