Friday, May 13, 2011

Who's the Moss?

Flat top, afro, or crew cut?
When I think of Portland, I think of moss. It’s only natural, given you can't turn your head without seeing some sort of Bryophyta gently, gently creeping. I have loved moss ever since I was old enough to walk barefooted along the rolling green carpet from cabin to lake every Wisconsin summer of my childhood. When I find moss in arid Montana it feels like a gift. I linger near those patches. I brush my cheek against them. But here in the Pacific Northwest, moss is quintessential. 

A calm, but powerful presence. A patchwork quilt. The great green stillness.

Keeping warm with a moss skin coat
 I was walking around town the other day, thinking about moss… noticing the different species, petting them with open palms. People seem to have different attitudes about the moss in their lawns. I passed a woman who was lovingly brushing off the moss on her yard rocks in the manner of a hairstylist fluffing up a bouffant after a trim. The gesture was sweet, affectionate even. Just a block later I saw a man scraping and scrubbing and scouring his concrete steps, tearing moss away. I felt like yelling Good luck with that, Sisyphus! Because there is one thing you can be sure of in a place as rainy as here: in the end, the moss always wins. Given time, like a shadow over a field, it will take down rock, tree, sidewalk, railing, fence, shingle, porch swing, even a car. It is not uncommon to see an old rusted truck, too long stationary, blanketed in green.

It’s like the moss so loves the world it wants to hold everything in its verdant embrace. A big ol’ group hug. Or it’s on a mission to take over the world through soft, calculated suffocation…

Mini-Michael Landon's Highway to Heaven
Bryophytes are non-vascular plants, which means they have no internal water-bearing systems, no vessels, no veins. They need a damp environment to survive and liquid water to reproduce. Their small and simple leaves sip mist and lick sunlight. Their roots serve more as anchor than vacuum—they don’t absorb nutrients or water through their roots, and thus are never parasitic to the trees they so thoroughly decorate. According to known fossil records, moss first crept on the geologic scene some 320 million years ago. Which means it ain’t no spring chicken. Most botanists believe modern moss evolved from aquatic ancestors (like the rest of us), and I like to imagine a fuzzy little moss blob crawling out of a murky pond, inching along the ground like velvet-gloved Thing, and checking out the local rocks for a room with a view. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s not how it works… but regardless, moss has been making gravestones, rooftops, downed logs, stumps, sidewalk cracks, sloth backs, and that car on bricks in your backyard beautiful ever since. 

Hulk + Chia =Magic Moss Love
Incidentally, moss also provided the inspiration behind the lesser-known, misunderstood but nevertheless badass He-Man character--Moss Man. 

This dude had the power to manipulate plant matter, cause tidal waves of moss and leaves, and make the flowers bloom to impress all the ladies. Not that he got many ladies. Maybe because he was a moss-covered recluse, and that kind of thing really only works for Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae guys. Naturally he was the quiet, pastoral type. He was sensitive. He probably knew how to brood. When He-Man offered him a coveted seat at the Masters of the Universe table, Moss Man what like, no thanks, Hoss, I’d rather keep it real and chill in my forest, talking to these trees. 
There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Matel honored this man by dousing his action figure with a “pine-like” scent. 
And how many people can say that? 

He did it all for the moss.

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