Coming to terms with reality is, I think, the most agonizing process of the human experience. I know simply because I’ve been there. Pretty recently, too. This realization, as you can imagine, has ignited within me a frazzled internal spiral of doubt and bewilderment. I’ve brooded on the topic for eons, yet this feverish introspection has gotten me nowhere. After weeks of angst-ridden deliberation, self-imposed isolation, and willing neglect of friends and loved ones, I finally resolved to turn these questions outward. It just seems healthier that way.
With that, I want to ask a couple of questions: first, when does fondness become favoritism? Second, at what point does that favoritism become… a problem?
I ask these questions because, as you should expect, I’m in a bit of a pickle. While I generally try to disperse my love for plant- and animal-life equally, I’ve gained awareness of one notable exception. I spread 80% of my love for the earth’s splendorous and plentiful lifeforms evenly, and I work very hard to keep that up. However, it has come to my attention that I miiiight flagrantly, singularly dump that other 20% onto one organism: the fuzzed green goddess called moss.
Like a multi-child parent taking desperate measures to obscure obvious child-favoritism, I subjected myself to buckets of shame when this realization materialized just over two years ago.
Now, by now you’re aware of my little… blip in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve referenced it in nearly every post on this goddamn site, projecting, by this point, an affinity that teeters on obsession. I tried to write a version of this story sans Oregon. Considering that the entire state is essentially some verdant, lush, and misted fever-dream of Douglas firs, green-ass hills, and miles of moss, however, my resistance was futile.
Alongside the rampant bursts of ferns, firs, and flowers coating the area’s wooded hills, glittering quilts of moss cling to every open surface in Portland. Cement, asphalt, rock, tree trunk, brick, straight up dirt–no solid is immune to moss’ big, woolly, green hug. In its omnipresence, I would have been ignorant not to fall head over heels.
Every day as I walked to work, I kissed the moss, thanking it for blessing me with its embracing ubiquity–its incessant effort to comfort my sweet, sad little anxious heart.
Fast forward one year. Traversing Japan with two of my special-est, sparkliest friends Alexa and Laurel, I hopped the Pacific for a few reasons:
- An international trip felt like a well-deserved pat on the back after the three of us survived four grueling years of college.
- Our eyes hungered for the visceral, plush-pink fantasy that is Japan’s famous Hanami season. We were the cherry blossoms’ bitch and would do anything, including traveling 5,600, miles to please the blessed sakura.
- More personally, after an emotionally devastating post-college year abroad, I needed an escape from the routine and tedium that exacerbated my symptoms of mental illness.
You know what wasn’t on that list? Moss.
More specifically, facilitating my turbulent love affair with moss and plunging me neck-deep into passionate infatuation was nowhere near that list.
I bet you can guess what my biggest takeaway from that trip was…
Well, aside from the (other) extensive list of every dazzling thing that made our trip to Japan life-changing (something I should outline sometime…), that takeaway was that, no matter how I spin it, I love moss more than any other living thing, myself included. I probably will forever.
The moss followed us around Japan as we bounced from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka to Hiroshima, but the moment I became fully cognizant of my horse-blinder-like adoration of moss remains a crystal clear moment in my otherwise hazed long-term memory. Taking a day-trip from Kyoto to Nara, the three of us boarded a shinkansen to: 1) visit Todai-Ji, a Buddhist temple complex with a brilliant, massive bronze Buddha statue housed in its great hall and 2) experience the sugary thrill that is meeting the herds and herds of deer that call Nara Park home. With such a short to-do list, we found ourselves free and bored around noon. Not wanting to leave Nara and its unique earth-centric beauty, we decided to explore the surrounding area. We read on Japan Guide about a rad, traditional garden within walking distance of the park. Upon arrival, however, a shockingly steep admission fee had us making a blade-sharp 180-degree turn in seconds flat (admission to most places we visited was surprisingly inexpensive–usually around 3-5 USD–so the ~$20 price tag for a garden felt like THIEVERY). Only kinda-sorta bummed, we wandered the streets, scanning for something interesting to do. That took almost no time at all. Steps from that annoying, bougie garden, we spotted a hokey little ticket booth and gate. The wooden structure was weather-worn, it looked creaky and a little dilapidated, but it advertised (in English) “beautiful garden, free admission to international visitors!!” on a faded chalkboard.
With a collective sigh of “why the hell not?”, we pulled out passports out as proof of non-citizenship (as if we needed it..) and ambled through the ticket-gate.
Guys, that garden was an absolute D E L I G H T. Words can’t even beGIN to describe how, I dunno, fucking BEAUTIFUL that garden was. The entire day was set in mist and clouded with overcast skies, typical for early spring in Japan. The mystical energy of the weather mixed with the garden’s impeccable design and execution transported us to another dimension altogether. It was about as “Japanese Garden” as Japanese gardens get, complete with absurdly calming streams, lush greenery, short, little old buildings, and a staggering cherry tree as a focus. Moss-coated the garden like dust in an old library, but it wasn’t until we entered the official Moss Garden section of the grounds that my love solidified and all hope for other plant and animal life withered and died.
I stopped dead in my tracks turning the bushed corner into the “moss room.” Truly stunned for the first time in I don’t know how long, I proceeded through the section steadily, cautiously, allowing myself to indulge in every dazzling, moss magic fantasy I could. Time stood still in that afternoon–I could have spent HOURS just moseying through, circling back around, and surrounding myself in all the mossed beauty. I don’t know how much time I did end up spending in there, though I can assume it was a lot. When I finally emerged from that spiritual bubble, some impatient, sassy comment jokingly spurted from Laurel or Alexa–something along the lines of “glad you got to spend some good quality time with your lover.” From that point on, for the rest of the trip, I took extra notice every time I came across moss, letting it astonish me in every new encounter. It became a running joke, naturally. Alexa experienced something similar with the cherry blossoms, and by the end of our trip, we’d both concluded that we’d met our soulmates. No further romantic forays were necessary now that she had her Sakura and me my Moss.
Nearly a year and a half later, Alexa is happily dating a terrific human woman (bless her soul), but my heart still belongs to moss. And, you know what? I think that’s perfectly okay.
In writing this whole damn thing, I’m reaching another pivotal realization. In splaying my feelings for moss out in the open, I’ve provided myself with a fresher perspective on this whole mossy situation.
I love moss. Plain and simple. It makes me feel… good. It’s a visual treat that somehow offers me a sense of calmness? Of stability? Of… belonging?
Look, I don’t get it. The collective visual, emotional, and spiritual impact moss has on my life makes no sense to me at all. But at this point, I’ll take what I can GET. If this fancy green dust can make me feel loved and inspired, BY MOSS, I WON’T TURN THAT DOWN.
So to answer my questions: fondness becomes favoritism when you call it your “soulmate.” Whether that favoritism is a problem? Hell no. Loving moss a little more than the rest of the plant and animal kingdoms is wonderful. Consider me monogamous with moss. Mossnogamous.
Thank you and goodNIGHT.