Why am I here? Why am I annoyed? Why are my sandals so smelly? Why am I so dependent on Google Maps for my bearings? Why is Sarinah nameless? Why do conversations fold unto themselves like Saran™ wrap on belly fat? Why is the WiFi refusing to connect four dots to the tune of weekly grocery price lists? Why thoughts? What commons?





Kenneth is trying to geolocate “Bengkel Las Rejeki” via a photo off Instagram. He realises the closest search result he found off Google Maps is a different place. Street-viewing every ATM BNI in the vicinity to try and find it, he encounters the post right after Table of Contents  Preface: Seeing the World Through Moss-Colored Glasses.............................................. vi The Standing Stones .................................................... 1 Learning to See ............................................................ 7 The Advantages of Being Small: Life in the Boundary Layer ..................................... 14 Back to the Pond ........................................................ 21 Sexual Asymmetry and the Satellite Sisters ............... 29 An Affinity for Water ................................................. 35 Binding Up the Wounds: Mosses in Ecological Succession ............................ 44 In the Forest of the Waterbear ................................... 52 Kickapoo .................................................................... 62 Choices ...................................................................... 69 A Landscape of Chance . ............................................. 82 City Mosses . ............................................................... 91 The Web of Reciprocity: Indigenous Uses of Moss ...................................... 100 The Red Sneaker ...................................................... 111 Portrait of Splachnum ................................................. 121 The Owner ............................................................... 125 The Forest Gives Thanks to the Mosses .................. 141 The Bystander .......................................................... 151 Straw Into Gold . ....................................................... 156 Suggestions for Further Reading .............................. 163 Index. ......................................................................... 166 ...Robin Wall Kimmerer
Back to the Pond  21 Back to the Pond  I shiver in the damp breeze, but I can’t bring myself to close the window on this April night that is sliding off the cusp of winter into spring. The faint sound of the peepers flows in with the cold air, but it’s not enough. I need more. So I go downstairs and slip my down jacket over my nightgown, slide bare feet into my Sorels and leave the woodstove’s warmth behind in the kitchen. With bootlaces dragging through patches of remnant snow, I tromp up to the pond above the farmhouse, breathing in the scents of wet ground. I’m pulled by the sound. Coming closer feels like walking into a crescendo, rising with the chorus of voices. I shiver again. The air literally throbs with the massed calls of peepers, vibrating the nylon shell of my jacket. I wonder at the power of these calls, bringing me from sleep and bringing the peepers back to the pond. Do we share some common language that draws us both to this place? The peepers have their own plan. What is it that brings me here to stand like a rock in this river of sound? Their ringing calls summon all the local peepers to this gathering place, for mass fertilization in the rites of spring. Females will squeeze their eggs out into the shallow water, where males cover them with milky drifts of sperm. Surrounded by a gelatinous mass, the eggs will mature to tadpoles and become adult frogs by summer’s end, long after their parents have hopped back to the woods. Spring peepers spend most of their adult lives as solitary tree frogs, travelling the forest floor. As far afield as they may venture, they must all return to water to reproduce. All amphibians are tethered to the pond by their evolutionary history, the most primitive vertebrates to make the transition from the aquatic life of their ancestors to life on land. Mosses are the amphibians of the plant world. They are the evolutionary first step toward a terrestrial existence, a halfway point between algae and higher land plants. They have evolved some 22  Gathering Moss rudimentary adaptations to help them survive on land, and can survive even in deserts. But, like the peepers, they must return to water to breed. Without legs to carry them, mosses have to recreate the primordial ponds of their ancestors within their branches. The next afternoon, I return to the now quiet pond, looking for some marsh marigolds to cook up for dinner. Bending to gather the leaves, I see the aftermath of last night, masses of eggs lying in the sunlit shallows. They’re entangled with green algae whose surface is studded with tiny bubbles of oxygen. As I watch, a bubble shimmers toward the surface and breaks.
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What art of waiting is practiced by the mosses, crisped and baking on the summer oak? They curl inward upon themselves, as if suspended in daydreams. And if mosses dream, I suspect they dream of rain. Mosses must be awash in moisture in order for the alchemy of photosynthesis to occur. A thin film of water over the moss leaf is the gateway for carbon dioxide to dissolve and enter the leaf, beginning the transformation of light and air into sugar. Without water a dry moss is incapable of growth. Lacking roots, mosses can’t replenish their supply of water from the soil, and survive only at the mercy of rainfall. Mosses are therefore most abundant in consistently moist places, such as the spray zone of waterfalls and cliffs seeping with spring water. But mosses also inhabit places that dry out, such as rocks exposed to the noonday sun, xeric sand dunes, and even deserts. The branches of a tree can be a desert in the summer and a river in the spring. Only plants that can tolerate this polarity can survive here. The bark of these Oregon oaks is shaggy with Dendroalsiaabietinum all year round. The name Dendroalsia translates from scientific Latin to something like “Companion of Trees.” Like others of its kind, beautiful Dendroalsia tolerates these wide swings in moisture, with a suite of evolved adaptations known as poikilohydry. Its life is tied to the comings and goings of water. Poikilohydric plants are remarkable in that the water content of the plant changes with the water content of the environment. When moisture is plentiful, the moss soaks up the water and grows prolifically. But when the air dries, the moss dries with it, eventually becoming completely desiccated. An Affinity for Water  37 Dry curled...