Did you know 

1Did you know…

… that today is the birthday of Louisa May Alcott (1832)? Louisa May Alcott is best known for the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys. This novel is loosely based on her childhood experiences with her three sisters. Celebrate Louisa’s birthday today by reading a favorite classic!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

— Maya Angelou

RAK Movement – Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Neighbour’s lawn looking messy? Offer to mow it
  2. Reconnect with your grandparents or an elderly person you know – give them a call!
  3. Know someone who’s feeling under the weather? Pay them a visit!
  4. Make a conscious effort to recycle
  5. Life can get really busy – take some time out to spend with a family member
  6. Feed a stray animal if you spot one
  7. Treat a friend – buy them lunch!
  8. Tell a friend about ARK/World Kindness Day
  9. Pick up somebody else’ tab next time you go for a coffee
  10. Remember that friend you haven’t seen for ages? Give them a call


It is the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space, the beginning of the end and the end of every space. What is it?



The answer is: The letter E

I give advice to others, yet I know nothing myself. I am a hitchhiker destined to stay still while others pass by me. What am I?




The answer is: A road sign.

Fun Poetry :)

(Animal) companion in your new house

Bad advice in an undiscovered cave system

Ghosts of a bankWaking up in a mountain summit

Peer pressure a glacier

Ashes in a farmhouse

Greed in a sand castle

Epic quest in a strange tower

Comfort of a lagoon

Adventure of a friend’s party


It takes courage to speak up when needed, but it also takes courage to listen.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. (Winston Churchill)

Old is whatever’s a decade older than I am.
I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am. (Francis Bacon)


Don’t wait for life to come knocking on your door, open the door yourself and step through.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. (Milton Berle)

All of our fears are treasure troves of self-knowledge ready to be explored if you dare to make the first step.
Fear is a question. What are you afraid of and why? Our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them. (Marilyn French)

December 2018: Content marketing pegs to drive conversations – Scatter

via December 2018: Content marketing pegs to drive conversations – Scatter


Content marketing pegs to drive conversations for December 2018

bakery station welcoming content marketing ideas for December

Smell that? Guess what’s baking!

It’s a fresh batch of promising content ideas.

Knead them well and create the right mix for fulfilling results that will make your audience come back for more!

But before the calendar is served, we’d like to flag an element integral to December come every year – curated lists that count down the best of anything and everything.

From newly opened food joints to the year’s blockbuster’s, and from the most innovative brand campaigns to the weirdest fashion trends.

Make sure to include that in your marketing strategy as well!

1. World AIDS Day, 1st December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Facts about HIV that will leave you in shock

Infographic idea: What every parent needs to tell their kids about AIDS

Listicle idea: Precautionary steps you must take to prevent AIDS

Podcast idea: Here’s how to care for a loved one diagnosed with HIV

Brand campaigns that worked:

‘Faces of HIV’, a project begun by the Florida Department of Health, attempted to put faces to those who test positive for the tabooed and stereotyped virus.

The campaign was executed with a dual aim. First, to ensure that viewers understand that the virus transcends race, gender, age, and marital status. And second, that we need to open-mindedly embrace the HIV-positive keeping in mind that they face daily struggles that we can’t even imagine.

To achieve this objective, the campaign released multiple 6-minute-long videos, each of which shared true narratives of people with HIV. Here’s a typical example of the insightful series:

In a similar initiative, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation released an image series titled ‘Many Shades of Gay’ encouraging their audience to get tested every six months. Here’s an example:

content marketing, december


2. National Pollution Prevention Day, 2nd December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Places where you can bid farewell to polluted air

Infographic idea: X Foods that can help combat the adverse effects of pollution

Listicle idea: Breathe pure: X Simple ways to protect yourself from pollution

Podcast idea: Do you know how pollution affects your health and lifestyle? Find out

Brand campaigns that worked:

The World Health Organization and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition collaborated to launch a global campaign titled ‘Breathe Life’.

They attempted to inform viewers of the extent to which people are affected by air pollution worldwide. But the video ended on a hopeful note as it highlighted some easy solutions to improving the quality of the air surrounding each of us.

