Wednesday, 7 August 2013

History or Geography

I am about spend a day driving across the top of Ontario; well, not the top really but more the lower middle. It is, however, the top as far as highways are concerned. Highway 11 in "northern" Ontario is as far north as the major roads go. From Nipigon to Timmins, infamous as the home of Shania Twain, the road is fairly new. I recall coming through here by train in 1973 and being told there was no road to Kapuskasing, only the train. It's rather like Churchill, Manitoba in that regard.

The Canadian Shield here is old, really old. The rocks along side the road are primarily Pre-Cambrian, about 550 million years old although some of the landforms are more than 2.5 billion years old. These rocks where here when the continents were one giant mass. These rocks were here when the first creatures crawled out of the primordial ooze. These rocks have seen the rise and fall of the dinosaurs; they have seen the rise of, and will likely see the fall of, mankind.

You might note that I am interested in geology and geography. My geographical interest lies primarily in geomorphology and orogenics, the process of mountain formation, especially by the folding and faulting of the earth's crust but also through volcanic action. This means tectonics intrigue me too. This interest began in 1975 in a night school class where my research partner just happened to be a girl named Carla. We took geography together and I worked very hard at getting her as a partner. I wanted her for the same reasons all young men want a woman as a lab partner. I am still not sure why she wanted me, yet she did.

We were different; opposites attract. I was a vibrant, wild, outgoing young man who would say and do almost anything. She was a quiet, introspective young woman who chose her words carefully and stepped into the world cautiously. She was calm and quiet, critical and insistent. I was mercurial and anything but quiet; I was outspoken, quick-witted, and intelligent. She saw calm and quiet as rational; she saw my emotional outpourings as irrational; they were anything but calming. I was insecure and uncertain; I believed her. We married, had children and ultimately divorced, some 38 years after we met. We were different then and we are different still. I cannot speak for her, but I have grown wiser, changed, and now see our points of view through newer lenses, lenses with more balance in them.

Carla and I did our geography project together. We were to collect soil samples and make observations regarding the local geography, to identify localized structural and formation differences. We spent hours dashing around together to various local geographical landmarks, drilling soil and taking pictures. We did research together and in that process got to know each other. We dated, and dated some more.

Once we were done our research, we were to create our own conclusions and report on them. We were required to write separate research papers using the same results. Carla worked on her report for weeks, writing and revising, researching and editing, preparing a work of art. The day before the report was due, she asked me where mine was. At that point I realized I had to start writing something, so I spend that evening and much of the night reading, writing and concluding.

We turned our papers in; they were important, 40% of our grade depended on the mark we got. A couple of weeks later we got our papers back and Carla was incensed. Her work and efforts had earned her a "B"; my dash and dare had earned me an "A". Even then we had differing views on how life should work. She felt she should be rewarded for effort; I felt I should be rewarded for the outcome. We were both wrong.


  1. Real life doesn't often reward you for effort. It's the results that count, except perhaps, with someone who really cares about you. Maybe, actually, in relationships, it's usually the effort you put in that matters more than the results - the complete opposite of and a counterbalance to the reality of life and work.

    I enjoyed reading this story. Thank you.

    1. I think it is a little from column A and a little from column B. In relationships, effort is the primary focus although effort without results will ultimately doom the relationship. In business and the rest of real life, results without effort means pretty much anyone can do it, making the results less valuable.

  2. Well, that explains a lot! You learned to be "Last Minute Charlie" at college. You also set your stage for producing great results at the last minute.

    ... but the STRESS!

    I remember you pulling "All-nighters" when we worked together. You did produce great work, but it took you a week or more to recover!

    Plus ca change...