Playing with a Photograph of Lichen – A Meditative Process

Playing with Lichen

r Playing with Lichen on Red Rock © 2014 Bo Mackison

“…there’s a silent voice in the wilderness that we hear only when no one else is around. When you go far, far beyond, out across the netherlands of the Known, the din of human static slowly fades away, over and out.” ~ Rob Schultheis

Red rock and lichen.

A variety of lichen, but truly, there are at least 946 kinds of lichen in Arizona/Utah combined, and so there will be no identification of lichen in this post. But how glorious they are! Such simple fungi, but in glorious shapes and textures and forms.

Yes. This is a “fun” photo – one that I played with for an hour or so. Not so much to get the perfect photo or abstract, but more to observe the creation of pattern and color. It becomes a meditative process.

I’m not sure what it is about the processing part of photography, but I can get lost in the play of it. Explore the combinations of colors. Make the crevices a blue-gray while keeping the brilliant rock of southern Utah its deep orange-red. Add purple shadows, highlight the yellows, pull out the turquoises.

“We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. ~ Henry David Thoreau in Walden

Hiking while taking dozens of photographs of rock and pattern was itself a meditative process.

I was off trail, but following close enough to the Colorado River so orientation was never a problem. Most of the rock was slickrock, wind-polished and swept bare, but there were pockets of lichen and the tiniest of wildflowers.

Crevices would suddenly appear, when I was anticipating solid rock, and there was the challenge to either step across, climb down and back up, or follow the edge until it descended to level rock. But I spent most of my time sitting and staring at the space.

The rock is endless. And the land is silent, only an occasional whisper of wind or the swooping hawk in search of prey. The land immense enough to roam, explore, study, and then realize that an hour stretches to four without notice.

The call of wilderness — silent and yet singing in a crescendo, lifting my spirit. Heaven on earth.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. I totally get that sort of meditation. There is nothing like sitting in a desert, at the edge of a canyon, at the bottom of Death Valley – that vastness and empty noise, silent, but tiny sounds of wind and perhaps the scraping of dust across the surface of the earth – nothing like those places to bring on to a profound sense of Peace.

  2. This is so beautiful! You did a nice job – and nature helped you!

Leave a Reply