Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
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Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  139 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. "Gathering Moss" is a beautifully written 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 scien

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Paperback, 168 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Oregon State University Press
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rose
ok. so i'm obsessed with moss. but it helps that kimmerer is an excellent nature writer, passionate about her topic, but smart enough to keep it personal and interesting. she made me want to shrink down and live in a forest of moss.
Eddie Watkins
This woman really loves moss, and who can blame her. She writes about it as a scientist, with all the Latin jargon and botanical details, but she also weaves into the linked essays that comprise this book a host of details from her daily life as a mother and traveller and what amounts to a sort of natural philosophy.

The only thing about the book that bothered me a little was her almost grudging inclusion of urban moss (the only type I have daily access to) and she seemed to not miss an opportun...more
Hank Horse
This is my favorite kind of science writing, done by someone in love with the physical world, who skillfully communicates how amazing their object of study is. It got to a point where I was dogearing most pages. Moss is awesome, the first stuff to cling to land out of the primordial ocean. You can freeze it to almost absolute zero, then add a drop of water and it's good to go. Kimmerer is an astute observer not only of plants but of people as well. Her chapter 'The Owner,' about her encounter wi...more
Paula
May 06, 2010 Paula rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: juanitapat, linda
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 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 o...more
Elaine
I just finished reading Gathering Moss and it was a lovely surprise. Not what I was expecting. I was expecting lots of pieces of science detailed and separate. What I got was one whole. A story, woven together with moss. I love this book and I love moss! I see it everywhere. As I'm walking across a gravel pathway at work....there it is! As I lift my eyes to gaze at the trunk of a tree....it's there too! As I look at at a distant stand of Maple and see a green fuzz, it's too early for leaves....c...more
Dianne
I love it when book leads on to book, as way leads on to way. Gilbert made the briefest mention of this book in her credits for "The Signature of All Things", recognizing Kimmerer as the real collector of mosses. And brilliantly, my very own library (Belk Library, Elon U) had a copy right on the shelf. Trust me - this is magically written, and will also introduce you to award-winning Scrabble words like seta, protonema, gemmae. I could read over and over again Chpt 2 about "Learning to See". Kim...more
Amanda
I dream of being able to channel the love of Life and Creation like this woman does. Through her scientific understanding of mosses she has opened up a world of creativity and expression about what it is like to be a mother, to experience loss, to travel, to learn. I envy the places she has lived and seen through her studies of moss and hope that someday I might see places similar. Most wonderful about this book is that she ties it all together through her detailed descriptions of a single group...more
Brian
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a bryologist (moss expert) with a lyrical command of prose. The science comes alive within her personal narratives, and when she elaborates her descriptions and explanations with reference to knowledge obtained from the elders of her native American heritage, the effect is authentic and profound. We get to watch the various moss species under her enthusiastic guidance, learning what the plants themselves have to tell us.
Jake Porter
I am so glad I found this unlikely gem of a book. It's a shining example of the fact that anything can be fascinating, beautiful, and life-giving if you're curious enough. This is so much more than a book about mosses. It's a book about curiosity, harmony, and the astonishing beauty of the natural world.
Ben
It is rare to find a person of this kind of passion and dedication and at the same time so reassuring, comforting, and inspiring. One would have to try to not be inspired by her writing and enthusiasm of moss. I will never think of mosses the same again.
One of my favorite passages of the whole book was where Robin spoke about:"Scientist belief that they have the sole method for understanding the workings of the natural world." Robin gave example to refute this philosophy by telling of how an ar...more
Bill
I was looking for a good field guide for moss ... and still haven't found one. However, this book is a wonderful introduction to mosses, to the methods of modern biology/ecology and to Robin Wall Kimmerer - who puts a lot of herself into these chapters, essays really, throughout the book. I will remember more about "Dicranum" because of the way she links it to stories of sisters and tree frogs returning to ponds for mating; about "Dendroalsia" because she explains how moss dries and revives with...more
Ivy Rutledge
In Gathering Moss, Robin Wall Kimmerer has opened up the world of mosses for readers who want a nuanced approach to learning about bryology—and to learning about themselves. As both scientist and storyteller, Kimmerer invites us to look more closely at the underappreciated mosses beneath our feet and discover what they can offer us. The book is equal parts botany text, field guide, and memoir, allowing access to different ways of understanding how mosses live, as well as showing how these differ...more
Lindsey
Although the language in this collection of essays bothered me at times (for example, nearly every single noun has some flowery adjective and there is a lot of repetition, as if she forgot that she just explained something in the previous essay), I really loved the content of this book. As a scientist, the author gives an overview of moss biology and ecology; as a Native American, the author tells the stories and uses of moss in various indigenous cultures; as a mother, the author recalls taking...more
Maria
This book has changed the way I see my surroundings, in that sense it is like a powerful spiritual book but it is also scientific. It has made me far more sensitive to 'what is there' and especially to little beings that look insignificant and even seemed annoying or dirty. Even though I already was an attentive observer and lover of nature, (and felt proud of it) I knew nothing of these beings! I now love mosses and feel super grateful for the knowledge imparted in this book. Curious for more s...more
