Lichens of Slide Mountain

“I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass,” wrote Walt Whitman (1818-1892) in his poem, The Song of Myself, an eerie echo of a theme in 13th century Japanese Zen literature:

There is a world of sentient beings in clouds. There is a world of sentient beings in the air. There is a world of sentient beings in fire…. There is a world of sentient beings in a blade of grass.

— Mountains and Wates Sutra, Eihei Dogen (1200-1253)

Could there be a world of sentient beings in a piece of lichen?

Last weekend my friend Steve Aaron and I had the privilege of accompanying nature photographer John Franklin on an expedition to Slide Mountain.  John is working on a book about New York lichens, and he kindly shared many observations with us as well as some spectacular photographs which are showcased below together with some apropos quotations from Henry David Thoreau.

Lichen 12 (1 of 1)
Nature Photographer John Franklin in action.  Credit:  Steve Aaron Photography

Thank you, John!

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Lichens of Slide Mountain

Green Mountains Walking

In his book “The Practice of the Wild,” Gary Snyder quotes from the writings of 13th century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253).  One quotation in particular from Dogen’s Mountains and Waters Sutra caught my attention:

Mountains’ walking is just like human walking. Accordingly, do not doubt mountains’ walking even though it does not look the same as human walking.

— Dogen

What could Dogen have meant, I wondered, by mountains’ “walking”?

There seemed no better way to answer this question than to head out to the Catskill Mountains and with some luck catch them in the act of walking.  And so, with a shout for Odie, off we went.

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Green Mountains Walking