My Evolving Corner of Paradise (Values, part III)

When I last left off, I was describing the relationships between values and matter, and how they fit together to form information or a three-dimensional thing. But something seemed missing. Do we really live in something as simple as a three dimensional world? As I mentioned earlier, the string theorists don't think so, and neither do I. For one, things change. My study of Colorado history has given plenty examples of that. Look at Church Ranch, then versus now, or Lillybridge's studio, and the freeway that sits there today. What makes the difference in forms of these places? Time, naturally. In physics, it is an additional dimension. I believe it is, in a philosophical sense, as well.

i-6e6fb60aef23363950fdbed4e3892dae-home.jpgI've spent plenty of time, sitting outside, thinking about time. (Some might argue that's a waste of time, but I say you need to take time to smell the roses.) Cliches aside, it seems appropriate to discuss the relationship between time and values by examining change in a place I value.

I doubt many people would argue with the statement that my home has value to me. I've put hard work into the garden--some say hard work is a strong value. I've invested in pond pumps, flagstones, and flowers, all costing money, which, most would agree, is valuable. The land itself has value... even more, according to the housing market, because it backs up against a park and bike trail. (I'm especially fond of the park, having used the sidewalks there to lay out my notes on this subject, for lack of any other large writing space.) But is it valuable, just because the city built a park or because I worked here? Does that mean it wasn't of any value before I moved in, or before they built the neighborhood?

I could turn the clock back some 65 million years, and ask if the dinosaurs liked the land swampy and muddy. Or, I could look back more recent than that, and ask if the buffalo valued the tall grass prairie, or if the natives who lived alongside valued the meat and hides of those buffalo. I suspect, if they weren't too busy thinking about survival to consider the questions, they'd say "yes." Call it a guess. At some point, we started keeping records of what was valuable and what was not, so guessing wouldn't be as necessary. No one really kept those sorts of records in Colorado until the gold rush, and after. So we'll start there... a hundred years ago, or so.

If you recall, farmers were extending placer mining ditches into vast irrigation systems. One of the longest canals, the Farmer's Highline Canal, ran through the Big Dry Creek Ridge, north of Denver. As soon as it was dug in 1905, some farmers built small reservoirs, in order to hang on to a little extra water from the canal. Note, on this map, the two lakes on either side of the canal, Jones Lake and Calkins Lake:


Both of these lakes were considered, at the time, pretty valuable. Jones Lake was owned by a Mr. Joseph Standley, and was conveniently located off of the Denver Interurban Railroad line. There was a big celebration in 1911 to dedicate the dam. All the big-wigs got to stand in a railroad car, overlooking the partying crowd and the lake:


i-2208583662b4a88043dd71415cb2a45c-interurban.jpgNo doubt, the lake was considered a valuable resource. Henry Calkins' reservoir was, at the time, actually a bigger lake. But it's possible he wasn't as popular with the company that owned the canal. In the 20s and 30s, things were turning a little dry on the Big Dry Creek Ridge. Farmers were more desperate to hold onto the precious water in their reservoirs. The Farmer's Highline Canal Company became concerned when the ends of the ditch were drying up. Henry Calkins got caught tampering with the irrigation gates, trying to serve himself an extra share of water without asking. There was a bit of a lawsuit, it seems, and Calkins probably ended up on their bad side. So, when the canal company looked to buy a reservoir, so they could store water and keep the ditch full, they only briefly considered Calkins, and went for Jones Lake. Unfortunately, Mr. Standley wasn't interested in selling. Eventually, Jones Lake was joined with nearby Kinnear Lake, and they called the whole thing Standley Lake. By the late 30s, Calkins Lake was dwarfed by Standley. Calkins Lake is the odd-shaped mass in the bottom center of this aerial photograph, while Standley Lake is on the left. (Lower Church Lake, which I talked about a few weeks ago, is to the upper right):


By the 50s, priorities started to change. As the suburbs followed the highways, the metropolis began to spread to the northwest of Denver. The cities in the area, Arvada and Westminster, pooled together to buy Standley Lake for city water. Calkins Lake was ignored, although the land around it was slated for future growth. Here's another map, printed in the 1970s, showing the projected growth in Colorado, over the area encompassing Standley and Calkins Lakes. (The + pattern is the growth projection, while the horizontal stripes show land which was developed prior to 1974. The shaded areas that look like stains, on the left, indicate the presence of gravel resources, for which the map was designed.)


