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Collingwood artist lichens moss garden to library

What started as a personal collection of moss under the steps has been shared with a community of people thanks to the magic of virtual connections

Jennifer Lyon loves moss.

However, she never expected it to become a part of her daily routine.

The Meaford native moved to Kitchener-Waterloo for university, where she subsequently pursued a career with a not-for-profit for upwards of 10 years. Ready for a change, she moved back to the Collingwood area and shifted gears into art and photography, kickstarting her own professional portrait, lifestyle and commercial branding company.

And then the pandemic happened.

With her new job based on working alongside other people, she had to find other ways to remain connected and creative during the COVID-19 pandemic. Always a nature lover, Lyon dove into gardening and playing with plants.

“Every day I would go out for a hike with my dog, kind of like a mental health check,” said Lyon. “We would find interesting rocks and sticks and little clumps of moss, so I started taking it home and putting it in a little area.”

Lyon kept collecting little moss patches and other pieces of nature, building up a small garden under the stairs leading to her deck in her backyard. Eventually, she started sharing her creation on Instagram and Facebook.

“I thought, this is what I am going to do to make myself happy during this crazy time,” said Lyon. “And then people started liking it, asking me to add to it, like a pond and trees.”

The Moss Library was born.

As the project continued to grow, Lyon started hosting virtual tours through the garden over Zoom, discussing recent “renovations” and future ideas with anyone who was interested. People in big city centres, who were unable to have a garden of their own, used the Moss Library as their escape.

“A lot of people were asking about it and asking to come visit (virtually). It became a communal space in nature where I could connect with them,” she said.

Lyon chose the term library for this reason, and because she wanted her project to at least symbolically represent a communal space where people could grow together.

“Libraries, in general, are a community space where anybody can come in. Ideas are shared, creativity happens, and it’s sort of like we moved it online now,” she said.

Soon enough, other library branches started popping up all over Southern Ontario.

“For me, it was just something to do for myself, and now it feels like I am doing it for more people,” said Lyon. Friends, family and complete strangers continue to message her with pictures of their own gardens and other fun ideas they’ve had.

“People would reach out and thank me, saying they were so inspired and that they get so much out of it,” she said. “It’s been really fun, I feel so connected with these people that I have never met in real life.”

Lyon didn’t stop there. She adapted her photography business and started staging virtual photoshoots. Her subjects would often ask to have a few photos taken in the moss as well.

For the virtual photoshoots, Lyon and her clients conduct a consultation to figure out the logistics, and then she stages little scenes branded for their specific business. For one client, who operates wine, beer and cider tours in Norfolk County, Lyon set up a map of a typical tour and a wine glass in the moss garden, and then placed her phone — which was on Facetime with the client — right in the curated area.

“It’s almost like I am having a photoshoot but we are miles away from each other,” laughed Lyon.

“The human connection is really driving me forward,” she continued. “I am hoping that things can go back to somewhat normal soon, and I can have people physically to my moss library.”

Using a macro lens, Lyon has been able to identify 12 different species of moss in her library — all of which she collected around Collingwood or on various hikes in the area.

Even as restrictions ease and things begin to normalize, Lyon plans to continue incorporating the moss inter her creative projects.

For now, she has been happy to have such a positive experience with her quarantine routine.

“Nature makes me happy, and I love being in it. I will always bring it into my work as much as I can,” said Lyon.

Visit the Moss Library for yourself on Facebook or Instagram

Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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