reading

1. Gathering Moss

My daughters, being raised in a place where they simply assume that all rocks have names, christen their own: Bread Rock, Cheese Rock, Whale Rock, Reading Rock, Diving Rock.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss

If you had asked me a week ago what I thought about moss, the answer would have been that I don’t, really? It has been there on the borders of my perception, duly admired on boulders and fallen trees, occasionally to be touched for pleasure at its unique texture. I’ve spent moments contemplating the millennial process of reducing stone to earth, and then walked on.

It turns out that there is a great deal to know about moss, and this book warmly invites you to spend a few hours in their miniature perspective. Kimmerer’s eye is keen but gentle, and I felt embraced by this book of essays, by the memories she shares of the human-scale world woven into the ways of this other, very small and green.

She explains the science deftly, but also tells you about walking barefoot through peat bogs and a summer spent waist deep in a river studying cliff-dwelling moss; you keep one foot in the physical world the whole time. The past and present of her Native ancestry, the present of her scientific studies, and questions about the future shared by humans and forests intertwine around her ancient subject. Mosses are old and biologically simple–but is anything alive simple? There is an enormous and populous world below the limits of our vision, and usually beneath our feet, brimming with creatures living out the same relationships of predators and prey, facing the same reproductive challenges as any other part of the biosphere.

Although this is a slim book, just 160 pages, I wouldn’t recommend rushing through it. Like its subject, the book rewards slow consideration and repeat visits.


This first read of the new year was a Christmas gift from my mother–I can’t remember where I saw it recommended, unfortunately. To make it easier to keep track of my reading this year, I thought I would try numbering the posts. We’ll see if it takes!

On the subject of current events, I can either write a book (I’m sure someone already is) or resort to “smdh”. Will stick with the latter, as I already have a book to write. It’s on schedule so far, one week in.

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