Another campaign by Clean Energy Technology Center aimed to raise awareness about the impact of air pollution on public health through the following billboard design:

content marketing, december


Now let the numbers do the talking:

content marketing, december

(Source: Google Analytics)

3. International Day for Abolition of Slavery, 2nd December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Movies about the history of slavery you must watch

Infographic idea: Are you a slave to unhealthy eating habits? Here are X ways to know

Listicle idea: X Heartbreaking books on slavery that are a must-read

Podcast idea: Modern slavery is a real issue. Here’s how you can help

Brand campaign that worked:

Have you ever imagined slavery as practised in the modern era in close quarters to you?

Kent Police’s 2016 campaign against modern slavery and human trafficking urges that you do. Through a series of short videos, it recreates everyday instances where poorly paid or forced labour could have come in contact with you without your noticing it.

All the campaign asks is that you pay attention to what goes on around you and raise an alarm if you suspect the exploitation of a worker. Here’s an example of the same:

4. Indian Navy Day, 4th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Do you have what it takes to undergo the Indian Navy training?

Infographic idea: Preparing to study for the Indian Navy entrance exam? We’ve got your back

Listicle idea: X Stories of bravery at sea that should inspire you

Podcast idea: Why the armed forces need more women

Brand campaign that worked:

In 2016, Bajaj created a campaign titled #SonsofVikrant that rescued glory from the ashes of a ruin.

INS Vikrant, the first aircraft carrier that assisted India in its 1971 war against Pakistan was salvaged to create a special line of Bajaj bikes.

In effect, a commercial decision was able to preserve the sentiments of pride, euphoria, victory, and nostalgia through its product.

5. Wildlife Conservation Day, 4th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Indian destinations for wildlife photography enthusiasts

Infographic idea: Here’s what it takes to become a wildlife photographer

Listicle idea: X Ways you can contribute to wildlife conservation

Podcast idea: Why going vegetarian equals saving the world

Brand campaigns that worked:

When it comes to wildlife conservation, half the fight is with corporations that continue harming the environment to derive monetary benefit. One such tussle has been initiated by Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign that targeted Lego’s partnership with oil corporation, Shell.

The video very simply portrays Lego land being drowned in an endlessly spreading oil slick.

Targeted at a more general audience, the campaign by The World Wide Fund for Nature cleverly collaborated with Snapchat to highlight the acute threat faced by endangered species.

A social media platform built on short-lived content was used to share the ‘selfies’ of different animals who seemed doubtful of their existence in the future.

content marketing, december


6. International Civil Aviation Day, 7th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: History of aviation: How far have we flown?

Infographic idea: X Luxurious airlines to spend those extra bucks on

Article idea: Planning to study civil aviation? Here’s what you need to know

Podcast idea: Here’s why not all heroes wear capes

Brand campaigns that worked:

The better connected a region is to the world, the greater is its capacity for development. And it was this message that Turkish Airlines looked to communicate through the perspective of a group of young Turkish children.

The innocent little coterie is shown building their own runway with chalk dust, windsock and bulbs, hoping that the aeroplane that flies past them every day will one day land in their vicinity.

Another example of an airline advertisement communicating an important message can be found in American Airlines’ campaign. The short advert highlights the airline’s policy of boarding military personnel before other passengers as a mark of respect.

7. International Anti-Corruption Day, 9th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Here’s what it takes to join the Central Anti-corruption Bureau

Infographic idea: Steps taken by the Indian government to curb corruption

Listicle idea: Lesser known anti-corruption laws in India

Podcast idea: How companies can learn to deal with corruption effectively

Brand campaigns that worked:

As an Indian, one campaign you probably instantly associate with the theme of anti-corruption is Tata Tea’s 2009 advert titled ‘Aaj Se Khilana Bandh, Pilana Shuru’. The video highlights how the onus of ending corruption also lies with those who comply with demands of bribery.

Another brand that has been able to draw a clever parallel between a seemingly unrelated theme and its product is kitchen and home appliances giant, Morphy Richards.

An ad more tongue-in-cheek than Tata Tea’s shows a man having to go through multiple levels of a corrupted administration to avail of the service he requires.

The video highlights how, much like corrupt officials, Morphy Richards’ mixer is also adept at squeezing out every drop from any food item that comes its way!

8. International Day of Veterinary Medicine, 9th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Funniest pet videos you simply have to watch

Infographic idea: X Books that can help you prepare for veterinary medicine

Listicle idea: X Health checkups your pet needs every year

Podcast idea: Here’s why you should adopt and not shop

Brand campaigns that worked:

Encouraging people to adopt pets rather than shop for them can be a tough task. But organisations are beginning to realise that the way around this problem lies in the upcoming method of marketing – storytelling.

