Clare Dudman   Clare Dudman
Extract from WEGENER’S JIGSAW (UK Title)
(US Title)

There is a time, I tell her, that takes so long that only the land can understand. It is the land’s time, with land-seconds, land-minutes and land-hours. In this time there are different rules; substances change character, even the most brittle solid can become liquid enough to flow. A land-second is long enough for an icicle to bend, and for a glacier to creep downwards to the sea. In a land-minute rocks can be pushed into mountains and they can curve and fold like baker’s dough. But during a land-hour the solid-liquid continents have time to float by in the liquid-solid mantle; they fracture, they rift, they form valleys and then they float away. They push their way through the sima-mantle that has now become a liquid sea. Imagine the hours creaking by, Hilde, imagine continents colliding, earthquakes making the whole globe shake, and a mountain chain rising in a colossal wave.

Her head is sinking onto my shoulder. But when I shift she wakes and whimpers so I talk again.

Ah such mountains, my little one, if only we could see them: one continent nudging another, India against Asia, buckling up the land between to form a plateau in the clouds. Or the Andes, ribbing the earth like your curled up backbone, such a colossal chain, arching backwards as it encounters the chilled Pacific. So many land-hours have passed. The sima-surface of the ocean floor has set quite hard and the westward drift of the Americas has become a push. The leading edges buckle, the sial splinters, and from these rents volcanoes quietly exude a runny lava.

I stop. By my neck there is a wet patch of dribble. When we pass a mirror I see her eyes are shutting and then being forced open again and so I continue.

A land-day has passed and what do we see? Behind the stately-moving continent are a dozen islands, sloughed off in its wake, and in front of each island, at the cold bottom of an old ocean, the sima has become brittle enough to fracture and form a trench. So deep, Hilde. Imagine the blackness, imagine the cold. Every movement is sudden and ferocious: earthquakes, Hilde, great tidal waves, and before each shift a mighty swelling up of sima. Imagine a volcano, all that fire, all that heat.

She whimpers a little then sucks on her fist.

But this is so far away, little one, or so long ago. Even the land does not remember when the sial of Marburg last swept through oceans. There is nothing to fear. The only earthquakes here, my love, are the ones we make ourselves.

Wegener with family
©Clare Dudman 2003


Wegeners Jigsaw illustration

Wegeners Jigsaw illustration

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