An essay about the importance of touching nature, and with it the realities of time and history — including the ugly and inconvenient:
Touch reorients us to the fundamental condition of being – to the inevitability of others, both human and nonhuman. In touching, we are most vulnerable because we are always also being touched back. The analogy that Merleau-Ponty uses in his posthumously published work, The Visible and the Invisible (1964), is this: when my one hand touches the other, which one is doing the touching, and which one is being touched? We have eyelids; we can pinch our noses and shut our ears; but there are no natural skin-covers. We cannot turn off our sense of touch. To be a human in the world is to be tactile, to always be touching and touched with every single pore of our bodies.
That touching nature could bridge interspecies borders makes sense intuitively. And is there any being in the plant kingdom that embodies touch more than moss and its family, the bryophytes? Moss is touch. It doesn’t poke the skin of the being it touches. And it takes practically nothing from the host it is in contact with: moss is no parasite. Yet it softens trees, prevents soil erosion, and shelters animals too small for us to notice. It is continuously in touch with Earth and all its beings, including us. Inside a rainforest and on the city pavement, moss beckons us. Moss isn’t everywhere and nowhere; moss is here.