For instance, the Ad Council partnered with The Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fundz to create a public service advertisement for The Shelter Pet Project. The campaign shared quirky testimonials from pets who have been adopted, thereby personalising each poster that encouraged adoption.

content marketing, december

Ever since its launch in 2009, the campaign was able to reduce euthanasia of shelter pets by 10%!

In a similar bid to catch attention, Mumbai-based animal welfare organisation World For Allpartnered with McCann Worldgroup to create a print campaign titled, ‘There’s always room for more. Adopt.’

Utilising the techniques of framing and lighting, silhouettes of families were used to create optical illusions to indicate the possible and welcomed entry of an adopted animal.

content marketing, december


9. World Choral Day, 9th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Songs to celebrate World Choral Day the right way

Infographic idea: Happy rules for a peaceful family you need to implement

Listicle idea: X Global concerts and fests to promote World Choral Day

Podcast idea: Everything you need to know about World Choral Day

Brand campaigns that worked:

Levi’s’ commercial from 2017 titled ‘Circles’ celebrated unity and individuality through music and dance.

Remember K’NAAN’s Wavin’ Flag? While the song about freedom may originally not have been written for a campaign, it was nonetheless picked up by Coca-Cola as the promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa.

These two campaigns are not cookie-cutter examples of World Choral Day but nonetheless serve as two successful illustrations of what can happen when a brand comes to be recognised by the sentiment the accompanying music video represents.

 10. Human Rights Day, 10th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Best speeches on human rights you must listen to

Infographic idea: Are you doing enough for the underprivileged?

Listicle idea: X Lessons from leaders who fought for human rights

Podcast idea: Know your rights: Read about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Brand campaign that worked:

The Human Rights division of UN created a campaign titled ‘The Riddle’ which addressed the violent social treatment the LGBTQ+ community is subjected to around the world. The video’s speakers emphasised the need to equate LGBTQ+ rights to human rights.

The YouTube-based campaign has gained more than 1M views.

11. International Mountain Day, 11th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Breathtakingly beautiful hill stations you can visit with family and friends

Infographic idea: X Best street food stalls in Indian hill stations

Listicle idea: X Courses in mountaineering for the adventurer in you

Podcast idea: Why future construction needs to be curbed in the mountain areas

Brand campaigns that worked:

Mountains are often seen as an indomitable force that is all powerful and strong. But recent events have shown that these lofty elements of nature could also do with some care.

The British Mountaineering Council, along with famous mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington and TV presenter Julia Bradbury commenced a crowd-funded campaign aptly called ‘Mend Our Mountains’.

This campaign aimed to raise £100,000 to improve the much-frequented trekking paths on the more popular peaks in Britain. The promoters included incentives such as visits to some of these areas, plus helicopter rides thrown in.

The campaign was an innovative way to encourage life outdoors as the natural habitat received a new lease of life.

12. International Migrants Day, 18th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Did you know that companies benefit from hiring refugees?

Infographic idea: Donate to these X organisations to help refugees

Listicle idea: X Best ways to help refugees integrate into society

Podcast idea: Here’s how migration is known to impact psychological health

Brand campaigns that worked:

With the political landscape being increasingly controlled by leaders who preach an anti-immigrant ideology, it has become even more critical to discuss the plight of migrants. And this responsibility doesn’t just lie with NGOs or international organisations.

Brands that may not think themselves as directly associated with the issue also need to contribute their voice to the discussion.

Laying the foundation can be the campaign #StandUp4HumanRights launched by the UN Human Rights Office. This effort involved the creation and distribution of a series of animated videos that brought to light the stories of migrants, the communities they attempt to become a part of, and the experiences they have along the way.

Here’s an example where Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu highlights why many of us have begun to see migrants as outsiders and the sole cause of our social and economic problems:

Another striking campaign was launched by USA for IOM, the non-profit partner of the UN Migration Agency, under the hashtag #morethanasuitcase. Each image in the series highlighted how the worth of each migrant always amounts to more than what we narrow-mindedly assume it to be.

content marketing, December


13. Christmas, 25th December

content marketing, december

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Cake recipes to capture the essence of Christmas

Infographic idea: X Unconventional Christmas gift ideas for your loved ones

Listicle idea: X Non-traditional ways to celebrate Christmas

Podcast idea: A traveller’s guide to the best Christmas destinations in India

Brand campaigns that worked:

British retailer John Lewis & Partners set the bar for the perfect Christmas campaign with their 2014 advert #MontyThePenguin. Clocking in over 27M views, the heart-warming campaign highlights the importance of getting someone ‘the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of’.