Kristina
Jan 20, 2011 Kristina marked it as to-read
OK, I realize that I am a science geek, but I honestly don't think you have to be to love this book. It's written by a professor, a Native American, a mother...and all of these aspects of the author's life come through in each short story. My favorite chapter so far has been about her trip to the Amazon - -a macroscopic exploration of nature that she juxtaposed as the yin to the microscopic yang of observing moss through a stereomicroscope. Her heritage comes through in her appreciation and conn...more
Marydb
Enjoyed this book. Learned about moss and writing. The author has a great writing style.
Lois
A very satisfying read, with a really good mix of scientific information, native teachings and anecdotes that enliven the text. In the first third of the book I wanted more scientific depth, but the book builds and the overall blend is very good. I will look forward to reading her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
Steve
Dec 07, 2010 Steve marked it as unfinished
Shelves: nature, essays
Putting this one aside for the moment (so no rating). The 'cultural history' of the title is what interested me most, but it's pretty rare in the book. There are vivid botanical descriptions, and one terrific chapter about gathering mosses from a rock face that melds personal reflection and the scientific process into a great narrative and intellectual moment. But so far the book relies too heavily on strained metaphors to show that humans and mosses lead similar lives, and explores a discrete p...more
Melissa
What a beautiful narrative about much-overlooked organisms like mosses. Wall Kimmerer, while a bryoligist, does the work of an anthropologist in the way in which she reveals the private life of mosses as entwined with our own. The way she tells their story makes them feel just like us -- without anthropomorphizing them. Her book combines scientific precision with history, nature writing, in the style of novel or ethnography. This is one of the stranger but insightful books I've read -- and this...more
Ruhegeist
This book sucked me in pretty quickly. Page 3-6 are magic in describing a meadow within standing stones. Dreamlike in the telling and all the more beautiful for being of of those true and rare moments in life.
While at times it is easy to get bogged down in the scientific names and detail packed in the book, she returns to a bigger picture of how these tiny mosses illuminate and mirror lie. As no scientist or horticulturalist, I wait and love the viniettes of her life and the world.
I have definit...more
Randy
Nice short series of stories that bring up interesting items about moss. All flavored with the author's american indian background, and an academic in birkenstocks attitude. Simply written, short, some excellent biology, decent writing. The chapter on The Owner was very well done (rich guy developing a country estate that is to look old, within a year).
My goal was to become more comfortable with mosses and their biology, and it was great for that. Pretty sterotypical of this genre, which is bot...more
Jeanne Baumann
I love this book. Science, and the process of science, voiced with a natural, native philosophy respecting the interrelatedness of all natural elements. Lyrical, highly personal, rooted, aware of the compromises humans make usually unconsciously. Love this book. Can't wait for moss season to return in the woods where I live.
Judy
Did you know that there are 20,000 different kinds of moss? That moss has diverse ways of reproducing, and that "moss-pickers" in Oregon strip the forest of moss that has taken 100's of years to grow? How does a peat bog grow and maintain itself? Kimmerer is a native American and a professor of Environmental and Forest Biology. This book is highly readable, truly spiritual, and full of fascinating information.
Anise
Gathering Moss is a very personal look at the subject of the author's field of study that reads like no other nature book I've ever read. Neither completely a natural history nor completely a memoir, it is rather an amalgam of the two written using beautiful prose that inspires the reader to slow down and take a look at the all-too-often overlooked mosses growing around them.
Sylvia Walker
I will definitely be noticing mosses more after reading this book. I like both the way the author writes about the ecology of mosses, and their cultural significance as well. Her idea that it takes both the scientific perspective, and the cultural one, is both interesting and true.
Ty
A fine introductory book to some basic plant biology. Her anecdotes related to her life are sometimes interesting and serve the science instruction well, where other times I thought were a little fluffy. Rarely did the read become dense or boring. Recommended for any bryophiles.
Breanne Sorrells
This book is better than three stars but I'm rating it on an "excitability of read" scale and that is where is earned only three stars. Kimmerer weaves the ecology of mosses into her own life story and ways of knowing. I'll never look at moss the same way again.
Sasha
There's a style of writing on potentially dry subjects that includes a lot of "Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek"-like personal narrative and autobiography. It's a great style, but it's so heavily overused in this book that I could't read it.
Katie
It's been a long time since I read this book. It was given to me, and I had no expectations but was very happy to find an sensitive and well written education in moss, and life.
M
I gained some good insights into the biology of mosses from this quick read.
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Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (also credited as Robin W. Kimmerer) (born 1953) is Associate Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). She is the author of numerous scientific articles, and the book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She is Potawatomi and combines her heritage with her...more
More about Robin Wall Kimmerer...
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

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“Just as you can pick out the voice of a loved one in the tumult of a noisy room, or spot your child's smile in a sea of faces, intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. This sense of connection arises from a special kind of discrimination, a search image that comes from a long time spent looking and listening. Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing, when visual acuity is not enough.” 5 likes
“What is it that brings me here to stand like a rock in this river of sound?” 3 likes
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