Sure enough, growth happened. Standley Lake was considered a valuable resource for the cites, but Calkins, once valuable, was now in the way. So, in the 1980s, during a economic boom in Colorado, Calkins Lake was filled in to make room for houses and parks. If you haven't guessed already, my house is on the shores of what was once Calkins Lake. Here's another aerial image, more recent, from Google maps:


So, just considering the land and water, this area had value then, and value now, yet, little remains of the past. Most people aren't even aware that the lake was once there... instead, they wonder why there are chunks of old, crumbling concrete along the edges of the park.

If you compare the two aerial photographs above, you'll notice they are two-dimensional representations of a three-dimensional landscape. We can add another dimension, with two pictures, and call them before and after. Some forms in the image, like Standley Lake, persist over time, others do not. That explains how things change... but not why. With three dimensions of form, and one of time, you have the potential for endurance... a universe that goes on and on... but you don't necessarily have variety. Why should two photos of the same place look different at different times? Is time an adequate concept to explain it?

Einstein showed us what happens to objects traveling through time and space, and how different forms relate to one another. Think of the famous train example, where one person travels on a train approaching the speed of light, while an observer remains stationary. (At the station?) When they meet back up, the person on the train has experienced less time than the person at the station. Weird enough, no doubt. (I got a chuckle when a commenter on my sunflower post italicized "relative" when discussing values... how appropriate it seemed, anticipating this post.) But Einstein's example was simplified, out of necessity. The two people in the example wouldn't just age... even two travelers moving at the same speed will have completely different experiences. To describe the uniqueness of any familiar thing, like planets, people, gardens, or sunflowers, we need something more than just a form in time and space. There needs to be something else in the mix, rearranging the values, shaking it up, time and all... making diverse information and individual experiences.

I'll take another break, and leave time to ponder the existence of a fifth dimension. While it may be impossible for us to wrap our minds around such a physical shape (even the curvature of time can be difficult to envision) it is possible to understand the effect it might have.

Image of "home" taken by the author. Gravel resource map via the USGS, early photos of Standley Lake, by L.C. McClure, via the Western History Photos collection at the Denver Public Library, map of Big Dry Creek Ridge and 1937 aerial photo, as well as canal history information, from "The Farmer's Highline Canal and Reservoir Company: A Century of Change on Clear Creek" by Gregory M. Silkensen, published in Feb. 2000. Google maps image from via Google Maps.


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Fabulous, as per usual.

The last fishing trip I had with my Dad included a glorious afternoon at Standley Lake. The value of that visit is incalculable.

Hi there,

This looks like a very promising series.
I really like the way you take grand philosophical concepts, like values and dimensions, which have been theoretically pondered over by scientists and philosophers, and connect them to concrete experiences.
It makes this series more accesible than the (sometimes all too mind-boggling) theoretical discussions, and overall, a jolly good read.
Curiously waiting for the next one,

Abel, thank you. The way I fancy it, you and your dad, through your enjoyment of the lake, added to what it is today. One of these days, you'll have to tell me the spots you liked to fish. I do most of my nature watching on the southeast shore, by the inlet at Little Dry Creek. I've seen some great catches out there (by both the fishermen and the pelicans!)

Kim, thanks! I've tried to make it easy to relate to... at some points, it gets a little rough, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out. Oh, and the picture on the next page gives my husband vertigo. Fun stuff. By the way, this is my first stab at the paper you asked about when the summer began. I still have yet to turn it into a formal essay, but blogging gave me the perfect opportunity to outline in detail. Next, come the references. THAT will probably take the rest of my college career.


Once you've got a great idea, and written it out, you start to think: "Where did I read this?", "Which book gave me this idea?", or even more frustrating: "What page was it on? What page was it on?!!??"
It still looks like a great series to me though.
Keep up the great work.