Did you think that Canadian airline WestJet would be able to do one better after the 2013 campaign that won them recognition online?

Well, you better believe it! 2017 saw them organise another Christmas-themed campaign called ‘12 Flights of Christmas’, where little children were asked what their ideal Christmas would look like.

As the ideas flowed in, WestJet employees organised each version across twelve days where every re-creation was accompanied by gifts for the passengers present at the airport.

Their message? Miracles do happen.

Now let the numbers do the talking:

content marketing, december

(Source: Buzzsumo)

14. New Year’s Eve, 31st December

content marketing, December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Delicious recipes for your New Year’s Eve bonanza

Infographic idea: How you can gift your loved ones good health this New Year’s Eve

Listicle idea: X Ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home

Podcast idea: A look back at what made this year special

Brand campaigns that worked:

Any campaign that can successfully put its product on the back-burner and instead focus on communicating a greater social message wins hands down. So did Nokia with their Chinese New Year campaign that encouraged people to gift their loved ones with their presence during the festive season.

This idea stands especially important in a world that continues to drift apart with the comfort that technology connects them, if not physical proximity.

A New Year campaign that was able to break out of the sudden rush of holiday-themed adverts with its ingenuity was ‘The Coughing Billboard’ created by Swedish Pharmacy Hjärtat. Anytime the billboard detected smoke in its close vicinity, a visual of a coughing man would come on.

The aim was to encourage the general public to give up smoking as a New Year’s resolution, offering them solutions to break the habit.

Now let the numbers do the talking:

content marketing, December

(Source: Buzzsumo)



content marketing, December1. Hornbill Festival, 1st-10th December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Carry home a slice of Nagaland with these X local products

Infographic idea: X Naga cuisines you must try at the Hornbill Festival

Listicle idea: X Events and performances to look out for at the Hornbill Festival

Podcast idea: Why northeast India needs to bank on its tourism opportunities

2. Sunburn Festival, 29th-31st December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X EDM artists that will justify the purchase of those festival tickets

Infographic idea: X Nearby places to crash at during the Sunburn Festival

Listicle idea: X Food joints to keep your tummy happy while attending the Sunburn Festival

Podcast idea: How music festivals have supported the tourism industry in the last few years

Now let the numbers do the talking:

content marketing, December

(Source: Google Analytics)



content marketing, December1. Brownie Day, 8th December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Healthy brownie recipes for people with a sweet tooth

Infographic idea: X Basic ingredients for baking brownies

Listicle idea: X Best places to try brownies in the world

Podcast idea: Who knew chocolate could be healthy!

2. World Techno Day, 9th December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: Ever wondered how Techno music came about? Wonder no more!

Infographic idea: X Music festivals you need to experience

Listicle idea: X Underground techno artists every fan must know about

Podcast idea: X Insane tracks you can’t help dancing to

3. International Tea Day, 15th December

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Different ways to brew tea

Infographic idea: X Tea-flavoured foods for enthusiasts

Listicle idea: X Beautiful hill plantations to visit in India

Podcast idea: Who said tea can’t cure your health problems?



content marketing, December1. Cricket

Oct 2018 – Feb 2019: ICC Women’s Championship, New Zealand vs. India (24th Jan 2019)

Nov 28 – Dec 01: Australia vs. India, 4-day practice match

Dec 06 – Dec 30: Australia vs. India, Test series

Dec 09 – Dec 17: U19 CWC Qualifier Asia Division 2

2. Hockey (field)

Nov 24 – Dec 16: World Cup – Men (Bhubaneswar, India)

3. Swimming

Dec 7 – 11: FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) [Hangzhou, China]

Content marketing ideas:

Video idea: X Best match/tournament moments in the history of <name of sport>

Infographic idea: X Foods that should be in every sportsperson’s diet

Listicle idea: What you need to become a <insert category of sportsperson>

Podcast idea: How technology has revolutionised the world of sports

Key Quotes as November 2018 comes to an end.

Key Quotes – Nov 2018

A bad system will beat a good person every time.

– W. Edwards Deming

The stock market is a device for transferring money to the patient by the impatient.

– Warren Buffet

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

– Will Rogers

One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.

