Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Book: Gathering Moss

A couple of years after reading Robin Wall Kimmerer‘s Braiding Sweetgrass, I returned back to her 2003 debut non-fiction book Gathering Moss. Kimmerer is a Bryologist, or someone who studies moss. This short book gives an overview of these under appreciated organisms. Mosses don’t tend to get the sort of love or attention larger plants get. Kimmerer writes:

We carefully catalog the positions of all the moss species, calling out their names. Dicranum scoparium. Plagiothecium denticulatum. The student struggling to record all this begs for shorter names. But mosses don’t usually have common names, for no one has bothered with them. They have only scientific names, conferred with legalistic formality according to protocol set up by Carolus Linnaeus, the great plant taxonomist. Even his own name, Carl Linne, the name his Swedish mother had given him, was Latinized in the interest of science.

Her book explores many, many facets of mosses, from how they reproduce, to how peat bogs are formed. As in Braiding Sweetgrass, she also brings a perspective that blends science with an indigenous point of view. For example, this section where she describes her experience trying to figure out why a certain moss reproduces in a counterintuitive way:

But if there’s anything that I’ve learned from the woods, it’s that there is no pattern without a meaning. To find it, I needed to try and see like a moss and not like a human.

In traditional indigenous communities, learning takes a form very different from that in the American public education system. Children learn by watching, by listening, and by experience. They are expected to learn from all members of the community, human and non. To ask a direct question is often considered rude. Knowledge cannot be taken; it must instead be given. Knowledge is bestowed by a teacher only when the student is ready to receive it. Much learning takes place by patient observation, discerning pattern and its meaning by experience. It is understood that there are many versions of truth, and that each reality may be true for each teller. It’s important to understand the perspective of each source of knowledge. The scientific method I was taught in school is like asking a direct question, disrespectfully demanding knowledge rather than waiting for it to be revealed.

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Amazing Starling Photos by Kathryn Cooper

A simple idea, beautifully executed. The England-based photographer takes sequences of bird flight and combines them into composite images that track the motion of the entire flock. Above, a predator makes a brief chase of this massive murmuration.

The artist writes about the way these birds avoid predators by moving together:

By diluting the risk as the group size increases, the chance of any one individual suffering predation decreases and many eyes means that vigilance increases with the number of individuals.

Most aerial predators (sparrowhawk, peregrine falcon for example) hunt by targeting a single bird. The confusion caused by the constant movement may hinder their ability to lock onto an individual.

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Jockey Cap Map

While on a very short hike during my vacation last week, I ran across a very simple, and very clever sculpture (for lack of a better word) at the top of a small hill. At first, I thought it was just a plaque on an elaborate stand, until I got closer…

It was a map of sorts. A 3D bronze representation, erected in 1938, of all the surrounding hills and peaks (it was just foggy enough for Mount Washington to not register on camera). A very simple idea, and a good reward for a short 20-minute hike.

Gomphaceae

Macro of Gomphaceae mushroom

Bee on Flower

Fungus Building

Found in an alley in Montréal’s Rosemont neighbourhood.

Slow

Orcas Sinking Boats?

Scientists think a traumatized orca initiated the assault on boats after a “critical moment of agony” and that the behavior is spreading among the population through social learning.

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Via One Foot Tsunami