Staring at Walls #30DaysWild – Day 15

#StayWild Tip: Explore the urban jungle. Look for lichens on walls, mini-forests of mosses and flowers in cracks.

Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss. If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you’ll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment. A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber. I see a living city

This quote from biologist-explorer Sylvia Earle suggests a fascinating concept; that for each scale of life there are greater and lesser scales. Even bees can have “fleas”, and big trees support tiny trees that make brave roots in the damp crooks of limbs.

I love this idea, as it encourages exploration of the commonplace in ways that are accessible to everyone. Any patch of grass, a rock or fallen branch becomes a microcosm of interest. Even more remarkable, no two will ever be the same. I still pursue my childhood habit of turning over stones or bark to investigate what lives beneath, before replacing the shelter carefully.

On my walks I often stop to examine drystone walls. The aged, interlocking stonework offers shelter for fascinating species, from the tiny mosses and lichens to lizards and mice. One of my regular patches has a wealth of crumbling mossy walls as well as a delightful old humped bridge.
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The stonework is host to a wonderful variety of life. There are mayflies here too, and if they are clumsy enough to touch the surface of the water then they are often quickly taken with a loud, splashing gulp by trout.

The walls reward close scrutiny, and the closer you get the more fascinating they become. Tiny structures resolve from the furry, scaly rocks. A fractal landscape of diminishing detail is resolved, where moss becomes a plantation, lichens resemble blasted forests, and miniscule bursts of colour tumble forth like erupting magma.

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I don’t know much about the different primitive plants, but I really want to find out more. Looking at the pictures makes me wish I was a tiny homonculus of a man, to be able to shrink down and explore these tiny-huge landforms for myself.

Why not grab a magnifying glass, and find a mini world for yourself on your own patch, and be an explorer for a while?

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