Photo by Steffen Meyer on Unsplash

According to popular wisdom, rolling stones gather no moss.

In the ancient days, the saying signified someone shifltless, who avoided their responsibilites. Perhaps a vagrant with no family ties.

It’s also been used to describe someone ignorant, someone without education. Presumably the moss is the education – if you stay at school long enough it sticks.

Or someone who hasn’t spent sufficient time over summer to prepare for winter.

Though it has to be said Aesop’s fable about The Ant and the Grasshopper is more amusing than the idiom.

Once upon a time, growing moss was a good thing, but in modern times, rolling is more of a virtue than growing moss.

I blame hustle culture, where hustling is good and delay is bad. If you’re not hustling, you’re failing.

I don’t even like the term “hustle,” it makes me think of con men and snake oil salesmen stopping in town just long enough to collect the townsfolk’s money then moving on again.

Rolling Stones

The thing about rolling stones, they’re unstoppable.

Remember that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones races out of a lost temple followed by a rolling stone?


He ducks and the stone rolls over him and down the mountain crushing everything in its path

Doesn’t stop to ask how you are, or say please or thank you.

Worse, rolling stones taunt you while they’re at it.

The “Sailing Stones” of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley seem to maliciously move while no one’s watching! (SPOILER: Explanation here.)

Or the Trovants, that seem to grow and even give birth to new rocks. (SPOILER: Explanation here.)

Mossy Stones

On the other hand, stones that don’t roll, provide shade for weary heads and support for weary backs as well as moss.

And it’s not even as if moss is a bad thing. Moss is categorically a good thing.

Moss is a carbon sink. As it grows, it “cleans” air of pollutants, and produces oxygen.

You can use it as a mattress, as a roof over your head (though you’ll need a frame for the roof), and against your walls as a camouflage. Though that’s probably only good for hiding from other humans.

If you take it fishing with you, use it to pack and coincidentally refrigerate your fresh caught salmon while you walk it home.

Plus, you can dry it out and burn it, and while you’re at it, smoke your salmon and river greens for your tea. Or just eat some varieties if it turns out the fishing was no good that day.

It absorbs up to twenty times its weight of liquid, so if your fire gets out of control, you can extinguish it with wet moss.

Or, if you’re mauled by a sabre tooth tiger while you’re out, use it as an antimicrobial dressing for your wounds.

Moss is a very handy thing.

Even if you don’t take into account its bright green cheerfulness on a gloomy winter’s day.

I just don’t see what the problem with growing moss is.


At some point in the near future, I’ll be building a stone wall. Actually, it’s more likely I’ll be commissioning a landscaper to build the wall.

I hope it’s a stable and reliable wall. Somewhere to sit on a sunny day, perhaps on top to bask in the sun, or on the ground in its shade. Maybe we can stack terracotta plant pots on the top too.

It would be awful if it just fell over into a pile of stones. Particularly if they just rolled away down the hill.

Useless, shiftless rolling stones.


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