In February of 1880, writer and wallpaper designer William Morris gave a lecture to the Birmingham Society of Arts and School of Design. He gave the crowd assembled there a perfectly worded piece of excellent advice:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Many of our possessions are either beautiful or useful. Our dogs are beautiful. Our sports bras are useful.
Some things are both useful and beautiful. Now that I’ve painted them peach, our formerly green, truly useful livingroom walls are also a joy to look at.
And then there are things that are firmly in the useful category, until suddenly beauty comes to them, if only momentarily. Our green plastic garbage can with the black plastic lid migrates from the garage to our back porch every winter. Last March its lid was swathed in floral swirls of frost, and I snapped a picture before they melted.
Okay, boys and girls, let’s start with a quiz! Please decide whether each of the following statements is True or False:
1. “Ophiolite Suite” is the opening theme of “Hamlet: A Rock Musical.”
2. The best way to verify an occurrence of orogeny is to ask, “Did the Earth move?”
3. Laurentia and Gondwana are two competing beach volleyball teams at this year’s Acadian Games.
Give yourself 1 point for each statement you guessed was false (maximum 3 points). Give yourself another 4 points if you saw the phaneritic grains of a pattern of truth in each of the otherwise false claims. Give yourself 16 points for each statement you can correct with scientific information. BONUS POINTS: Give yourself 5 points if your answers of “False” were based solely on your knowledge of me and my sense of humour.
HIGHEST POSSIBLE SCORE: 60.
Anybody get over 2? Yesterday I would’ve gotten the 5 bonus points. That’s not saying much.
Gillian and I have decided that this year we’ll be bundling the fur-pods into the car and visiting Newfoundland, aka “the Rock,” which as a count-noun, I’ve been learning, is a bit of a misnomer. Turns out that the island of Newfoundland is not one rock, but three: a strip off what is now North America, a daisy-shaped chunk from what is now Africa, and a big slab of ancient sea bottom between them to referee. “A great big sea hove.” It certainly did!
I wanted to learn more about Newfoundland’s geography and geology before we travel, and now I’m knee-deep in plate tectonics. The whole terrestrial world is a set of paper rafts on a warm pond, their edges sometimes catching one on another and forming the Himalayas, or floating away from each other and forming Hawaii. It’s awesome, inspiring, beautiful, like my view of the sun this morning, looking as though it were shining through a sheet of lake ice.
PS If you didn’t earn the bonus points, it’s time we went out for coffee.