Sometimes life has a funny way of throwing odd coincidences at you. Carl Jung called them "synchronicities," and attributed them to the cosmic consciousness and Universal Oversoul (As a science writer, I tend to attribute them to the Law of Really Big Numbers, a feature of modern life that I examined in my book Are You Psychic?).
In May, I experienced one of these wonderful synchronicities. My adventure began at my local public library when a book on the "New Non-fiction" shelf leapt out at me. It's called Curiosity: A Love Story. With a title like that, and cover art showing cutely creepy prehistoric animals eating each other, there was no way this book was not coming home with me.
Mary Anning did indeed sell sea shells, but she also sold fossils. She combed the cliffs and beaches of Lyme Regis on England's south coast for the "snakestones" and other curiosities that turned up regularly there, the result of the the limestone cliffs routinely crumbling from the force of wind and water. Her curiosities were sold to scientists who were trying, for the first time, to piece together where these unexplained objects came from, and how life forms not found on Earth today could have been buried in cliffs and stone in a world that was believed to have remained unchanged since the Flood.
|Mary Anning combing for Fossils|
Her story is riveting, and Thomas' skill as a writer transported me to those wet, windswept beaches that were Anning's haunts and home.
How strangely delightful, then, to unexpectedly find myself a mere two days later combing a windswept, rainy beach for fossils - without leaving Canada!
I'd finished reading Curiosity on Sunday. On Monday, I flew to Moncton, New Brunswick, to begin my tour for the Hackmatack Awards Authors in the Schools program. I'd be spending the next few days in rural Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, speaking to students about books and writing.
|The historic lighthouse at Parrsboro,|
one of the towns where I presented. It's
just down the coast from Joggins.
I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of Joggins. Chantelle told me it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and known for its signicant fossil finds, including the oldest reptile ever found.
I was surprised, to say the least. I consider myself to be somewhat knowledgeable about stuff like this. I'd dreamt of going to Drumheller for years, after all, and had just booked my air ticket to see the dinosaur bones there. Those were famous.
Knock me over with a feather.
|The cliffs at Joggins, on what seems to me to |
be an uncharacteristically sunny day.
Joggins is indeed a spectacular, and important, site. Cliffs rise straight up from the water's edge. And just like the cliffs in Lyme Regis, they are chock full (or should I say "chalk" full?) of fossils.
|The oh-so significant oldest reptile fossil.|
Even more significantly, the same scientists who studied Mary Anning's fossil curiosities practically wet themselves in excitement over the fossils from Joggins. Charles Darwin himself developed key ideas in his evolutionary theory after examining them.
A lovely, new museum sits atop the cliffs at Joggins. Attractive, well-designed and clearly labelled displays introduce the visitor to the Joggins world - both its prehistory and its modern history. (Carboniferous = coal, and Joggins was until fairly recently, an active mining community. The museum was actually built on top of the old mine.)
After touring the museum, the main event: Chantelle and I headed out into the cold, driving rain and down the path to the beach to hunt for fossils.
I felt exactly like Mary Anning: cold, and wet, and blinded by rain, as I scanned the loose rocks of the beach for evidence of something marvelous.
|Can you see the fossily squiggle sitting a the 2:00 position in the rock?|
|I took this photo because the plaque describes |
why Joggins is so important. But it also
has as it's headline the title of one of
my books, What's the Big Idea? :)