Reflection 313: Wildness 13

August 31, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.      [With nine photos.]

The lichen old man’s beard doesn’t sound very wild, but when you see clumps of it growing on tree branches, fine pale-green filaments waving in the wind, you wonder, What is this stuff?, I’ve never seen anything like it. Great hair-like masses growing on trees!

This is not wildness in the sense of being unruly, savage, or dangerous, but more in being strange, curious, unexpected, or even whimsical. Old man’s beard is a curiosity because so seldom met with in the woods. It lives only where air vapor is unusually wet, as in damp or foggy areas along the coast where winds off ocean currents bring moisture onto forested shores.

In such places old man’s beard thrives by seeming to live on air—or, more accurately, air laden with moisture, giving a hoary, wild look to the trees it attaches to.

P1020316 96-omb-1P1020280 96-omb-2P1020284 96-omb-3P1020307 96-omb-4P1020308 96-omb-5P1020314 96-omb-6P1020309 96-omb-7P1020311 96-omb-8P1020315 96-omb-9Northern parula warblers make their nests in old man’s beard, using it for shelter and protection, not to catch prey. To me it is a reminder of how much of the substance of plants is derived from carbon dioxide in the air. The other chief ingredient being water, in this case airborne as well. Producing exotic growths that seem to sprout from nothing. Except air isn’t nothing, it’s just that human eyes can not see it, so it comes across as a magician’s trick.

This post rounds out the gallery of wildness I’ve been preoccupied with this summer: tree bark (302), lichens (303), crab shells in strange places (304), Indian pipes (305), fungi from above (306), fungi from underneath (307), flowers (308), shore life (309), fallen trees (310), standing trees (311), ground webs (312), and now one particular lichen—old man’s beard (313).

My aim in this series has been to illustrate the kinds of events I engage with through photography, presenting as much a portrait of my mind as of my physical surroundings. Without my mind, none of these posts would have appeared. My mind is always on the near end of my situation, providing a certain perspective; what I actively engage is on the far end, providing an object of my experience, again as seen from my mind’s point of view. This kind of situated seeing (hearing, touching) is the essence of phenomenology, which makes up a good part of the matter I deal with in this blog. Which I hope to expand upon in my next post.

Thanks for watching the show. I remain y’r friend and brother, –Earthling Steve

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