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some of us may not have seen Thoreau's journal of February 7, 1859

  • 14 Feb 2019 4:30 PM
    Message # 7166387

    Going along the Nut Meadow or Jimmy Miles road, when I see the sulphur lichens on the rails brightening with the moisture I feel like studying them again as a relisher or tonic, to make life go down and digest well, as we use pepper and vinegar and salads. They are a sort of winter greens which we gather and assimilate with our eyes. That’s the true use of the study of lichens. I expect that the lichenist will have the keenest relish for Nature in her every-day mood and dress. He will have the appetite of the worm that never dies, of the grub. To study lichens is to get a taste of earth and health, to go gnawing the rails and rocks. This product of the bark is the essence of all times. The lichenist extracts nutriment from the very crust of the earth. A taste for this study is an evidence of titanic health, a sane earthiness. It makes not so much blood as soil of life. It fits a man to deal with the barrenest and rockiest experience. A little moisture, a fog, or rain, or melted snow makes his wilderness to blossom like the rose. As some strong animal appetites, not satisfied with starch and muscle and fat, are fain to eat that which eats and digests, - the contents of the crop and the stomach and entrails themselves, - so the lichenist loves the tripe of the rock, - that which eats and digests the rocks. He eats the eater. “Eat-all” may be his name. A lichenist fats where others starve. His provender never fails. What is the barrenest waste to him, the barest rocks? A rail is the sleekest and fattest of coursers for him. He picks anew the bones which have been picked a generation since, for when their marrow is gone they are clothed with new flesh for him. What diet drink can be compared with a tea or soup made of the very crust of the earth? There is no such collyrium or salve for sore eyes as these brightening lichens in a moist day. Go and bathe and screen your eyes with them in the softened light of the woods.

  • 15 Feb 2019 7:23 AM
    Reply # 7166940 on 7166387
    Bruce McCune (Administrator)

    Well done!


    I'm assuming that by "rails" he means old fence rails.


    I had to look up "collyrium": In eye care, collyrium is an antique term for a lotion or liquid wash used as a cleanser for the eyes, particularly in diseases of the eye. (Wikipedia)

    Last modified: 15 Feb 2019 7:27 AM | Bruce McCune (Administrator)
  • 15 Feb 2019 8:51 AM
    Reply # 7167119 on 7166387

    Thank you, Richard! And good timing. Perhaps we all need to read more of that journal!

  • 15 Feb 2019 8:58 AM
    Reply # 7167140 on 7166387

    This is wonderful. I’m a big fan of HD, but I’d never read this. Just shared it to my Facebook page. Thanks!!!

  • 16 Feb 2019 5:49 AM
    Reply # 7168283 on 7166387
    Deleted user

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  • 17 Feb 2019 6:31 AM
    Reply # 7169744 on 7166387

    Lichen songs! Love this line: “They are a sort of winter greens which we gather and assimilate with our eyes.”

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