A pebble can change the course of nature, and history. I’m not talking about the Ripple Effect, however. I choose to call this Current Events.
Here’s an example.
The Tualatin River drains much of the east side of Oregon’s Coast Range mountains. In other words, it drains a lot of water.
Its headwaters cascade down the mountains with incredible force, creating rapids and waterfalls. Then the Tualatin hits flat land near Gaston, and becomes a meandering, and flood-prone, stream.
Indigenous people accepted this reality, but since the first American settlers arrived on the scene, “taming” the Tualatin has been a top priority, but every effort has failed. I’ve read hundreds of pages of engineers dissecting these failures, but my mind always wanders back to a week I spent in Gold Beach, Oregon, about 25 years ago.
I spent a late-summer vacation to hike in the wilderness around the Rogue, Illinois, and Chetco rivers. The Illinois nearly kicked my ass, but that’s a story for another day.Each night I returned to a beachfront hotel in Gold Beach, where I became enchanted by a small stream, no more than nine inches wide, that came from a hill and cut across the flat beach into the Pacific. Sometimes it was what I believe is called a rill taking the path of least resistance, in this case a straight channel into the ocean. Other times it meandered, winding 10 to 20 feet from side to side.
On my last day of vacation, I took a cup of coffee down to the beach to watch this rill. I was debating what hike I should take that day, but my thoughts were consumed by the previous day’s hike along the Illinois River, one that nearly kicked my ass when I thought that I had become disoriented in the wilderness.
I sat there with my coffee, watching the rill. I watched as a pebble, no doubt deposited by the previous high tide, created a small disturbance on the north side, slightly diverting the current and creating an equal and opposite reaction on the south side, bending the current ever so slightly north, where it met a small shell fragment, no doubt deposited by the high tide, which diverted the current ever so slightly to the south, creating an equal and opposite reaction …
Long story short: I never took a hike that day. I sat on the beach until mid-afternoon, watching that swift, straight little creek become a meandering stream to the Pacific, cutting 10 to 20 feet side to side. By now it was too late to start a hike.
As I began the five-hour trip back to Portland, I thought about how by the time I got home, the tide would be high again, depositing new pebbles and shell fragments in the path of least resistance for that little rill.
Then I thought that by the time I got to work the next morning, the process I had just witnessed would begin to repeat itself.
I learned a lot about geology that day in Gold Beach, in some ways more than I learned in college geology classes. Butterflies flap their wings. Tides deposit shell fragments. Often that’s all it takes for nature to prevail.
That’s my assessment of Current Events.