And the Trees Hugged Me Back

I went for a walk in the woods in the late morning last Wednesday. I knew it would be a long and stressful day as we endured planned protests to the certification of the electoral votes for our new president, and I was trying to do some self-care to keep my stress level in check. Every new day seems to push me to what feels like a new limit to my endurance, and I worry about the long-term health consequences of constant high levels of cortisol and adrenaline in my body. I really miss being able to go to the gym.

On this walk, I stopped often to look skyward and enjoy the feeling of being comforted by the trees “hugging” me. Maybe they’re repaying me for all the times I’ve hugged them?

I’ve been off my photography game lately, but on this day I decided to snap some cell phone photos of mosses and lichens. At this time of year they’re a welcome pop of color in the mostly-brown-and-gray woods. I don’t know much about these organisms and can’t identify most of them, but I love looking for them.

On this walk I found lots of large trees with moss socks going up several feet from the ground. I often stopped to pet them and enjoy the tactile aspect along with the verdant feast for the eyes.

This tree is wearing a moss sock
A wood fern, another nice green surprise in the winter woods. (Maybe dryopteris genus.)

As I drove home from my walk, I turned on the radio and heard the news of the domestic terrorists invading the US Capitol. I finished my drive in a state of shock, anxious to get home and see what was on the tv news. I remembered that I had ended my last gratitude post with a statement that now seemed like a dare: “Show us what you’ve got, 2021. We’re ready.” I have to take that back now…we were not ready. At. All.

I think this is the first time I’ve photographed this particular lichen. It appears to be one of the rosette lichens in the genus Physcia. It occurs to me that this might be the reason I’ve been craving mint chocolate chip ice cream…you see it too, right?

And here we have a lichen sitting on a soft bed of moss. The moss is a plant, but the lichen is not. Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga, allowing the fungus to benefit from the photosynthesis ability of the alga, and thus retain a constant source of nourishment. (At least this is how I understand it at a very basic level.) Luckily for me, it’s not necessary to understand the science in order to enjoy them.

I need to get back on board with my fairy photo project soon. I used to carry little fairies and gnomes with me so I could pose them on big mushrooms or tucked into beds of lush moss. That project gave me a lot of pleasure, and it should be one more thing I continue to help keep my mind off of all the scary things that I have little or no control over. I hope you remember to take good care of yourselves too. I can highly recommend being hugged by trees.

8 thoughts on “And the Trees Hugged Me Back”

    1. Thanks, Cindy. Maybe one day I’ll make some effort to learn how to identify mosses and lichens. It seems like there’s just not enough time in life to study all the amazing parts of this world.

  1. Your lichen, moss pictures are good. The tree with the green socks is usually referred to as having a green “skirt” around here. Choc chip mint ice cream….mmmmmm. I also think your fairy project is fabulous. What a.delightful surprise for someone. Someone’s spirits will fly.
    We were all shocked at the violence. May it not be repeated.

    1. Lisa, I think ‘skirt’ is a more apt description actually…thanks for that.

      Just to be clear about my fairy project, I don’t leave them for people to discover, although that would be really fun too! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  2. I can’t help but make the connection…your blog is called Nature is My Therapy. You are on the right track. I love your lichen and moss photos, and yes, if I buy choc chip mint ice cream this afternoon at the grocery, it will be on you! Here is a little something I saw in a newsletter from the US yesterday…maybe it will help:
    “As a historian, I know this is how change happens.
    Society usually has to be shaken. And have no fear—
    there will ALWAYS be more good in the world than bad.
    We’ll be just fine.” – Christine Platt
    xoxo

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Ardys. I do believe there’s more good than evil in the world, but seeing it on display in the open with no consequences has shaken me deeply. I find that I constantly look at my fellow citizens and wonder which of them are sympathetic to the cause of those who invaded the Capitol. I don’t recognize my country anymore.

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