When I was a child I was fascinated with tiny worlds. I built fairy houses filled with downsized furniture and asked for microscopes to gaze into the worlds I was too large to be a part of. Maybe it was because I was smaller than everyone around me or maybe I was simply inspired by the Borrowers.
It is no surprise really that today I am fascinated with lichens. And even though I am well into adulthood, I would love to shrink down and explore a lichen landscape.
Lichen landscapes are topographical, sculpted with valleys and peaks. They are architectural, sprinkled with columns and towers. They are otherworldly marked with features we could only conjure up in our imaginations: lanky curved trunks of wiry green, deep hieroglyphic troughs and large flattened discs filled with, as I imagine it, fluffy piles of spores. Taking a hand lens to a lichen landscape is sure to inspire even the least creative imagination.
Lichens are complex and a little bit weird and stubbornly determined to find a way. I feel like we have a lot in common.
Lichens are a unique collection of two or more organisms who have learned to cooperate as a community in order to survive in some of the most inhospitable times and places.
A fungus creates the main body which then becomes inhabited by algaes, cyanobacterias and even yeasts. Because of each part contributing what one organism could not do alone, lichens can be found on every continent in the world, in the forest, in the city, on cliff faces and in deserts and even in salty ocean habitats.
Lichens are all about using community to thrive.
I feel like they have a lot in common with Travelers Rest.
And even without us acknowledging it, lichens are doing a favor to us, they are masters of air filtering.
The presence or absence of certain species can even tell you if your air is clean. Turns out, based on the lichen species I find on my wanders, we have pretty good air here. We are not surprised by this. We live in a place where our minds, bodies and souls are constantly refreshed by places we can breathe deeply.
Yes, I think we can all say we are lichen this place!
I love looking for lichens in my favorite place, along the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment. The breathtaking views are not just our mountain vistas, but can also be found in the miniature lichen landscape on rock faces, tree bark and soil.
Take along a hand lens or magnifying glass and I guarantee a sense of awe will follow.
Remember, the more you look, the more you will see!