Monday, January 9, 2012


I love the things that are revealed in winter. And the variety of plants that thrive in it. Like moss and mushrooms. Here's an example of both growing in a Knoxville city park. Every time I see the bright green velvet fuzz of moss in winter I get inspired anew to try to cultivate it for my very own.

Two years ago I found many recipes online for "moss graffiti" and tried to whip some up. The general idea is to blend pieces of moss (and spores) with some yeast (as found in buttermilk or yogurt), liquid (beer or water), and sugar (to feed the yeast?). Moss, it turns out, is not something one can "whip up." After you make and apply the mixture, you will need to tend the site to ensure it doesn't dry out. There is a folk rule that says you can find north by looking to see on which side of trees the moss grows. This is not an accurate or reliable way to find north, but refers to the fact that north-facing sites (or sides of things) will be better shaded and thus more protective for moss, spontaneous or otherwise, and other shade-loving plants.

In the course of my moss experimenting I tried to inoculate a paper letter R and instead grew, almost overnight, this fuzzy gray mold. Surprise! Let 2012 be full of such happy accidents and unexpected forms for all of us. Let us be open to what is more often than what is expected.

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