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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

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  410 Ratings  ·  85 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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(showing 1-30 of 1,962)
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Aug 03, 2007 rose rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2004
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.
Feb 03, 2013 Elaine rated it it was amazing
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
Eddie Watkins
Oct 14, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-world
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
Feb 04, 2014 Dianne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, nature
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
Susan Albert
Sep 28, 2015 Susan Albert rated it it was amazing
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.
Jake Porter
May 10, 2014 Jake Porter rated it it was amazing
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.
Hank Horse
May 11, 2008 Hank Horse rated it it was amazing
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
Eduardo Santiago
Nov 27, 2015 Eduardo Santiago rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 22, 2014 Caroline rated it really liked it
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.
Alison Lilly
May 30, 2016 Alison Lilly rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing! Every chapter is a gem of scientific exploration and cultural commentary, interwoven through the lens of bryology (the study of mosses). Kimmerer not only manages to make moss interesting and compelling in its own right, but transforms it into a gateway for a deeper understanding of ecology and the ways our human culture intersects with the natural world. You will never look at moss the same way again. (Be prepared for this book to make you cry. As the final chapter states ...more
May 06, 2010 Paula rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 10, 2016 Tanner rated it really liked it
Kimmerer's combination of scientific information, social commentary and personal experience (specifically her Potawatomi heritage) is effective and compelling. It's easy to become numb to environmental entreaties and reminders that we need to take care of our environment. Through the uniquely delicate and almost magical moss, Kimmerer injects new life into her overall message, and almost never becomes preachy. You get invested in her unique position, balancing native ways of knowing and academic ...more
Carl Kruse
Jul 05, 2016 Carl Kruse rated it it was amazing
In an uncertain leap of faith, I read "Gathering Moss" last year. It's a book on mosses. Yes, mosses. If you would like to be as surprised as I was on how such an incredibly obscure topic can emanate beauty, passion, reflection, and on what mosses can teach you about life, have a look.

Carl Kruse
Apr 03, 2016 Patricia rated it really liked it
Learning the names and stories expanded my seeing and woke my sense of wonder. Kimmerer makes the paradigm-shifting suggestion that we investigate by letting plants speak to us rather than probing them.
Dec 31, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 10, 2015 Stasia rated it it was amazing
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!!
Apr 12, 2016 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cynthia by: Wendy Johnson
A wonderful series of essays, written by a women with deep love and understanding of our natural world. I would never have know about the fascinating lives of mosses, or that there are 22 thousand types of moss that live with us on the planet. Robin W Kimmerer mentions that most people do not know the names of mosses in our environment. It had never really occurred to me that there are multiple types of moss that are differentiated! That is why I refer to all moss as simply moss!

This is a fasci
Mar 06, 2016 Ken rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature

The day after I finished Gathering Moss I was struck by an expression of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
"There is holiness that hovers over all things, that makes them look to us in some moments like objects of transcendent meditation, as if to be means to be thought of by God, as if all external life were embraced by an inner life, by a process within a mind, pensive, intentional. Numbers, abstract relations, express its essence as little as the number of the members of a family tells the unique
Aug 15, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
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
Amy Peavy
Jul 26, 2016 Amy Peavy rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. Poetry and science in one. And yes. It's about moss.
Nov 14, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
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.
Nicholas Brink
Nov 28, 2015 Nicholas Brink rated it it was amazing
After reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" my expectations were very high and I was not disappointed. Our belief that we are superior to all other life on Earth, the culmination of evolution,and that God has granted us dominion over the Earth has allowed us to take from the Earth in greed and for profit. It is this belief that is leading to our extinction as a species and towards the destruction of the Earth. Each story offered by Kimmerer shows us how we are dependent upon all other life, and specific ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 02, 2015 Roxanna Mclaughlin rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 14, 2016 Lynne rated it it was amazing
An inspiring book. In writing about her research on and appreciation of the 22,000 varieties of moss, Kimmerer reminds us of the beauty and variety in even the smallest and most unobtrusive forms of life. It becomes clear how all is interconnected. Native people's ways of knowing are honored in this exploration, as are the ordinary/extraordinary lives of people making their ways in the natural world. "In a five-minute walk down the path of my garden I can have a handful of moss, and a five-minut ...more
Mar 25, 2015 Raven rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 03, 2016 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nature
It took me a little while to get with her approach, but the author does a wonderful job not only of communicating her love of mosses but in giving a thoughtful perspective on nature and our relation to it and each other. It is a series of very personal meditations. Well worth reading.
Feb 07, 2016 Michael rated it liked it
Though billed as a "natural and cultural history of mosses", what Kimmerer's book really is is a collection of nature essays on mosses, complete with personal anecdotes and analogies that help explain and explore their biology and ecology. Because of this intimate, conversational style, the book is accessible in terms of clarity and readability. One need not have any background knowledge of mosses or botany in general to understand and appreciate the book. Topics covered include an overview of m ...more
Karen Snyder
Jan 20, 2015 Karen Snyder rated it it was amazing
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!
Jul 27, 2014 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: educational
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
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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.” 12 likes
“There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents. This is what has been called the "dialect of moss on stone - an interface of immensity and minute ness, of past and present, softness and hardness, stillness and vibrancy, yin and yan.” 7 likes
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