growing in the dark

Since early this year, moss has captivated me.
In February, I went to Kanuga with the diocesan youth, and the cold ground boasted plenty of soggy, fallen branches covered in moss and lichen.

A few weeks ago, back in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I found more, and couldn’t stop taking photos.20140507-182505.jpg

I wondered why these funny little organisms had such an effect on me; it made me think about their make up.

Moss grows in the shade–when I was little, my dad taught me that if you couldn’t quite tell which way was which (cardinally-speaking), you could tell north by what side of a tree had moss growing on it.  Lots of plants and growing things prefer sun, the more the better!  But moss, with its soft, fragile, hardy growth needs some shade to thrive.  If we acknowledge and honor even the shady moments of our lives, we can grow and thrive in and through them.

20140507-182456.jpgSpeaking of hardy, there’s no better word to describe lichen.  It grows in the most inhospitable places–on rocks, in deserts, even in the arctic!  Lichen also grows in rainforests, on soil, and in more temperate areas; no matter where it finds itself, lichen hangs on and determinedly grows.  This fierce fungus not only survives, but boasts a frilly natural beauty.  What an example of how to live our own lives.

All around us are resolute, haunting, quiet witnesses to the brutality of this world and to the strength of living things.  Whether you believe in a God or not, it’s clear we’re not really alone (thank goodness!!).

healing mountains & seas #ujjayi

You know that noisy breath that yogis practice?  Ujjayi breath calms the mind & body and serves as an anchor for yoga practices.  You don’t have to be posin’ to use it–often I practice the deep, intentional breath walking down the street (my yoga teacher says it’s really breathing that does you good in any exercise).  When you constrict the muscles at the back of your throat and force the air through, up and out of your nose, it sounds like the ocean–that’s what I always hear people say.

As I’ve fallen in love with the mountains over the last year, finding deep comfort in the tall mounds of earth that peek out behind trees and skylines, drawing the horizon higher, I’ve been a little crestfallen that the foundational breath of yoga has to do with the seashore instead.

What joy on Monday: our little family hiked to the summit of Mt. Pisgah, and as we wound higher and higher, I realized that ujjayi breath doesn’t only sound like the waves of the ocean: ujjayi breath sounds just as much like the wind blowing determinedly through the trees and ridges of the mountains.20140430-115653.jpg

Now I envision my dear Blue Ridge Mountains as I take poses and force air through my throat.  Not only does that air mimic the wind of beloved hills, but also reminds me that the mountains and trees stand steady in the midst of blowing tempests, even as it allows the living air to change it slowly and slightly.