Four hundred million years

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After standing there more than four hundred million years, the dolomite would be quarried to become for many miles the concrete surface of Interstate So and to become as well the foundations of most of the tall buildings that now proclaim Chicago, as the atoll did in Silurian time. Interstate So actually crosses the atoll on bridges above the quarry, which is as close an approximation to the Grand Canyon as Chicago is likely to see, and may be its foremost attraction. Beyond the atoll, you would have come to other atolls and hypersaline seas. When water is about three times as salty as the ocean, gypsum will crystallize out. Sticking up from the  co-working space breda bottom in central Ohio were daggerlength blades of gypsum crystal. You would have been bucking hot tropical trade winds then, blowing toward the equator, evaporating the knee-deep sea. East of Youngstown, red muds clouded the water-muds coming off the approaching shore. The beach was in central Pennsylvania now, near the future site of Bloomsburg, near the forks of the Susquehanna. The great sedimentary wedge of the delta complex had grown a hundred miles. The Taconic mountains were of humble size. The steep braided rivers were gone, their wild conglomerates buried under meandering mudbanked streams moving serenely through a low and quiet country-a rose-and-burgundy country. There were green plants in the red earth, for the first time ever. Walking forward through time and past the tilted strata of the Water Gap, we had come to sandstones, siltstones, and shales, in various hues of burgundy and rose. In the irregular laminations of the rock-in its worm burrows, ripples, and crossbeds-Anita saw and described tidal channels, tidal flats, a river coming into an estuary, a barrier bar, a co-working space amersfoort littoral sea. She saw the delta, spread out low and red, the Taconic mountains reduced to hills. We had left behind us the rough conglomerates and hard gray quartzites that had come off the Taconic mountains when they were high-the formation, known as Shawangunk, that forms the mural cliffs above the Delaware River. (The quartzites are paradisal to rappeling climbers, who refer in their vernacular to “the gap rap,” a choice part of “the Gunks.”)

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