Moss has been making its presence known to me in these past few weeks. It tumbles from tree branches in small clumps, landing on my jacket as I duck my head to avoid raindrops clinging to new buds. It falls onto rain-wet sidewalks and rolls into the spaces and cracks not already filled by soil or flower petals or grass. Lichens clinging to sticks litter my walk and inspire vague plans to create a mobile that will hang in the window, complete with slowly rotating paper cranes on strings. These sticks pile up by my front door, abandoned in the homeward rush towards snacks and dogs and a two year-old’s need to find the potty.
Moss these days also seems ominous to me. It grasps for cadmium and arsenic and holds onto it, furtively, for the emerald luster does not change with the air quality. I pick up pieces and stare at the star-shaped fuzz and wonder at its ability to hold such a heavy secret and continue onwards, seemingly unperturbed. It may be that I need to be a bit more mossy.
In December, while hiking on a small island next to a big island in a northern country, I lay down on moss in order to better see a bald eagle in the cedar towering over my head. My shoulders and hips sank in and the seat of my pants complained of the moisture hiding in my resting place. I leaned back and could smell the smell of the forest. Humus. Skyward, scaly yellow talons shifted as a branch was eased up and down by the wind. Tail feathers gave a shake and with a downward heave and an upward lift, the eagle tossed himself into the heavens, and sailed towards the squalling sea lions below. The moss stayed silent, cushioning my head, hugging my form.
It is moss from which I ran away, 15 years ago, as I climbed into my 1987 Tercel and headed eastward from Vancouver BC, with one day of stick shift lessons under my belt and fifth gear as an admirable goal. The moss and the rain and the gray felt oppressive. Too weighty for me to bear at times, when every strand of every nerve of my being screamed for sunshine and white snow and eastern pines. I ran eastward, and then southwestward, to an ecosystem of granite and yucca and prickly pear, where gleaming green moss was a thing of dreams.
And then, finally, I ambled back towards moss. To gray skies and shrugging Douglas Firs. To raincoats and galoshes and the everywhere grimaces of people facing cold damp weather. But this time, the moss does not feel weighty. It is not drowning me. Instead, it muffles the clatter and clang of train cars as they join at night and the rush and whir of 18 wheelers as they careen through my streets. It calls out, asking for me to crouch down and peer at its intricacy, touch the feathery ends, and respond as moss does- with resilience.