The Rocks at Turtle Head

photographs by Jim Dugan


I love rocks but tend to prefer the igneous: granites and basalts. I like their textures, their born-in-fire heritage, the way the glaciers left their plutons rounded as our islands and mountains.

Sedimentary rocks mostly have (for me) less appeal. Their birth as ancient muddy seabeds feels less dramatic than those born more directly and dramatically of fire.

But then I found Turtle Head at the northern tip of Islesboro. I had kayaked past once before but paddled out from Bayside on my birthday to explore.

Photographer Alfred Stieglitz believed in “equivalence”: a meaning that transcends what’s actually portrayed in the picture. Another, Minor White, expressed it as: “Yes, it’s a picture of a (fill in the blank; in this case rock) but what else is it a picture of?”

And it really is that what else that I’m trying to find.

The drama in rocks is sometimes very real, if far removed by time. The forces that formed this stuff include great heat, great pressure, and massive glaciers.

Sedimentary rock is the oldest we see around here, often 400 million years old, and it slid into position from thousands of miles away, clashing with North America and — under lots of pressure — metamorphosed, twisted, buckled, melted, froze, and ground to a halt into the forms we see today.