I like doing reading challenges because they give me an excuse to dig deeply through my expansive to read list (668 and counting) or give me a reason to add more diverse books to that list. Native and indigenous writers are underrepresented on my to read pile as are books about nature. Read Women this year has tasks for both, so off I went to find more books. Having some success last year with Rain: a Natural and Cultural History when I stumbled across Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss: a Natural and Cultural History I thought I had it made.
Kimmerer writes in this slim volume about moss as the research scientist she is, with all the Latin jargon and botanical details you might expect. She also weaves into the book a host of details from her daily life as a mother and traveler and reflections on heritage, parenthood, life – digging into herself to reflect it back out to the world. What that combined effort gives the reader is a window into her natural philosophy. Gathering Moss probably won’t teach you to identify any mosses (there’s a handful of line illustrations of different mosses, but no tips for ID) but this collection of essays will give you a view into the author’s research and methodologies on moss ecology and Kimmerer as a person. Truly, it was this holistic approach to the writing that I enjoyed and kept me from giving up on the book.
You see, I am not the audience for this book and found myself drifting off during each of the relatively short chapters. Turns out, I had misremembered my experiences with Rain last year, I had struggled similarly. The best thing I have to say about Gathering Moss is that since reading it I have been paying far closer attention to mosses around me. I could read Chapter 2, “Learning to See”, again happily, but the rest of the book really wasn’t what I was looking for.