Moss, Wonder, and Creation

Written by Jacoba Buist, Ontario Program Coordinator
Edited by Madison Martinez, Ontario Comms and Admin Assistant

Last fall, the Nature Academy students and I went out searching for moss. I challenged the students to try and discover what species of moss absorbed the most water using identification cards and water dribbled out of a turkey baster. What we noticed was that when we put water onto dried moss, it quickly transformed into a soft, flourishing, living creature. All we had to do was add a little water, and the plant came alive. It felt like magic every time!

Jacoba, young woman, and young girl, looking at moss on the forest floor.After our experience, I did some research to understand what had happened. I learned how much moss relies on the things around it to live. Moss is a pretty vulnerable kind of plant. Mosses are the most common of a family of plants we call nonvascular, meaning that they don’t have xylem or phloem, or any systems to store or move water. Instead, they’re dependent on whatever is available directly outside each leaf to nourish them. If the forest is wet and humid, the moss thrives and grows, creating homes for invertebrates and microorganisms, breaking down rotting logs and dead leaves, and filling the forest with green life. If the forest is dry, the moss shuts down. There’s deep reciprocity in this process: the life of one impacts the life of the rest.

When I sit in the forest and look at moss, dribbling water on it and watching it change because of the actions I’ve made, it makes me think about my own place in creation. Who am I affected by? Who do I impact? My role as a created being, one made in God’s image, places me in relationship with all the other created things. The water content outside of me directly affects the water content inside of me.

Young girl looking at moss on the forest floor.

If we really recognized the ways that all our relationships – our relationships with each other, our relationships with God, our relationships with trees and flowers and birds and bugs and moss, directly impact our own being, would that change how we relate to them? Would it change how we see God? Would it change how we see our friends? Would it change how we see millipedes and spiders?

“We care for only what we love. We love only what we know. We truly know only what we experience.” – Steven Bouma-Prediger

There’s this track that we use when developing relationships – experiencing, knowing, loving, caring. I had an awesome experience with moss in the forest with the Nature Academy students. That experience invited me into an excitement to learn about and from and with it. And that knowledge has left me with a deep love and care for the wellness of the moss I meet. But it begins with experience or an encounter – particularly one marked by wonder.

Jacoba, young woman, holding out moss specimen in her hand for a young girl to examine.Wonder has become one of my favourite words to use when talking about environmental education. Wonder can mean awe – when you look at something and just say “Wow”. It can also mean questioning, being curious about what you’re noticing and investigating to learn more. I think these two ways of wondering are pretty integrally linked – when we experience awe-filled encounters, we get curious and begin to ask questions. When asking questions, it inspires us to look for the answers, which often leave us with even more awe.

 

Here’s a challenge for you: as you adventure, through the forest or through your everyday life, I want you to try to notice the living things around you, the ways that they live into the relationships here, the ways they give and receive. And I want you to consider the ways that you’re a part of that. What are you giving? What are you receiving? How is experiencing this place helping you move into a space of loving and caring for it? How can you open yourself up to being loved and cared for by this place – and by its Creator? Ask yourself questions, and open yourself up to experience wonder.