In a low winter sun: Cladonia lichens growing around a sandstone outcrop on the Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee, TN. Few plants can survive the thin soil and extreme summer heat near these outcrops. Masters of difficult conditions, lichens move in.
Further north, this genus of lichen blankets parts of the tundra (and feeds caribou). The tundra is another place that is too challenging for most plants, as are mountain tops, rocky coasts, bare cliffs — all places that lichens spread their slow-growing algal-fungal fingers. Another winning mutualism.
Sitting in the woods with my class last week, I was struck by how grays had come to dominate. The light environment is transformed. Of course, a “fifty shades” wisecrack had to work its way into my impromptu lesson on the visual aesthetics of the forest. The witticism turned into a small project for my walks of the last week: pay attention and find these shades. So here they are, fifty photographs of variations on the theme.
Gray is the most egalitarian of hues. Indeed, its essence is that is not a single color. Instead, gray gives us a muted echo of all the light spectrum, a moody version of white. Contrast this with the bias of other pigments — reds, blues, yellows — that reflect just a tiny slice of the light available to them.
Gray is an unassuming mirror of the world and a quiet companion for its more assertive kin. It absorbs metaphors with ease, having combined light and dark: ash, silver, lead, pepper. A suitable tone, then, for winter reflections.
Happy Solstice, fellow ramblers.
Air from the Gulf of Mexico has come for a visit, bringing warmth, rain, and ever-changing clouds. I took this shot yesterday morning before walking into Shakerag Hollow.
As wet air hits the slopes, it gets pushed up and cooled, making low-hanging clouds that rise and fall slowly, dipping us into and out of the fog.
Mosses and lichens love this weather. No tree canopy interferes with their feeding (there is now more light on the ground than in mid-summer) and the gentle rains moisten, plump, and revive them.
They seem ignited, hungry for light. I could dive into their green: alive!
In the heavy rain, I briefly took shelter under a rock overhang.
Another species had done the same last summer. This is the old nest of a phoebe, tucked into the back wall. It is lined with dried moss, perhaps plucked from the same clumps of moss that I had been admiring in the forest.
I enjoy a brief soaking in warm rain (is this January?), but Junebug says that the raindrops hurt her eyeballs…
In an eight by eight inch area, all the following mosses, lichens and young herbs crowd together. I was stunned by the diversity of form that was represented in this one small patch of forest floor.