‘Assimilation of all things lichen was part of my third level mission – an obsession of my late teens.’ He regaled.
‘I mined the institutions for insights. The checklist model made me focus on the genus as an intrinsic unit of intuition and the species was one of degree, incremental difference that carved up the variation seen along traditional lines. Thallus and fruitbody form, ascospore size and chemistry, but then I turned ethically organic. So no more lichen chemistry as a diagnostic tool. No K, C or Pd allowed in all his anti-Nylander-ian contrariness.’
‘I still do some chemistry, Iodine in Potassium Iodide to show amyloid carbohydrates in fungal cell walls of the apices of octosporous asci.’ He said.
‘How does that obsession drive you now?’ She asked.
‘I feel for the intellectual space of developing countries, where the species are known by few, and their meaning is uncertain due to the failure in oral, cultural and graphic communication. The scientific interpretation in writing is a shorter text than an artist would paint when observing, so it is just a catalogue of scientific details, study after study, method after method, until one knows the entities that are there.
‘The history has to be clean, crisp. The novelties are those in the literature that one follows. If one is to create literature, one needs to look and write and interpret and explain and be charismatic and persuasive. All these are overlapping skills, which one has to withdraw from ego-lessly, to learn the truth from the specimen flow.’
‘The fear of looking is why we wrap our packets in paper.’ He said.
‘Over familiarity does not allow us to keep separate the forms expressed and collected on the day in the life cycle when we saw them.’
~ ~ ~ ~
They were walking down the stream bed, passed water filled pools, puddles in an otherwise dry rocky stream. Two ephemeral streams merged at a prominent boulder and his worry increased, but he said nothing. He had never seen a Fer de Lance.
You-tube, viewed in retrospect, showed a 15 second clip of a coiled snake that lunged open mouthed at prey.
Snakes are maligned creatures, furtive now or else machete’ed to death by bipedal predators.
They walked machete-less down the stream, merrily without a dream. He was determined to never to admit being edgy about Fer de Lances.
~ ~ ~ ~
A few days later he admitted his concern.
‘Remember those pools in the ephemeral stream at Trou Gras. Do you think that is the sort of place for a Fer de Lance to bask in the tropical heat, close to the water?’ He hissed to her.
‘I was worried about the Fer de Lance too. Why did you not say anything? She asked.
‘I did not want to worry you unnecessarily, as the habitat was too good. I felt that any interruption and we would not have made such a thorough lichen collection.’
The lichen collections from Trou Gras were actually first rate. We had Arthonia, Arthothelium, Thelotrema, various Graphis and Pyrenula species. When they got back they would tie up the loose ends.
~ ~ ~ ~
A week later he met an older man walking along the lane by the main road, with two armfuls of plantains that he was carrying to feed to his pigs.
He stopped and asked him:
‘Are there snakes at Trou Gras?’
‘Everywhere you turn.’ He replied.
~ ~ ~ ~
Howard Fox, July 2014, 593 words.