Squatting at the edge of a rock outcropping, Paul Lipinsky, twelve years old, heard the sound of tires disturbing the bungalow colony’s gravel road. With his oversized geologist’s hammer and garden spade, he had been working through the heat of a July afternoon to free a large rock from the soil that encased it. If he could cleave the rock along one of its sedimentary layers, he knew he might find fossils more than 400 million years old, when the warm Devonian seas of the Paleozoic Era—teeming with trilobites, nautiloids, sea scorpions, and other creatures as bizarre and wondrous as any that ever lived—had covered what would become Eastern Pennsylvania.
He had amassed an impressive fossil collection, marking each specimen with its own identification number in black India ink. On corresponding index cards he carefully wrote out the phylum, class, order, family, and genus of each one—as best as he could judge from the books he consulted. As he learned what he could about how they lived, he felt the collective life of those long dead seas calling to him from the ground beneath his feet, waiting to be revealed.
About the Author
Peter Lopatin is a freelance writer in Stamford, Connecticut.