Sunday, March 12, 2017

Henry David Thoreau on Lichens and the Universe


Thoreau's journals of March 1852 seem to me a revelation.  There is a romanticism toward life, mixed with his growing scientific interests, that may prove to be part of an essay that is presently in the works.  This from the 5th of the month:

"I find myself inspecting little granules, as it were, on the bark of trees, little shields or apothecia spring from a thallus, such is the mood of my mind, and I call it studying lichens. That is merely the prospect which is afforded me. It is short commons and innutritious. Surely I might take wider views. The habit of looking at things microscopically, as the lichens on the trees and rocks, really prevents my seeing aught else in a walk. Would it not be noble to study the shield of the sun on the thallus of the sky, cerulean, which scatters its infinite sporules of light through the universe ? To the lichenist is not the shield (or rather the apothecium) of a lichen disproportionately large compared with the universe? The minute apothecium of the pertusaria, which the woodchopper never detected,  occupies so large a space in my eye at present as to shut out a great part of the world."



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