Country diary: Where mosses green the gold

Dark water holds the fallen lights, these bronze leaves floating below the birch. On either side of the ditch, bog and woodland alternate between bare openness and the closeness of the trees. In this border, this in-between, in a vast area of restored peat bog, there is a deep stillness. Even the water does not move.

The lit leaves form a trail that seems to want to lift the eyes, and yet they will not shift. There is a blockage, somewhere in the pull of the leaves, a weight that keeps the eyes sunk low. It is a glow coming from the banks. It is the mosses, gleaming along the flank.

Sun catches in a cushion of Sphagnum fimbriatum, fringed bog moss, flooding through branches that are plump with light and slick like seaweed. Hanging down below the head, or capitulum, the moss branches drop like tentacles from a bloom of jellyfish.

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The whole scene appears as though underwater, though here there is no difficulty breathing since these industrious plants are skilled in filtering pollutants from the air. In this strip between bog and wood, it is easy to slip between the elements, to look at everything anew, fresh but askew, like walking without apparatus along the seafloor.

Moving this slowly, at moss level, barely counts as walking. The mosses anchor their onlookers to the spot, adjusting to the smaller scale. Wedged down low between bracken and birch, I follow the flow of the light from the top of the moss to the branch to the stem. It is an exercise in balance, teetering on the edge. Some mosses spill over.

On the slopes of the bank, stretching down to the water, darker carpets bear pinnacles of glittering capsules, inside of which the spores are held. Further back, there are gleaming, feathered mats: Kindbergia praelonga, common feather moss, passing sun from leaf to leaf.

Poring over each detail dulls my pace as time is suspended in this holding place that is so often walked beside without looking in, travelled past without travelling into the special light it holds, where mosses green the gold.

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