“The juncture of twig and branch,
Scarred with lichen, is a gate
We might enter, singing.”
~Jane Kenyon, “Things”
I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 60 years, and on this farm for 25 years. The grandeur of the snow-capped mountains to the north and east and the peaceful shore to the west overwhelms everything in between. I’ve walked past these bare antique apple trees autumn after autumn, but had never stopped to really look at the landscape growing on their shoulders and arms. There is a whole other ecosystem on each tree, a fairy land of earth bound dryland seaweed, luxuriant in the fall rains, colorful in the winter, dried and hidden behind leaves and fruit in the hot summer.
This is the world of lichen, a mixed up cross between mold and fungus, opportunistic enough to thrive on rock faces, but ecstatic on absorbent bark.
I had never really noticed how proudly diverse they are. I had, for year, blindly walked right by their rich color and texture.
Yet it hasn’t bothered them not to be noticed as they are busy minding their own business. As John McCullough writes:
“It is merely a question of continuous adjustment, of improvising a life. When I’m far from friends or the easing of a wind against my back, I think of lichen—
never and always true to its essence, never and always at home.”
Instead of lifting my eyes to the hills for a visual feast, I need only open the back gate to gaze on this landscape found on the ancient branches in my own back yard.
It’s a rich life indeed.
The lichen raised its fragile cup,
and rain filled it, and in the drop
the sky glittered, holding back the wind.
The lichen raised its fragile cup:
Now let’s toast the richness of our lives.
~Helvi Juvonen “Lichen Cup”