Yesterday, as is my favorite way to do, we spent the morning out in the woods with a sweet group of kids we share some cooperative homeschooling time with. The children did a small bit of collecting and identifying, but we also just let them be free in the woods without a lot of heavy handed instruction, because that is pretty important too. They ran and explored and enjoyed themselves so much. That kind of joy doesn’t always translate to a fascination with the what and why of lichens or the function of fungus in the forest, but that is okay. I always try not to push that part of it anyways, I really believe (and constantly experience) that children learn an awful lot by osmosis.
But that doesn’t mean that I personally wasn’t enthralled with just that as we walked yesterday. Depending on the time of year and the mood of the person, there is always something to learn out there in the wild. Everywhere I looked yesterday there were so many different kinds of mushroom–from the standard fare to the most teeny tiny things to blobs of orange goo–and so many beautiful and intriguing lichens. I was caught up with thoughts of all those mushroom so quietly regenerating that space we roamed. And all that lichen, mysterious works of art each with a story to tell about how fresh the air was that I was breathing or about the medicine I could make from them if instead I was having trouble breathing. Amazing.
And the whole thing got me thinking about something I was already thinking a lot about–the process of breaking down the old and dead parts of ourselves, the process of personal regeneration. My forest looks a lot like those winter woods right now. A lot of what is growing is helping me decompose my own broken branches, providing fodder for new growth. It feels silly, in many ways, to talk about; but god, it feels good.
Who knew (even though we should know) that we keep going through this process our whole lives?
It only makes sense, looking closely. In all things, aren’t we mirrors of it all? Mirrors of nature, mirrors of each other. Mimesis, that great Greek word, has been argued by some to make for a lesser version of things, a lesser authenticity, but I see it as the parallel expression, over and over again, of all that is in this world, inside of us.
In our art, in our lives as they unfold, in the small ecosystem transpiring on the forest floor, in the large world of our heart.
There is something breath-y about the way lichen hang from trees. Did you know that each lichen is both fungus and algae? I didn’t until yesterday, my own exploration of the field guide answered that question. Two organisms living as one.
We are much the same. When our lives are balanced just so, we grow. We re-present, like the lichen in nature, that all is well in this world.