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Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (2003)

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8612525,029 (4.29)44
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)
  1. 00
    Wintering by Diana Kappel-Smith (juniperSun)
    juniperSun: both show women engaged in natural science, written in a very personal style, through their activities.
  2. 00
    The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (aprille)
    aprille: I'd lay dollars to donuts this book was a source for a couple of the scenes in the book. Robin Wall Kimmerer is thanked in the acknowledgments.
  3. 00
    Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Ciruelo)
  4. 00
    Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest by Joan Maloof (juniperSun)
    juniperSun: both by aware, literate, scientists & professors combining personal experiences with nature study.
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» See also 44 mentions

English (24)  Spanish (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This is a really great book.it is a nice introduction to mosses, you learn about reproduction, habitat and evolution. At the same time the author mixes in some Native American philosophy and conservation messages which make the whole read far more personal than the average field guide or text book. Loved it ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
This was a graceful, fascinating book I enjoyed immensely. Each essay felt so well constructed, and her devotion to her subject is apparent with every page. I found "Binding Up the Wounds: Mosses in Ecological Succession" and "The Red Sneaker" to be particular standouts.

I do wish she hadn't kept comparing moss destruction to chattel slavery in that one bit. ( )
  localgayangel | Mar 5, 2024 |
[b:Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses|49236555|Gathering Moss A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses|Robin Wall Kimmerer|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1576344186l/49236555._SX50_.jpg|84013] by [a:Robin Wall Kimmerer|49921|Robin Wall Kimmerer|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1441041257p2/49921.jpg]Robin Wall Kimmerer is a special book for anyone who loves nature and wants a glimpse of yet another hidden world. Robin wanders inquisitively through mosses as others wander through forests. It's the second book I've read of hers having thoroughly enjoyed [b:Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants|17465709|Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants|Robin Wall Kimmerer|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1366775928l/17465709._SY75_.jpg|24362458]. Robin Wall Kimmerer writes with humble authority as both a scientist and indigenous woman. In many ways Gathering Moss is a synthesis of what would first appear to be two incompatible approaches. In the first half of the book a number of her stories about individual mosses are also illustrative lessons in scientific method but later it's a method clearly informed by her native sensibilities. In the Chapter 'The Red Sneaker', about Sphagnum moss, she writes,

This is the spot where you might wish you had your shoes. The Sphagnum mat is mingled with dead branches of shrubs, hidden beneath the soft moss surface and waiting to put you in line for a tetanus shot....I am standing quietly on the surface of an earthly Drum, my feet supported by the floating Sphagnum, responding to the smallest movement , rippling under my shifting weight. I start to dance. In the old way, heel and toe, in slow tempo, each footfall rippling across the bog and answered by the returning wave rising to meet my step. My feet make a drum beat on the surface and the whole bog is set in rhythmic motion.


Gathering Moss is an increasingly enchanting book about both the fragility and resilience of nature, and I can't wait to use my microscope. ( )
  simonpockley | Feb 25, 2024 |
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. ( )
  cbloky | Feb 12, 2024 |
Good, but not nearly as good as Braiding Sweet grass. ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kimmerer, Robin Wallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muñoz Mateos, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface: Seeing the world through Moss-colored Glasses
My first conscious memory of "science" (or was it religion?) comes from my kindergarten class, which met in the old Grange Hall. We all ran to press our noses to the frosty windows when the first intoxicating flakes of snow began to fall. Miss Hopkins was too wise a teacher to try and hold back the excitement of five-year olds on the occasion of the first snow, and out we went. In boots and mittens, we gathered around her in the soft swirl of white. From the deep pocket of her coat she took a magnifying glass.
Barefoot, I've walked this path by night for nearly twenty years, most of my life it seems, the earth pressing up against the arch of my foot. More often than not, I leave my flashlight behind, to let the path carry me home through the Adriondack darkness. My feet touching the ground are like fingers on the piano, playing from memory an old sweet song, of pine needles and sand.
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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.

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