Upon first setting foot upon Tinsel, I was a bit dismayed at that which I saw lying about me. It was a large field of dark grey boulders covered here and there in light blue and yellow lichens. A deep orange setting sun lay just above the horizon much like the citrus fruit it resembled. Stretching off into the distance, the land rose up and turning in a circle, I observed that I was in a bowl of sorts, though not a particularly deep one.
I stood for some time, as I do, and took in my surroundings. Sketching a quick scene and looking back around. A slight breeze stirred and I could hear at the edge of my hearing a low humming whistle which indicated the wind was perhaps howling much faster above the bowl walls. The boulders themselves varied little in color, all a deep dark grey bordering on black. According to size, I estimated they were mostly in the one to three meter height with many flat sides. Most of those side were covered in the lichens, which themselves didn’t seem to favor any certain surface or compass point.
The temperature was mildly chilly, though not overly so. I felt the need to pull on a wool sweater before I began my walk of the world. Perhaps it was that I had for some reason expected more from the planet, but I felt disappointed in my selection for I am normally astounded by my initial impressions in some way or another.
Looking around I noticed the star had lowered incrementally on the horizon and I felt perhaps I should forego any travel on this day and instead find a place to lay down and begin my trek on the morrow. I poked about searching for a suitable site upon the ground but finding none, realized my best bet was to obtain a large enough boulder with a flat top upon which to rest. Within an hour I found just the one and for good timing too as the orange ball had just set behind the rim and the first of the stars were just making their appearance. The howling of the wind above seemed louder as the sky slowly darkened.
I lay in my bedroll and stared into the purple sky above me. More and more stars made visible before my eyes. It was incredibly beautiful and I felt whisked away out to the stars again. The air around me grew a bit cooler but I felt warm enough within my wool layered sack, my pack beneath my neck. The lichens glowed with a faint luminescence and I looked from the gently glowing rocks to the sky above.
I awoke with a startle, feeling as if ants were crawling across my skin. It was just turning morning and the sky was a pale pink becoming brighter. I threw my blanket off my legs and at first I saw nothing. Upon closer inspection, I realized it appeared as if there were grains of rice moving across my skin. Dozens of them. I jumped from my perch with a start and quickly dug in my knapsack, easily locating my looking glass.
There! Indeed and there! They were not granules of rice or sand but instead a creature of some sort. They had four legs and a flat oval body. A tiny triangular head sat at one end and I could see something that appeared to be clothing of some sort over their torsos and over their feet. There were several small appendages, perhaps antennae or thick hairs running along their backs, which poked through their jackets or shirts or whatever they were. They did not seem violent toward me and I wondered if they had merely been examining me to find out what I was, on their land.
I then realized that the lichen was in fact full of carefully laid out trails and dare I say, roads. For some seemed paved in something I could not easily identify but was slightly less organic than the plants themselves. There were moving along these roads the tiny creatures. It seemed somehow I could hear them. I thought for a moment and then came upon the idea to place my tin cup open end down upon the rock (but not where I saw any of the creatures) and placing my ear upon the bottom of the cup, listened. Yes! I could hear sounds which I immediately knew was communications. These were certainly more than mere insects. No, they were intelligent creatures.
I found a nearby rock which seemed devoid of all lichen, for they seemed to dwell only there, by which I could observe them without disturbing them. For the first day, that is all I did. I watched carefully. First without my glass, for I could then observe their movements as a whole. Then by leaning closer, using my looking glass, careful to not create hot spots from the sun on their land. They seemed aware of my presence, as often I would see one or several stop and look up at me before moving on about it’s business. Upon careful observation, I realized the lichen was like their cities and they used different sections for different things. They seemed to live beneath the surface fronds, perhaps next to the rock itself. There were patches which seemed tended to and I immediately thought of farmers and their crops. They used very rudimentary tools, mostly sacks to carry unknown objects or shorn lichen. No vehicles or other animal life that I could see.
Over the next few days I noticed a change in their behavior and their communications seemed to increase in intensity. They seemed to be fixated upon me and I wondered if I was either disturbing or scaring them. Until the day arrived when I woke up to hundreds or a thousand of the tiny creatures gathered near my head and shoulders. All looking toward me. I felt uncomfortable and I took their point. I didn’t like being watched either.
Mumbling my apologies and gathering my belongings, I felt gratitude that they did not accost my person nor show anything but respect toward me, other than making their feelings known. I am humbled.
Tinsel tiny on my knees
Observing watching always
Much respect and gratitude
Though questions piqued
Deep orange sun and
An entire civilization
Beneath a thumb
Stars aplenty all around
Sometimes a surface hides
Tiny creatures with lives
Worlds unto themselves
But curious as well
tara caribou | ©2019
This is part of my on-going series, Explorations. I hope you’ll stick around for more of the Traveler’s journal entries.