MAKING PEACE WITH THE MOSS

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I was equal parts thrilled and terrified by the idea of moving back to Oregon after thirteen years of living in California. Due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area, my husband and I knew it would be best for us to move to Oregon after his retirement. We spent the two years prior to our move making frequent trips to Oregon to check out different areas we might want to live in. During our winter and spring visits, I grew especially fearful of the damp weather — it was, after all, one of the primary reasons I decided to move to California. We spent hours driving around various neighborhoods, and I would shudder at all the moss that seemed to permeate every surface — moss on the roofs, moss on the sidewalks, moss on the trees, moss taking over entire front lawns! So. Much. Moss. “I hate moss,” I’d groan to my husband. My disdain for moss became a running joke between the two of us. I’d become very accustomed to the California sun, and to me the moss was a screaming representation of the lack of sun I would soon be living with. It gave me a feeling of dampness to my bones.

I spent our first few years in Oregon very much attached to my “I hate moss” mantra. I’d glare out the window at the bunches of moss that had formed on the trees in my backyard, and I would spend spring days trying to pull it all off, willing it to never return. I took immense satisfaction in using a power washer to blast it off my driveway and off the bricks on my house — chunks of moss flying everywhere. Take that moss! The beautiful Oregon summers would finally roll in and dry some of it up, but it never fully disappeared — it just lay in wait for the fall knowing the rain would come and give it new life.

Just down the street from the house I now live in there’s a small forested area with an underground spring that trickles out of a small hillside and feeds into a shallow creek. My almost daily walks to this spot have allowed me to pay close attention to the dramatic shift of the seasons. When we first arrived in June the forest was lush and full, the trail leading into the forest barely noticeable; then it was alive with color in the fall, the ground eventually covered in a blanket of leaves. As the last of the leaves fell from the trees, I feared my walks would become depressing with only bare trees against the backdrop of a gray sky to look at. To my surprise, with the disappearance of the last of the leaves, I was able to discover the brilliant beauty of — and make peace with — the moss.

Growing up, the property on all sides of my grandparents’ house was forested, and one side was especially lush with every rock, log, and tree covered in moss and a thick blanket of pine needles covered the forest floor. We called it the leprechaun forest. We would disappear in there for hours — looking for leprechauns and getting lost in imaginary lands. This forested area near my house has become my adult leprechaun forest. I can get lost there if only for a few minutes, and it is the beauty of the moss that made me realize the gift I’d been given. I began to take notice of its vibrant green, it’s lush softness, and the way it seems to be its own little ecosystem — each patch it’s own little fairyland. With each passing day, the color of the moss seems to grow a more vibrant green and while I long for summer, I find myself just a bit saddened by the fact that with the warm weather the moss will brown, and my attention will be drawn upward to the beauty of lush green leaves against the backdrop of blue skies.

I’m once again reminded that a simple shift in perspective is all it takes to open my eyes to the beauty that’s been there all along. And that sometimes, as adults, we need to go looking for the leprechaun forest, a place we can go to lose ourselves in the magic, if only for a few moments.

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