Usnea Barba

One thing that I have discovered while planning this blog is that the phrase, “Why doesn’t anyone write about ?” is completely invalid. If you can’t find an article on a particular subject, you are not googling hard enough.

The title of this post refers to the picture that is all over this page. I have been carrying that image around with me on my phone since December. I had honestly forgotten that I had taken it. When I was trying to find a cool image that portrayed what I wanted this blog to be about (and avoid receiving take-down notices when I forget to cite where I ripped the image from), I scrolled down past more selfies than I care to admit and dozens of Pokemon GO screen shots, and just when I thought that there was no way I was going to find something worth using, voila! there it was. Old Man’s Beard, usnea barbata, the mystical love-child that results from a symbiotic union of a fungus and an algae. If that doesn’t embody a serial internet commenter, I don’t know what does.

That brings me back to my original point. My first thought was, “Why doesn’t anyone write about tree lichen?” Go ahead; google it. I will wait. Holy crap. Do you see how many people on the internet are writing about tree lichen? It is a serial commenter’s dream out there! A world of information at your fingertips, engrossing articles written by professional lichenologists (I had to google what a scientist who studies lichen is called), herbalists, naturopaths, and botanists. I even found some very disturbing fan-fic. (I am convinced that fan-fic spontaneously appears every time someone enters a search term into google. Seriously, there is fan-fic for everything.) I had no choice. It was a compulsion. I started reading. The dangers of reading about anything is that when the author is passionate about what they are writing, it is contagious. Lichen suddenly became the coolest thing in all of creation. I probably consumed a dozen articles (commenting on any foolish enough to provide the option) before remembering why I had started down that rabbit-hole to begin with: I had to know if this image was appropriate to be the standard under which my thoughts are presented. I needed to be certain that the symbology of usnea barbata had not already been claimed by some less-than-savory faction. What I discovered was that the image I had settled on out of laziness was actually the perfect metaphor for this blog.

Usnea barbata or “Old Man’s Beard” (I am going to call it UBOMB because it just feels right) grows almost everywhere and are very sensitive to air pollutants, so much so that they are sometimes used as an indicator for local air quality. Ok, so maybe it is not a perfect metaphor, but the political “air-quality” or atmosphere may be somewhat responsible for the timing of this project; needing a place to spend some free time that is not facebook, twitter, or tumblr. Being able to lose myself in the creation of something positive feels important right now. UBOMB can also be used to treat indigestion, so that ties in, too. My favorite use of the stuff though is decorative. So, think of this blog as a pretty wreath of grey-green lichen. Lichen that grew on the bark of a dying tree somewhere in the world. A wreath from a place where the air is crisp and clean. A wreath you can eat if your stomach hurts.

by: Tim Kiester with extensive grammatical edits provided by Laura Nelson (check out her blog; she is hilarious).

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