I went for a walk in our woods yesterday. The clouds swept across the hill just before I left, darkening the sky and threatening rain. The woods were dim and damp. Mushrooms abounded. A white fungus or mold blotched the trail in spots. Branches and twigs littered the path, suggesting that no one had been walking these woods since before Irene.
Reaching the Scenic Overlook I was amazed, as I always am, by the stark beauty of the rocks and mosses, lichens and stunted oaks. Who knew there were so many distinct shades of gray, green, and brown? And the plants and lichens grow in what always strike me as tiny gardens. It’s almost impossible to capture that idea in a photograph, but I will try to show you.
Here is one of the tiny gardens shown from ground level. The stone-hugging lichen is the lowest level of growth. Next is a vibrant green turfy moss. Behind it grows a taller, bushy moss. Sometimes the bushy moss mixes with a scraggly lichen, like so.
I have always thought that the story of the Garden of Eden contains an important kernel of truth about the human race. We are at heart gardeners. We cannot help but want to shape our environment. Since there are things growing in our environment, we want to control them, to best arrange them to suit our needs and desires of the moment.
As I looked upon this scene, my fingers twitched to pull out the plants that I didn’t like, to remove the dead twigs and other bits of detritus, to bring human order to this random little patch of natural growth. It was partly for the sake of the pictures I was trying to take, but I think too that I saw beauty in its rawest form, and I wanted to bring that beauty out, to make the scene before my eyes match the image in my head.
It amuses me to think about tending this tiny garden, adding little ornaments of polished stone and glass, building miniature benches and creating bordered paths, and maybe even engineering an ornamental pond or two. Don’t put it past me. If I can ever manage regular walks, I might just try it.