– Henry Ford


– Nelson Mandela

The cost of discipline is less than the cost of regret.

– Jack Canfield

Intelligence is an ability to adapt to change.

– Stephen Hawking



How does a Company go bankrupt? First gradually, then suddenly.

– Ernest Hemingway

Brainpickings.org my fav newsletter

This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival selection – poet and philosopher David Whyte on anger, forgiveness, and what maturity really means – you can read it right here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

FROM THE ARCHIVE | The Magic of Moss and What It Teaches Us About the Art of Attentiveness to Life at All Scales

gatheringmoss.jpg?w=200“Attention without feeling,” Mary Oliver observed in her magnificent memoir of love and loss“is only a report.” In Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (public library) — an extraordinary celebration of smallness and the grandeur of life, as humble yet surprisingly magical as its subject — botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer extends an uncommon and infectious invitation to drink in the vibrancy of life at all scales and attend to our world with befitting vibrancy of feeling.

One of the world’s foremost bryologists, Kimmerer is a scientist blessed with the rare privilege of belonging to a long lineage of storytellers — her family comes from the Bear Clan of the Potawatomi. There is a special commonality between her heritage and her scientific training — a profound respect for all life forms, whatever their size — coupled with a special talent for rendering that respect contagious, which places her prose in the same taxon as Mary Oliver and Annie Dillard and Thoreau. Indeed, if Thoreau was a poet and philosopher who became a de facto naturalist by the sheer force of poetic observation, despite having no formal training in science, Kimmerer is a formally trained scientist whose powers of poetic observation and contemplative reflection render her a de facto poet and philosopher. (So bewitching is her book, in fact, that it inspired Elizabeth Gilbert’s beautiful novel The Signature of All Things, which is how I first became aware of Kimmerer’s mossy masterwork.)


Moss and air plant sculpture by Art We Heart

Mosses, to be sure, are scientifically impressive beyond measure — the amphibians of vegetation, they were the first plants to emerge from the ocean and conquer the land; they number some 22,000 species, whose tremendous range of size parallels the height disparity between a blueberry bush and a redwood; they inhabit nearly every ecosystem on earth and grow in places as diverse as the branch of an oak and the back of a beetle. But beyond their scientific notoriety, mosses possess a kind of lyrical splendor that Kimmerer unravels with enchanting elegance — splendor that has to do with what these tiny organisms teach us about the art of seeing.

She uses the experience of flying — an experience so common we’ve come to take its miraculousness for granted — to illustrate our all too human solipsism:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngBetween takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun’s glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own.


Illustration by Peter Sís from ‘The Pilot and the Little Prince.’ Click image for details.

We, of course, need not rise to the skies in order to fall into the chronic patterns of our myopia and miss most of what is going on around us — we do this even in the familiar microcosm of a city block. Kimmerer considers how our growing powers of technologically aided observation have contributed to our diminished attentiveness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWe poor myopic humans, with neither the raptor’s gift of long-distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand. We think we’re seeing when we’ve only scratched the surface. Our acuity at this middle scale seems diminished, not by any failing of the eyes, but by the willingness of the mind. Has the power of our devices led us to distrust our unaided eyes? Or have we become dismissive of what takes no technology but only time and patience to perceive? Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.


5,500-year-old Antarctic moss. Photograph by Rachel Sussman from ‘The Oldest Living Things in the World.’ Click image for details.

But the rewards of attentiveness can’t be forced into manifesting — rather, they are surrendered to. In a sentiment that calls to mind Rebecca Solnit’s spectacular essay on how we find ourselves by getting lost, Kimmerer writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngA Cheyenne elder of my acquaintance once told me that the best way to find something is not to go looking for it. This is a hard concept for a scientist. But he said to watch out of the corner of your eye, open to possibility, and what you seek will be revealed. The revelation of suddenly seeing what I was blind to only moments before is a sublime experience for me. I can revisit those moments and still feel the surge of expansion. The boundaries between my world and the world of another being get pushed back with sudden clarity an experience both humbling and joyful.


Mosses and other small beings issue an invitation to dwell for a time right at the limits of ordinary perception. All it requires of us is attentiveness. Look in a certain way and a whole new world can be revealed.


Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking. A cursory glance will not do it. Starting to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music. Mosses are not elevator music; they are the intertwined threads of a Beethoven quartet.

