The Thousand Year Old Algae


Apparently, Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms is ready to open its own chapter of MeowWolf, after their latest success in Vegas, because we’ve now had our refrigerator outside the kitchen door for about nine days.

We had been ordered to keep it off the kitchen floor for at least seven days in order for the latest layer of polyurethane to cure, as the previous ten layers (an exaggeration) did not set in properly and began chipping immediately with normal light (socks only) traffic.

Anyway, I suppose one silver lining of our constant displacement for the last eight weeks is that parts of our home get to mirror our local internationally-known “artertainment” complex.

That said, yesterday panned out to be a pleasant day of work-work and creative play-work. There was also the virtual office work-work-work that filled half the day, but no news there, so moving on…

In addition to making a few nice coasters out of tiles I bought at Jackalope Santa Fe some time ago, I had the privilege of spending some pleasant one-on-one time with my almost-8-year-old (just two more weeks) daughter, Olivia Luz.

Together, we gathered a good hundred white rocks from across the landscape, piled them in a barrow and then washed and hand-scrubbed them all.

It was not only a good prompter to finally hook up our new 100-foot contractor’s gardening hose to our rain catchment spout, but Olivia Luz and I also had an ecology lesson too.

I had long been fascinated by how half of the rocks we dug up were half-white on top and half a nice kryptonite-green on the buried-side. Erroneously, I had presumed in my fantasy-world of everything-is-beautiful (it is) that it was a permanent coloring formed over millions of years.

Alas, or rather thankfully, we were quickly enlightened to the fact that grass grows and is greener beneath the rocks of our desert lawn too.

Albeit, not grass, but algae, it scraped-and-peeled right off once it had soaked in the makeshift barrow-tub for a few minutes. The smell of a small pond forming made me think we would soon see the first amphibian emerge from our little cesspool of evolution, but it was also the first clue that the green grass of home was actually glowing desert parchment.

Alright-alright, perhaps not algae-exactly, but pretty darn close. Here’s something I found post-scripte that formerly (but not as funly) explains our brilliant shades of green:

“The most colorful coatings on rocks are produced by lichens, a remarkable symbiotic relationship between microscopic algal cells and fungal filaments. There are hundreds of species in the southwestern United States, including leafy forms and low-growing crustose species resembling a thick layer of paint. The lichen body (thallus) is composed of algal cells living inside a compact mass of fungal tissue. The algae are photosynthetic and provide the fungus with carbohydrate nutrients. The delicate algal cells also gain mechanical protection from hostile climatic conditions by being tightly enveloped in a dense meshwork of fungal filaments. Large colonies of lime-green map lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum) may be thousands of years old.”

Anyhoo, after an hour of mud splatters on our shirts and a good father-daughter chat, we decided to let our quarry soak overnight.

Setting myself up for some classic slapstick, I carefully rolled the ton of rocks-and-water over our little trail-hill and down to the cactus garden, where we let our arms rest and took in the magnificent late-afternoon mountain vista for a moment, as the glorious reward for our devotion and labor.