Winter or summer, as other creatures come and go, lichens endure, in their rainbow colors, their multiplicity of forms, their prodigious capacity to thrive in the least hospitable environments. They colonize gravelly ground, bare rock, concrete walls, tombstones -- the nooks and crannies of the planet snubbed by every other creature. Lichens are nature's graffiti artists, painting every exposed surface with swaths of color.
Some of the most engaging lichens in our area require getting down on hands and knees. To look for lichens is to "go gnawing the rails and rocks," wrote Thoreau.
And so -- I was creeping about with Greg and Bailey the other day at the old quarry behind the town wells. Greg had been there with me before; we wanted to show Bailey the hard, broken earth with its prodigious covering of lichens. Reindeer lichen in thick cushiony billows. British soldiers in prim red coats, and their cousins, the pink earth lichen, all bubble gum and whimsy. And pixie cups, those pale green goblets set out for a fairy bacchanal. Little stuff, close to the ground. I remembered a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin says: "If your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life."
(This post originally appeared in November 2005.)