Echoing Richard Feynman’s iconic monologue on knowledge and mystery, Kimmerer adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngKnowing the fractal geometry of an individual snowflake makes the winter landscape even more of a marvel. Knowing the mosses enriches our knowing of the world.


Moss and air plant sculpture by Art We Heart

This knowing, at its most intimate, is a function of naming — for words are how we come to know meanings. Kimmerer considers this delicate dialogue between a thing’s essence and its name:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHaving words for these forms makes the differences between them so much more obvious. With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see.


Having the words also creates an intimacy with the plant that speaks of careful observation.


Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing, when visual acuity is not enough.

The remarkable diversity of moss varieties known and named only adds to the potentiality for intimacy with the world at all scales. But among this vast multiplicity of mosses is one particular species inhabiting the small caves carved by glaciers into the lakeshore, which alone embodies immense wisdom about the mystery and meaning of life. Kimmerer writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSchistostega pennata, the Goblins’ Gold, is unlike any other moss. It is a paragon of minimalism, simple in means, rich in ends. So simple you might not recognize it as a moss at all. The more typical mosses on the bank outside spread themselves to meet the sun. Such robust leaves and shoots, though tiny, require a substantial amount of solar energy to build and maintain. They are costly in solar currency. Some mosses need full sun to survive, others favor the diffuse light of clouds, while Schistostega lives on the clouds’ silver lining alone.


Goblins’ Gold (Photograph: Matt Goff)

This singular species subsists solely on the light reflections emanating from the lake’s surface, which provide one-tenth of one percent of the solar energy that direct sunlight does. And yet in this unlikely habitat, Schistostega has emerged as a most miraculous jewel of life:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe shimmering presence of Schistostega is created entirely by the weft of nearly invisible threads crisscrossing the surface of the moist soil. It glows in the dark, or rather it glitters in the half light of places which scarcely feel the sun.

Each filament is a strand of individual cells strung together like beads shimmering on a string. The walls of each cell are angled, forming interior facets like a cut diamond. It is these facets which cause Schistostega to sparkle like the tiny lights of a far-away city. These beautifully angled walls capture traces of light and focus it inward, where a single large chloroplast awaits the gathering beam of light. Packed with chlorophyll ad membranes of exquisite complexity, the chloroplast converts the light energy into a stream of flowing electrons. This is the electricity of photosynthesis, turning sun into sugar, spinning straw into gold.

But more than a biological marvel, Schistostega presents a parable of patience and its bountiful rewards — an allegory for meeting the world not with grandiose entitlement but with boundless generosity of spirit; for taking whatever it has to offer and giving back an infinity more. Kimmerer writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngRain on the outside, fire on the inside. I feel a kinship with this being whose cold light is so different from my own. It asks very little from the world and yet glitters in response.


Timing is everything. Just for a moment, in the pause before the earth rotates again into night, the cave is flooded with light. The near-nothingness of Schistostega erupts in a shower of sparkles, like green glitter spilled on the rug at Christmas… And then, within minutes, it’s gone. All its needs are met in an ephemeral moment at the end of the day when the sun aligns with the mouth of the cave… Each shoot is shaped like a feather, flat and delicate. The soft blue green fronds stand up like a glad of translucent ferns, tracking the path of the sun. It is so little. And yet it is enough.

This tiny moss is a master of “the patient gleaming of light” — and what is the greatest feat of the human spirit, the measure of a life well lived, if not a “patient gleaming of light”? Annie Dillard knew this when she wrote: “I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.” And Carl Jung knew it when we insisted that “the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” The humble, generous Schistostega illuminates the darkness of mere being into blazing awe at the miracle of life itself — a reminder that our existence on this unremarkable rock orbiting an unremarkable star is a glorious cosmic accident, the acute awareness of which calls to mind poet Mark Strand’s memorable words: “It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”

To pay attention, indeed, is the ultimate celebration of this accidental miracle of life. Kimmerer captures this with exuberant elegance:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe combination of circumstances which allows it to exist at all are so implausible that the Schistostega is rendered much more precious than gold. Goblins’ or otherwise. Not only does its presence depend on the coincidence of the cave’s angle to the sun, but if the hills on the western shore were any higher the sun would set before reaching the cave… Its life and ours exist only because of a myriad of synchronicities that bring us to this particular place at this particular moment. In return for such a gift, the only sane response is to glitter in reply.

Gathering Moss is a glittering read in its entirety. Complement it with Annie Dillard on the art of seeing and the two ways of looking.