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1: where the air is better

Dear Friend,

Here you are! And, how are you?

I want to start my first of fifty-two letters to you this year by sending you a hug powered by gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for being here to read Tracks by the Post. Thank you for your care.


Thinking back to last Monday, the first day of 2024… did you have a good day? Maybe you spent time calling friends and family to wish them a Happy New Year, maybe texts and emails came pouring in… perhaps you worked your regular job that day, if so, thank you for keeping the world turning. Or, if you had the day off of work, did your day involve parades, football, gatherings with friends and family, solitude, vision boards, how about resolutions? Did you carry out any New Year’s Day traditions like greeting the new year with a nice walk out in nature?


We hiked a path under a canopy of oak and bay trees, so happy to find ourselves the only hikers in the middle of a truly dark green forest.

All around, the ground was lush with grasses and ferns, and feathery mosses covered the remains of fallen trees. Old berry vines camouflaged boulders and piles of stones. The earthy trail, moist after several days of fog and rain, was soft under our feet. Overhead, thin limbs and branches bounced as squirrels chased and chattered, and a pair of red tail hawks called to each other high above the forest in the clear blue sky. Three young mule deer stood like statues on the shadowy path ahead while the first twelve measures of Grieg's Morning Mood was repeated multiple times by a philharmonic orchestra of forty-two raccoons.


You’re not sure if I’m kidding.


Moss is such a beautiful plant.


Lichen, too, but it doesn’t have roots, stems or leaves and is not actually considered a ‘plant.’ Lichen takes hold on pretty much any surface and grows almost anywhere in the world. There are even hundreds of different types of lichen growing in Antarctica (the coldest place on earth) and between rocks in Death Valley, California (an extremely hot place to hang your hat).

Lichen occurs because of the relationship between an alga and a fungi. (It also occurs aquatically between a cyanobacterium and a fungi) but for the purpose of this story, an alga lives within the (plant-like) structure of a fungi and together they are able to survive in environments that neither would survive alone. Alga is able to glean nutrients from the sun while the fungi is able to hold moisture.


Frank took these photos of lichen that grows in Sonoma, California, called ‘Lace Lichen,’ (Ramalina menziesii). (As of 2016, it just so happens to be California’s designated state lichen, thank you Jerry Brown Jr.). 


I didn’t start out to write a report on lichen but what do you think? Isn’t it an interesting living thing? Lichen absorbs everything in the air around it and won’t grow well if the air is bad. So, its presence is an indicator of the air quality in different environments.

Live where lichen lives... and breathe!


This is also lichen. If you stop and look, you’ll probably see lichen growing on the surface of your street sign, your barn door, your dog house, your space ship… yes, it can survive in space!

Lichen doesn’t hurt the trees it grows on at all. And neither does moss, (unless it gets super dense and heavy with water and makes a limb too heavy for a tree to maintain its balance). In fact, neither moss or lichen take anything away from the tree upon which they grow because they both get their nutrients from the air and sun. And because they both absorb moisture, they can actually be a benefit to the trees and can also act as an insulator during harsh temperatures. What a beautiful blanket!

Moss is a plant with tiny root-like ‘rhizoids.’ It is one of the very first living things ever to exist on the planet. Most mosses need moisture to thrive but some can just go dormant for years in dry climates and spring to life when the rain returns. If you look closely at a clump of moss, you’ll see an intricate system of tiny leaves and stems, the surfaces of which are perfect places for even tinier organisms to thrive. Then, look around you, look at all of the moss growing, imagine all that life! What an incredible world!


This moss is American Tree Moss, on a foggy day, the little plants reach out to absorb moisture through their tiny leaves...


... and look like miniature forests growing on the bark of fallen trees or mature, established trees or on decomposing stumps. Moss and lichen enjoy slow growing bark so if a tree begins to decline for any reason, you might see a growing abundance of moss and or lichen attaching to it. This is why some people blame the moss and lichen for killing the tree. A great example of jumping to conclusions.

A thank you from me to those who’ve spent their lives studying living things so as to share knowledge with others.

My most recent interview was less than informative. I had the attention of a whole grove of bay trees and asked the question, “Clearly this forest is in danger of being taken over by moss and lichen, what can be done? ”

You should have heard the laughter!

: )


Knowledge is power. See how much stronger you feel?


There is so much more to say about moss and lichen. If you are interested in learning more or would like to involve your household in a moss project…

Here’s a fun video on one way to grow your own moss garden. Thank you, Joe Lamp'l of JoeGardenerTV!

People even create indoor and outdoor vertical walls and hallways of living, growing, lichen, moss and other plants. The air is always better where things grow because they’re growing where the air is better where things grow where the air is better …

(If you do decide to grow your own moss garden, most sources suggest that you go out and harvest small amounts from nature. But it is always a good idea to avoid harvesting from forests that are in recovery from fire or drought).



Well, as the week marches on, hour by hour, I hope that you take care to nourish your being with fresh air and joyful places.

Frank and I will continue our quest for home this year. For the time being, we have the gift of a lovely, warm place from which to work and plan and travel. We don’t know for sure when we’ll be “back on the road,” and we don’t know for sure if we’ll acquire a trailer. What we do know is that we are incredibly grateful to be staying close to nature and that each week, we are able to share our journey with you!

Please CONTACT ME and let me know how you are doing. And also, let me know if you would like to be added to my email list for the sole purpose of sending you updates and links to published blog/letters. Until next week...

Gently Be,

Leslie and Frank

Ps: My thanks to Frank for supplying all of these stunning photos!

Here's a link to a very beautiful performance of Grieg: Morning Mood Vienna Philharmonic & Zubin Mehta (Summer Night Concert 2015).

To read 2023 Tracks by the Post,


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