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Write every day: What is the moss of New York?

20200801_120317

Moss in Riverdale Park, Bronx, New York City, August 1, 2020

Though moss is a simple plant, we shouldn’t underestimate its wisdom. It’s one of the oldest, wisest, and most experienced forms of life. Moss is an opportunist making the most of what’s available. It lies in wait, sometimes for years, for the right conditions to grow and reproduce.

Moss exhibits the skill of anabiosis When water is scarce, moss will completely dry out and play dead for as long as needed. But they aren’t dead at all. In their drying, they lay the groundwork for their renewal. Sprinkle them with a little water and the moss will spring back to life as if nothing had happened. They can also regenerate themselves from just a miniscule fragment.

Moss is the first life form to reinhabit an area that’s experienced devastation and loss. It’s the plant of second chances. Moss is hopeful. Despite destruction and stress, moss finds a way in and sets the stage for more life to return. Through their actions of collecting and holding water and contributing to the nutrient cycle of land, the will of moss changes the world, turning barren rock to gardens with enough time.

As I walk through my city of New York now, devoid of so much life and so much of what I love about it, I wonder what our proverbial moss will be. What will come back first to literally create the conditions that will seed the path for restoration and revitalization? What will create a haven for life and growth on the cultural bedrock of our city? What and who will set down roots here to build an enduring legacy for others, and how?

If only humans and our dreams could be as resilient as moss. If only we could find a way to see this time of COVID-19 only as a holding pattern. Not something that destroys us but something that makes us stronger, more resilient, more determined to thrive in the days ahead. Unfortunately we don’t have that seemingly-magical power of anabiosis. We can’t curl up in a ball, dry out, and wait for better times. We have to keep living, breathing, moving, working, eating, and growing. We’ll have to make a way out of no way, and the only way we can do that is together.

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