My family and I were on a trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park when we saw a boulder-filled stretch of creek that intrigued us. I gazed at the rounded mossy boulders, abundant plants, branches and water. As I turned around, I noticed how beautiful and harmonious this spot was from every angle, like a Japanese Garden.
The locale had a couple of plants that I want to mention. One is liverwort, which like moss, is a primordial plant without roots that takes in water from its leafy surface. To me, it’s an uncommon plant I see from time to time in a creek, and according to my plant ID resources, it’s found throughout the world, including deserts and the arctic.
The second plant I want to call out appears in the foreground of most of these photos showing off its bright green five-fingered leaves. My plant friends from Facebook say this is Western coltsfoot or petasites frigidus var. Palmatus.
Changing the topic back to moss; I’ve had a powerful interest in moss for approximately 10 years now. People often ask me, Why moss? I think this question implies something negative like “Why are you so interested in moss of all things?”
I’ve asked myself the question over and over and I come up with the same answer each time. I have a lifelong love of color and texture and I’m infatuated with the bright green and fuzzy texture of moss. I want to have a modern and edgy sensibility — but if I’m honest, I actually have a romantic and sensual vision, and moss is linked to that vision.
I also love how moss is an element from the background. It’s like the cello and the bass in an orchestra; an instrument that rarely has a solo like a violin, flute or trumpet. I like flipping the symphony over on its head and making the cello the main instrument. In my mind, the moss represents what is overlooked, hidden, quiet and subtle; I love taking it out of the background and bringing it to the foreground.
My father-in-law’s family and ancestors lived off the land and the forest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They lived in a small log cabin without electricity or running water. Fresh, fresh water ran in creeks and rivers nearby. His family and others were forced to accept payment from the Park Service and move off the land so that the land could be preserved as a park. Frank Abbott grew up on a farm immediately outside the park.
We always head up to Big Rock when we visit my father-in-law. B-I-G Rock is a big rock that overhangs a busy river. There Frank and his brothers and friends played in the summers — jumping off the rock and catching crawdads in the waters below. In Spring, the waters flowing below Big Rock are fridge but it is one amazingly mossy spot. (cont. below)
Each year we go up there my husband and others jump off the rock…and…I…watch. I like to think I’m a fairly rugged girl but when it comes to cold water, I’m a total wimp.
This year I wanted to be able to show a photo of myself jumping off the rock to my Facebook friends. (I know, I know, I’m not proud of this.) So I got up there and after 2-3 tries managed to jump off. The water felt like it’d melted off an ice pack mere seconds ago. I seriously felt like I’d get ice burn if I stayed in there. I swam and scrambled out of there as fast as I could. I think you can see how pained I was in the after photo below where you see me on the bank.
Karen Nierlich is author of Journal of a Moss Enthusiast, Albany, CA. Photographic prints of some images will be available in the future and she is starting to put together a book of moss photos and text.
Let me explain what I love about this photo. I love most anything fuzzy. I love the bulges of protruding pom-pom like fuzzy moss. Above and below is a different plant that I think is Spanish moss. It has tiny dot-like leaf. Finally, the chain link fence.
A straight up nature shot isn’t interesting to me anymore. Well, OK. I do take some straight up nature shots. I can admire and appreciate an Ansel Adams shot. They are brilliant. But they also seem part of the past. (Continued below.)
Moss and Chain Link Fence Tilden Botanical Garden
In my mind, the chain link stands for contrast. Or human kind’s intrusion. Or nature’s imprisonment and encirclement by humans. Oh, I’m sounding like a 10th grade English class. I’ll stop.
So moss and chain link fences are what I like, and I can accept it might be unappealing or esoteric. As a younger person I tried to be true to my aesthetic but I also found I really wanted to make things others would like. As an older person, I know it doesn’t work to try to make things others will like.
It’s great to make things for particular people. That can work well for the creative process. Imagine your friend, lover, child, mother, father or other dear person in front of you and create something for them. As does making things for yourself.
But making things that you think others will find cool, intriguing, beautiful etc. doesn’t work. I can’t prove it to you. I’m just saying that’s been my experience and what I’ve heard other artists say.
I woke up this morning thinking about how sometimes I like to include cars, sewers, chain link fences and other made things in my photos. I guess I think of it as true to the real status of nature as barely co-existing or at the mercy of our human encroachment.
I took a series of pictures last year at Muir Woods last Spring. I found it kind of ironic and slightly humorous that I discovered a collection of dancing moss trees over a creek by the parking lot at Muir Wood. Though I hike and walk quite a lot, one of the mossiest sites I found was practically in a parking lot.
Karen Nierlich is the author of www.iheartmoss.com a blog about moss and art, craft & decor. Heading out tomorrow at 6 am to the mountains near Tahoe to commune with my extended family and nature. I’ll have a camera in hand loaned to me by a friend, Francesco. I’m particularly grateful for the camera, as the one I had stopped working when I dropped it. Opps.
You are invited to follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/AlmostEvrything. Stayed Tuned for more photos from Muir Woods.
This image is the most popular of the Moss in the City photos. You are seeing a small metal cover 5-6 inches across on a driveway on Masonic at Brighton in Albany, CA.
This photo reminds me of the abstract paintings of Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies. I lived in Barcelona, Spain when I was 20 (1985) and Tàpies’s work was very popular. He creates elegant, enthralling compositions inspired by graffiti and the city.