I wrote this about three years ago (during my 31 Days of A Sense of Place challenge):
I grew up primarily in three suburban neighbourhoods. What I remember most, as far as landscape that felt like home, were the wooded places and fields, behind our house in two places, nearby in another. Not deep woods, not real wilderness by any means, but a green place to escape, without humans. Particularly when we lived in one place, I could walk out the back door, down a small terraced lawn, into woods, over a stream, through more woods, across a grassy, wild-flowered field, into more woods. I’m sure there were houses beyond that (and now there are houses on top of it) but it felt remote. It felt like relief, a place to think, to not have to think, to not have to interact, to simply lie still and listen and watch and breathe. It was a home when I needed to be away from home. …
Gary Snyder says “To know the spirit of a place is to realize that you are a part of a part, and that the whole is made of parts, each of which is a whole. You start with the part you are whole in.”
It sounds abstract, but it’s actually very grounded in the here and now. My habitat, as yours, is Earth, this place of dirt and rocks. It’s the whole.
Today, my 57th birthday and Christmas Day, I wanted to be outside, at home.
For my birthday, I received a guidebook on common lichens of the North American northeast (138 of them, a page devoted to each), which made me enthusiastic to look at some. It was about 28F today, with snow cover in most wooded spots, and frequent icy spots; our supply of plant life beyond tree trunks and branches, some seedheads, and fallen leaves is limited now until April or so. Even the fungi that fruit in winter (which are not many) are mostly covered by snow. But lichen, which grow not only on soil but on rocks and trees, are more obvious in winter.
So spouse and I explored a local trail that overlooks Lake Sunapee. It’s a short trail, with some elevation but nothing too steep, and the payoff, while not spectacular, certainly rewards the 10 or 15-minute trot.
We wore ice cleats so as not to slip and were glad we did.
I was looking for lichen but interested in anything, and the first sighting was fauna rather than flora: Several people were walking the trail with their cat! The cat, which wasn’t on a leash, apparently enjoys hiking with its people. (The people have already rounded the corner in the first photo. The cat is lagging a bit.)
Here the cat takes an off-trail shortcut, hurrying along to catch up to the people:
And here are the fungi, lichens, moss, rocks, and whatnot that I particularly noticed; except for the tiny red lichen (British soldiers, Cladonia cristatella), I don’t know what’s what. The first two are on trees:
This celery green with white was on a rock wall:
Moss and snow with oak leaves:
The cup-shaped protuberances are fruiting bodies of lichen, I believe:
British soldier lichen with fruiting bodies:
I like this delicate looking white lichen among the (I think) sedges:
And this, though I like the sunlight and shadow on it and the blueish rock even more:
This lichen is like impasto in painting; it looks like it’s been laid on thickly, with a trowel:
Lichen plus a sort of rusty-looking something on the rock:
Moss? Quite hard and tight.
The reds and oranges:
The rusty stripes on this smooth grey stone:
A fungus (and some British soldiers blurred in the foreground):
This is what feels like home to me: Being outside in the woods (or beach or meadow or marsh, etc.), looking, seeing, being surprised, wondering, feeling curious about what’s here in this habitat, on this whole Earth. Today, this was the part I was whole in.
Afterward, we took the regular 3-mile walk around Kezar Lake (NH), where the lake has mostly frozen and the late afternoon sun made magic.
Even the left-behind yellow pail of summer glows: