‘Xanthos’ is Greek for ‘yellow’

This is a short excerpt from a chapter for an anthology we are publishing at the RCA: Archives of Curiosity. In case you’re wondering what I’m up to… it’s this!


 

In first person

It’s a coastal path. I walk alone with Scarborough behind me. Land juts up from the sea. Turbulent air rushes between sea and land, whistling past my frozen ears. Landscapes unfold after each crest in the path. Salty breezes play with my hair. In each valley, I find shelter from the elements, weaving my way through patchwork thicket. Sweet earthy aromas and the sound of rushing water fade in and out.

I move through farmland, forest and fallow on foot. Never am I far from XP. That’s Xanthoria Parietina, commonly known as Maritime Sunburst Lichen. The lichen resembles fool’s gold, embossed on stone and tree. Like a human eye, its colours are best admired up close: flecks of lime, turmeric, flax, terracotta, butterscotch. Under direct sunlight, it rivals daffodils. In shady or moist conditions, it fades to khaki. Occasionally, I stoop or tiptoe to graft a specimen and admire its citrine intricacies, before placing it in my pocket. A tinge of sunlight glints on a February afternoon.

As I walk, stories about lichen surface in my mind, or perhaps they’re carried by the breeze. I once heard that in the Outer Hebrides, islanders boiled XP with urine to dye sheep’s wool. They would weave the tinted yarns into clò-mòr (Harris Tweed), which cloaked crofters and their families during harsh winters.


In second person

It’s a coastal path. You walk alone with Scarborough behind you. Land juts up from the sea. Turbulent air rushes between sea and land, whistling past your frozen ears. Landscapes unfold after each crest in the path. Salty breezes play with your hair. In each valley, you find shelter from the elements, weaving your way through patchwork thicket. Sweet earthy aromas and the sound of rushing water fade in and out.

You move through farmland, forest and fallow on foot. Never are you far from XP. That’s Xanthoria Parietina, commonly known as Maritime Sunburst Lichen. The lichen resembles fool’s gold, embossed on stone and tree. Like a human eye, its colours are best admired up close: flecks of lime, turmeric, flax, terracotta, butterscotch. Under direct sunlight, it rivals daffodils. In shady or moist conditions, it fades to khaki. Occasionally, you stoop or tiptoe to graft a specimen and admire its citrine intricacies, before placing it in your pocket. A tinge of sunlight glints on a February afternoon.

As you walk, stories about lichen surface in your mind, or perhaps they’re carried by the breeze. It is said that islanders of the Outer Hebrides boiled XP with urine to dye sheep’s wool. They would weave the tinted yarns into clò-mòr (Harris Tweed), which cloaked crofters and their families during harsh winters.