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Moss and wombs

The most important uses of mosses, roles that reflect their best gifts, were everyday tools in the hands of women- Robin Wall Kimmerer

In the book “gathering moss”, Robin Wall Kimmerer investigates the natural and cultural history of mosses. She bridges skillfully between knowledge of Western science and indigenous teachings. I love moss, but what I found even more interesting, is that the question of what the most unique use of moss is, had to be answered interdisciplinary. Kimmerer found that the history is influenced by whom studies it and how context is given to the available information.

Moss is quite versatile, it provides insolation for nests, houses and bedding. In some indigenous kitchens it is used to prepare food like salmon, not as an ingredient, but as a tool to swipe away toxins of its slimy coating. However, these uses are not unique to this species. According to Kimmerer, every organism has a certain special gift for their fellow eco system inhabitants. It’s a beautiful perspective on reverence for every being that lives in a certain habitat. She stresses the importance of respecting plants and animals as much as humans. For example, through harvesting with honor and humility. By asking the plants if they can share their abundance and allow you to take some, in turn, you need to give something back. It can be spreading the seeds of fruits, taking care of the population, making sure the water supply is sufficient etc. Kimmerer was adamant on unearthing the gift that Moss shares with us.

Just knowledge of botany was not enough in this case, she needed the insight of biology, ethnography and gender and postcolonial studies. Most written accounts she found, were of male ethnographers, consequently, their notebooks were most detailed on the pursuits of men. Hunting, fishing, and making tools and weapons were discussed quite elaborately. However, there was one single sentence that intrigued Kimmerer. “Moss was in widespread use for diapers and sanitary napkins”. Their scientific lens was influenced by their personal bias and worldview, the world of diapers and menstrual products was not their main priority. Besides, Western anthropologists who studied indigenous women are known to make certain interpretations. A very important example is the menstrual phase or “moon time”. Anthropologists interpreted that menstruation was seen as unclean and that women had to be isolated from daily life. However, it is now known that some cultures see menstruation as a state of heightened spiritual power and a potent time for meditation. Now back to moss, Sphagnum moss can absorb more than twenty to forty times its weight in water. In addition to that, its acidic and antiseptic properties made it a very productive and safe diaper option. Kimmerer urges that plant allies and medicine are there when and where they are needed. In the case of moss, it grows right at the edge of shallow pools where mothers would wash their babies. All in all, this search around moss revealed its connection to women and therein the importance of approaching information with a wide and critical lens. Even though not all menstruators are women, I think the distinction of gender is important due to the gendered analyses of history.

Our relationship with the earth can be so intimate and mutually beneficial if we are open to that reciprocity. In addition to that, I think it can be powerful to actively nurture all relationships you are a part in. Not just romantic partners, but to yourself, your friends, your community, animals, plants, even the soil and the water. I recommend reading the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer or simply appreciate your environment to start this journey.

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Laatst vroeg iemand mij “is dit oké?” toen die mij wilde gaan beffen. Hoewel ik doorgaans erg open ben over seksualiteit en het fijn vind om over intimiteit te praten, is het tijdens de seks soms nog



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