September 16, 2011

A Walk in the Woods: Life on Stone

On the volumes of head-shaped stones, a white mask of lichen is surrounded by the deep greens of mosses. With the recent rains, there has been a burst of new life in the woods: mushrooms are popping up in enormous numbers and variety, and the mosses and lichens are thriving. The greens of trees are beginning to turn to their fall colors, but the greens of mosses are more brilliant than they've been all summer. Lichens, too, are putting on a show. On my walk today I was particularly struck by the drama of color and texture on rocks, seemingly a surface inhospitable to life. But just as there is life deep in the ocean and in harsh climes, the cold hard surface of stone provides a home for these simple living things.

Seeing the dark verdant masses of moss and lighter lichens – with the bold note of lichen white – spreading down the rocks piled along a wall, I thought of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a possibly mythic creation, reproduced in miniature in the woods of northern Vermont.

I love the markings of lichens on rocks, which look like someone has come along with buckets of paint, whites and pale reds and yellows; the artist covers a large surface, or places splotches here and there, sometimes leaving some of the background granite to add a different texture. To add to the transformation, moss provides a cushiony softness; hard rock becomes gentle beauty.


  1. I love those markings too. The lichen and moss are so textural. I could run my fingers through the moss.

  2. It's nice to know I'm not alone in loving the marks of lichens. It's a wonderful time of year in the woods and will get more beautiful and colorful as the month advances.