Celer – Time? This. (2020)

I have a piece of volcanic glass on my desk, a circa sixty million year old relic I claimed from the detritus surrounding the now-unearthed subterranean intrusion it originated from. A flat black, shiny, pyramidal inch of glossy rock, tipped at its de facto top with a capstone of andesitic porphyry, a grey-green peak of stone adjoining its colourless neighbour. It’s largely unremarkable besides a few of its facets curving in conchoidal fracture and its surprising weight: its would-be sharp edges are dulled to time and its visage blends seamlessly against my black desk top and monitor.

I don’t often pick it up, but it remains a steadfast piece of my tabletop furniture. It’s far from the oldest or most impressive sample I have, but I like having it around as a fragment of humble nostalgia from my favourite Scottish isle, and as an unassuming artefact of Hadean fire and pressure in the Deep Time.

This cool black shard I hold in my hand, with its many edges and radial fracture lines, slowly and imperceptibly devitrifying over the aeons back to rock, is seven orders of magnitude older than me. It was born creating the Atlantic; found form 15 million years before the first grasses grew; oversaw the evolution of the butterflies; watched the rise of mammals; passed through the ice ages of the Pleistocene, before finally coming to the surface and carried off by myself.

It was probably chipped from its larger mass in the months or years before my arrival but in its present form, much like as it has been for the last sixty million years, it remains functionally static. I will not see it change noticeably in my lifetime, nor in my children’s, or children’s children. If I close my eyes I can see what it has been through in the long dark, but cannot fully conceive or comprehend it. A perceptual void.

The drones contained herein have been a regular accompaniment to me these last few weeks and like my glass fragment, while not the most remarkable thing in the world, have been comforting, forming primeval airs that surround the mind otherwise occupied with work and other matters. They turn over and again, soft and unobtrusive cycles that pulsate, radiate, through the ages. I close my eyes and try to see through them, but find myself lost in times that seem so distant and carefree as to be imperceivable: one year ago may as well be sixty million now for all the difference it makes.

Yet on it goes all the same. For the time being I may find myself sitting in the same cool reverence and constancy of these drones, of this little stone, but someday soon I’ll rise to the surface and be chipped from this stationary mass and set loose in this world again.