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

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  279 ratings  ·  60 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.Robin Wall Kimmerer's book is not an identification guide, nor is it a scientific treatise. ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Oregon State University Press
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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.
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
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.
Susan Albert
Loved this collection of linked personal essays, all focused on Kimmerer's scientific work with mosses but reaching into her life as a teacher, mother, and Native American. Lovely metaphors here for being present to a community of species that lives in a different world, yet shares the world we live in, too.
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
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
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'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
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
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
Oh my gosh. This book is a love story--not just to mosses, but to the world at large and the infinite, often unseen connections between it all. I loved this so much. Wonderfully written, wonderfully thought-out, wonderfully full of knowledge. So glad I read this!!
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 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 tr ...more
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.
This is a gorgeous book full of lovely writing and such passionate love for nature. It was actually kind of hard to read because every time I read a few paragraphs, I wanted to go for a walk and look at leaves, flowers, mosses, rocks, sand, seashells. The language is infused with her excitement about every single type of moss ever, and it inspired me to look closer, lean in, and find the worlds in those tiny growths.
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

I follow the blog BRAIN PICKINGS by Maria Popova,
Roxanna Mclaughlin
Absolutely fascinating reading that brings the micro world of mosses and lichens into awareness and understanding. I have been fascinated with this tiny world since taking time to explore it with a hand lens. Robin Wall Kimmerer, much like Annie Dillard, weaves the parallels between this world and the one we know daily. I wish I could write like that!
Initially I was disappointed to discover that this book was not about the mosses of the Pacific Northwest particularly, but as I continued to read I discovered its many small virtues. This is a book about taking things slowly, of the simulaneous specialization into tiny little ecological niches and of the global reach of the aerial plankton. It's a series of reflections of the interactions and interdependences of different forms of life that environmentalists will appreciate, seen through the ha ...more
Karen Snyder
love! love! love! lichens and mosses are so unique and incredibly interesting. we often pass them by or even step on them without noticing, this delightful book explores some science but also creative look at the world. very accessible read for those interested in ecology!
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
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.
Lea Page
I love metaphors, and there is so much in this collection of essays about mosses that one could interpret metaphorically: stewardship vs ownership, how we learn, the ecology and economy of interdependence and resilience. Having recently read several of Wendell Berry's collections of essays, it is easy to see that both Berry and Kimmerer are speaking of similar things from different contexts.

But there is a danger to leaping too quickly to the metaphor, to looking for a larger meaning: and that i
Eduardo Santiago
Nov 27, 2015 Eduardo Santiago rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eduardo by: Cecile
Exquisite. Sublime. My initial reaction ("Moss? A book about moss?") was mercifully brief: I sensed that this was a work of love -- so I dove into it that same day, and indeed it is. A work of love and beauty and grace. Kimmerer lovingly and knowledgeably writes not just about mosses but about so much in life that's in plain sight yet we never see. She writes of balances, ecosystems, interweavings; and, necessarily, of destruction we're not even aware of. Her language is delicate yet captivating ...more
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
Final verdict was... finished it, but only because I'd started it.

The moss information was fascinating. Would have read a lot more of that. The rest was built like a collection of standard "life story" essays from a beginner's writing workshop. And I have read far too many of those already.

Too, there was enough bad punctuation to be distracting.
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
A beautifully written set of essays. Kimmerer weaves personal stories and facts about mosses into an informative fabric that engages the reader in a way that no ordinary field guide can. I spend a lot of time hiking and enjoying learning from others about trees, mushrooms and geology. This book presented me with an opportunity to explore another aspect of the natural world. The author tells us that knowing about mosses and their role "adds a depth and intimacy to knowing the forest". I'll be loo ...more
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
What a wonderful book combining a scientist's observations of a little-known group of plants with the reflections of daily life. A very enjoyable read. I enjoyed this book much more than The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert which was reportedly influenced by Gathering Moss.
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
Gary   Allen
Kimmerer is that rare, and remarkable, synthesis of old-school naturalist and clearly-expressing scientist.
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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
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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.” 10 likes
“I think it is this that it is this that draws me to the pond on a night in April, bearing witness to puhpowee. Tadpoles and spores, egg and sperm, mind and yours, mosses and peepers - we are all connected by our common understanding of the calls filling the night at the start of spring. It is the wordless voice of longing that resonates within us, the longing to continue, to participate in the sacred life of the world. ” 3 likes
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