Gathering moss : a natural and cultural history of mosses

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Paper Book, 2003

Call number

588.2 K



Corvallis, OR : Oregon State University Press, c2003.


Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering moss is a mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses. In this series of linked personal essays, Robin Kimmerer leads general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings. Kimmerer explains the biology of mosses clearly and artfully, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us. Drawing on her experiences as a scientist, a mother, and a Native American, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Paulagraph
I loved this book. Rachel Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss is the best sort of nature writing, reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind in its lyricism, style and scientific precision. Different, however, not only in its subject matter and its site specificity (her inch by inch
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investigation of moss habitat niches) but also in that the author writes herself into the narrative. I’d even say that she engages in reverse anthropomorphism at times, so that aspects of the biology and behavior of mosses become metaphors for human behavior and culture. Only very occasionally, however, does Kimmerer overwrite the human story to the point that it detracts from that of the mosses she studies so carefully and which she knows so well. These are very minor criticisms. The author’s situating of mosses at the conjuncture of biology and culture is illuminating and I found her book a real joy to read. I learned something fascinating about mosses (the study of which is called bryology) on almost every page; for example, one gram of moss would harbor 150,000 protozoa, 132,000 tardigrades, 3,000 springtails, 800 rotifers, 500 nematodes, 400 mites, and 200 fly larvae; and there is more living carbon in sphagnum moss than in any other single genus on the planet. In the course of reading the book, I was introduced to an evocative new vocabulary: julaceous, turbulent zone, poikilohydric, Berlese funnel, rotifer or “wheel animacule,” sessile, reproductive effort, microburst, gap dynamics, aerial plankton, esker, “stemflow” and “throughfall.” I also found a scientist’s description of her work methods especially interesting; how she decides upon, sets up and carries through on a study of a particular moss specie’s biology or behavior, how she proceeds through a combination of educated hypothesizing, close observation, hunches and serendipity.
Here in Northern California, despite a very wet spring, we are entering the dry season, so the local mosses have already become quite desiccated; but a close examination of heretofore unnoticed moss lining the cracks in my patio reveals a thicket of delicate brownish- pink sporophytes waving above the crinkly mat of dried moss. Robin Wall Kimmerer has shown me how to pay attention to every inhabited surface in my surroundings.
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LibraryThing member jjsreads
I love moss. I would live in a moss house if I could. And then have a beach shack too. CH. 2 Learning to See: "Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.
LibraryThing member juniperSun
Kimmerer describes her curiosity about the world in the way I wish I could, demonstrating through her experiences why she loves being a scientist. Maybe I just loved it because she writes about doing her Master's thesis on the Kickapoo River cliff mosses (a favorite canoeing site). She alternates
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lively chapters of her experiences with more factual chapters describing what she learned. I highly recommend this to every teenager as a depiction of what natural scientists actually do.
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LibraryThing member 2wonderY
My initial disappointment that this book lacks the taxonomic details and photos I was looking for, gave way at the first paragraph. Kimmerer's prose is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
LibraryThing member WilfGehlen
A moss carpet is a microcosm of a rain forest. Its study requires an in-depth seeing. The First Peoples Americas saw.

In indigenous ways of knowing, we say that a thing cannot be understood until it is known by all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit. The scientific way of
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knowing relies only on empirical information from the world, gathered by body and interpreted by mind.... These essays intentionally give voice to both ways of knowing, letting matter and spirit walk companionably side by side. And sometimes even dance. p vii.

""A Cheyenne elder of my acquaintance once told me that the best way to find something is not to go looking for out of the corner of your eye, open to possibility, and what you seek will be revealed. p.9

Read of the Water Drum of the Anishinabe people and see its counterpart in nature as a Sphagnum bog. p 111
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
A little gem about moss. Yes. Moss. If you enjoy the occasional encounter with a scientific piece, which reads like poetry, you will love this book. I listened to the audio edition, and the reader was marvelous. I love thinking of moss on a rock as the jointvrepresentation of past and present
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LibraryThing member GLC-Library
Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of Indigenous ways of knowing. In her deft hands, the natural history and cultural relationships of
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mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.
By Robin Wall Kimmere
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LibraryThing member zeborah
Every bit as good as everyone says. Weaves the Western scientific knowledge of mosses with the Indigenous ways of knowing into a rich tapestry. A lovely balance of new facts to digest and an enjoyable narrative to frame them for easy consumption. I enjoyed following along on the field experiments
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and the trial-and-error approaches to learning more about these species. Some moments were funny (Splachnum, the moss found only in bogs, on white-tailed deer droppings, which have lain on the peat for four weeks, in July), some were infuriating (the Owner!), and others transcendant.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
I received this for Christmas and immediately dove into reading it. It's one of those books I like to savor -- As a collection of essays, I would read an essay or two at a time, then set it aside for a bit. It's really beautiful nature writing that made me long to summer at biological research
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stations -- but I'm sure that also has something to do with being stuck mostly inside for a year.

A deft weaving of the biological, personal, and cultural. Also, I will never look at mosses the same.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
An absolutely delightful meditation on mosses and how to know them.
LibraryThing member samalots
She gets it
LibraryThing member markm2315
I've always been fascinated with micro-environments, perhaps as far back as when Brainiac shrank the city of Kandor on Krypton and Superman put it in a bottle. I see a lot of Moss when I hike, but I only know a few basic things about it. This book is a fine simple introduction to bryology. The
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author is a bryologist, a Native American and a great writer. The chapters discuss some aspect of moss ecology, physiology or reproduction and tie this to a story about the author's family, neighbors or tribe. A thread of respect for the environment runs through it all. The book won the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and I recommend it to any natural historian.
(Of some interest, I noted in my review of "The Life of a Leaf" that the author stated that the velocity of a viscous fluid is 0 at the luminal surface and that's why you can't just rinse off dirty dishes; Dr. Kimmerer essentially discusses the same thing in chapter 3 about the "boundary layer" - the place where mosses live.)
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LibraryThing member Treebeard_404
Good, but not nearly as good as Braiding Sweet grass.
LibraryThing member cbloky
A bit different than i was expecting but loved the book. I have always loved moss on trees and rocks but i now have a better understanding of them and will look at them differently now.


John Burroughs Medal (Winner — 2005)


viii; 168


0870714996 / 9780870714993
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