Monday, November 15, 2010

There are mornings--cool, misty mornings, when everything is hidden in fog--when I suspect that the only real way to know anything is to quit everything and devote myself to learning about lichen.

Lichen are maps for everything, everywhere--time and moisture and change and pollution. They grow on plants without eating them and on rocks where there's no soil and little air, and they can survive unprotected in space. Lichen thrive on mysteries. If we asked them to, lichen could probably tell us everything.

A while ago it was suggested that the rocks that rove in Death Valley each move for different reasons; that there are so many microclimates in that desert that no explanation is going to cover everything. As though there could even be an explanation for rocks that move as fast as people and yet haven't ever been observed budging an inch--which, in its own way, is very comforting. Still, maybe the lichen know why.

Yesterday I crouched on my balcony, clearing the debris from my garden to prepare the soil for winter sleeping, while a hummingbird sat on the top of the tree across from me and shouted at me for being too close to the feeder. I posed no threat to him, but there was no way he could have known that, and in the meantime there was the dry dirt on my hands and the spicy smell of pea vines and broken tomato branches. For just that time, everything went still enough that even the mysteries were at rest.

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