"The marsh, to him who enters it in a receptive mood, holds, besides mosquitoes and stagnation, melody, the mystery of unknown waters, and the sweetness of Nature undisturbed by man."

~ Charles William Beebe (1877-1962),
Log of the Sun, 1906 

On Tuesday, April 5th, Robert M. Thorson returned to the Tiverton Land Trust as a guest speaker for its Spring Community Forum.

His illustrated slide talk, The East Bay Sense of Place: Geology, Culture, and Unnecessary Losses, explained how the landscape came to be, why it's special, and how modernity is having an impact.

In his wide-ranging talk Thorson gave a brief history of cultural geology, discussed one's 'sense of place' and why it's meaningful, noted differences between rocks and stones, gave an overview of how Narragansett Bay and Tiverton's rock and granite formation came to evolve over thousands of years, and spoke about continuously changing landscapes. Thorson quoted both Shakespeare and Emerson to help explain nature and our relationship to it, noting that "you cannot buy the deed for a landscape."

Beginning with the premise that nobody sees the world - or a landscape - in the same way (because of each person's individual history and experiences), Thorson wove a story of the changes that have occurred throughout the East Bay and the loss that one can feel because of the changes. But he also took a long-range view and explained how the East Bay was once part of a gigantic mountain system and how glaciers and rock formations shifted, collided, and eventually formed a basin (Narragansett Bay) comprised of east and west rivers surrounding several islands (including Aquidneck Island).

Thorson talked about the geological make-up of Tiverton, including granite, mica, puddingstone, gray sandstone and shale. He explained that rock is a material whereas stone is an object. An easy way to understand the difference is that stones are generally smaller and more beautiful while rocks are more likely to be larger and less beautiful. Stone walls (the object) are made of rock (the material). Thorson ended with an upbeat piece of advice for the audience. He hoped that we would continue to celebrate our historic landscape.