“Gathering Moss” guides me into quiet observation of nature

Looking for some solace and expansion during this ‘at home time,’ I’ve been reading Gathering Moss, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Environmental and Forest Biology professor and member of the Potawatomi tribe. (Gathering Moss, University of Oregon Press, 2003) You may have heard of her other book–which is fabulous, BTW– Braiding Sweetgrass.

In both books, she speaks to our relationship with the natural world, weaving together both a indigenous cultural perspective and a scientific one. Both are ways of deep knowing that she claims. For my heart and mind, she carries that lovely balance of being specifically grounded in knowledge and experience, with an expansive understanding that allows all things their inherent place. A perspective she often attributes living close to nature.

Here’s this that spoke to me this morning:

Draw closer to this carpet of green light and shadow, and slender branches form a leafy arbor over sturdy trunks, rain drips through the canopy, and scarlet mites roam over the leaves. The architecture of the surrounding forest is repeated in the form of the moss carpet, the fir forest and the moss forest mirroring each other…

Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking…Straining to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music…You can look at mosses the way you can listen deeply to water running over rocks. The soothing sound of a stream has many voices, the soothing green of mosses likewise. Freeman House writes of stream sounds; there is the rushing tumble of the stream running over itself, the splashing against rocks. Then, with care and quiet, the individual tones can be discerned in the fugue of stream sound. The slip of water over a boulder, octaves above the deep tone  of shifting gravel, the gurgle of the channel sluicing between rocks, the bell-like notes of a drop of falling into a pool. So it is with looking at mosses.

Wow! The book continues with short chapter/essays about various aspects of moss biology, environment and properties. I’m not yet done with the book, but I’m so enjoying it. Nearly every page has dog-ears for me to come back to: a sentence, a paragraph, ideas about nature and its balance and beauty.

I can’t wait to get back out into our lush northwest forests so I can look and listen again at this incredible bounty!

Thank you, Dr. Kimmerer for your work in bringing this book to us.