I start with a confession: I, Heather, love moss. I adore the tiny green leaves that grow so courageously throughout the year. I cherish the impression of life, where all else is in hibernation. I appreciate the tininess of the plant, the fact it's normally so overlooked, and I find a refuge in the places that moss grows.
What's your perfect habitat? For me, its a steep sided gorge, carved out by high energy water, with trees leaning within, the water now and again relaxing into pools. These habitats are my heaven: the place I long to be when all else with the world is turned upside down.
And here is where the moss grows. The walls will be dripping in green life. Some larger - royal fern, woodrush, primroses, but most smaller: the mosses and liverworts that give the place a magic air. They provide a dampness to the air that revives the lungs, gives new spirit to the thoughts and calms the skin. The air becomes charged with intention - it is here that the veil to other worlds becomes thin and I am willingly bewitched.
I am infatuated by mosses. Even their names: Hylocomium splendens; Thuidium tamariscinum; Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus and, my absolute favourite - this most delightful of mosses that I always, subconsciously, hunt for - Atrichum undulatum. Their names are poetry, say them aloud (go on) and they are worth remembering. Indeed, even writing the names down is sending a shiver of anticipation through my spine.
It's so easy to ignore mosses, but wherever you are I guarantee you will be able to find some without too much effort. In cities they create miniature forests in the pavement cracks, or grow along the mortar of a wall. In the countryside they adorn almost every nook and cranny it's possible to name - abandoned croft houses, tree stumps, bare soil: to look is to see, and once seen it's impossible to ignore. These wee plants of perfection are always there for us.
Just as it's so easy to ignore mosses, it is so easy to ignore that which is small, or takes effort to see. Life abounds outside, all of it with its own purpose and most completely unconcerned with us. To watch, admire and enjoy these other life forms is to find a freedom within our humanity. We can shrug off the concerns of being who we think we ought to be, and instead relax just in the watching.
Mosses won't travel far, but watching mosses brings many different life forms to the fore: watch a bonny clump of mosses, and you'll see a wolf spider hunting across the top. You'll observe flies landing, cleaning themselves and taking off again. You'll see tiny ants foraging within fronds that make them appear as if they're in a mighty forest. Taking an interest in one aspect of life is a reminder that we're all on a level. We are not the beings at the top of any evolutionary tree, instead all that we see around us is the result of a wonderful, chaotic, adventurous world.