The ageing process... what's that all about?
Forgetfulness, aches and pains, weight gain - these are things which I have thought would accompany the gentle stroll downhill into old age.
But if I really consider it (and being quite forgetful anyway, I do have to think quite hard), these symptoms have always been with me. So perhaps they're not great indicators of life changes.
As a species, we've never been very good at Time, which is a bit of a let-down when you look at the ways in which we bombard ourselves with temporal information. Calendars, clocks, watches and the omnipresent relentless display on much of our technology.
We're only here for a wee while in the big scheme of things, but to us, individually, it feels like forever. As a wiser man than me said:
However, last night, I was caught off guard by the subtleness of a few recent shifts to my behaviour, and I am now wondering whether these are actually part of my ageing process. There I was, driving into town to attend an Orkney Field Club talk, listening to a CD en route, so far, so normal. Then I considered the situation a bit more carefully.
Were the speakers belting out some heady rock anthem of yore? Melodic prog? Metal mayhem and screaming vocals? Nope, it was Adele.
Was the OFC talk about Nature, red in tooth and claw? Y'know the kind of thing...the razor sharp finality of a Peregrine falcon stooping out of a blue sky? The heart-stopping panic of a seal encircled by a pod of Orcas? Er... not exactly... it was about lichens.
I've always thought I would get around to lichens when I was no longer able to adequately see or hear the fast, whizzy things I usually watch, be they birds or dragonflies. Or to put it another way... older.
So, last night was a revelation. Lots of new words to learn, nearly 500 species of lichens to see in Orkney, as well as the expected bonus of knowing that lichens don't fly away. Unless it's really, really windy.
Today, there was field trip to Finstown Community Garden to look at lichens up close and personal. And it is up close and personal! We must've looked an odd bunch, with hand lenses deployed, noses pressed up against trees and stone walls. It was as if we'd all been told to stand in the corner and not look at the rest of the class.
I couldn't keep up with the steady stream of Latin names, but I did make a valiant effort to remember the various groups of lichen types we saw:
Crust forming - crustose
Leafy - foliose
Shrubby - fruticose
Script-like - lirellate
With only my phone to act as a camera, my photos weren't great. But here's the most amazing thing, where two different species of lichen met, the border between the two often showed distinct signs of conflict.
So even with lichens, Nature is red in tooth and claw!