Rarely does a book come around that fills me with hope and inspires me with possibilities, much less shift my perception. In the shit storm of suffering that was 2020, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer was that book for me. Kimmerer is a lovely writer whose prose sometimes verges on poetic, especially when she talks about plants and the ways and practices of Native Americans.
The stories that she brings to explain her perspective on life and living are gentle reminders that we can adopt a different way of being in the world. She acknowledges that we, as humans, are consumers and presents ways that gratitude and reciprocity can be key factors in how we conduct ourselves.
She addresses the theme of greed using the story of the Windigo. She brings to the forefront our relationship to plants in the western tradition as objects rather than as subjects in the Native American tradition. If we could move away from calling a plant “it” and recognize the plant as a non-human person, how would our relationship change? I find the concept of personifying all living beings very appealing.
What are some of the guidelines she gives us? When I hear them, they sound like common sense advice for managing any transaction. She is focusing, of course, on our relationship to plants and to the environment. Protocols such as “Never take the first plant of a species that you see,” “Take only what you need,” and “Minimize harm” are three of the ten that she lays out. By practicing these protocols, we respect the rights of Mother Earth. It’s worth reading the book if only to learn what the other protocols of an honorable harvest are!
Our book group unanimously enjoyed and appreciated Braiding Sweetgrass. Our next book is the classic, seminal Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. In honor of Earth Day, we will be meeting that week on Monday, April 19 to discuss it. How have things changed since this book was written? What still needs to be addressed? What other issues have come to the forefront over the last sixty years?
If you would like to join in our discussion, please contact me. Unless we find ourselves with an extraordinarily nice day so that we can meet outside, we will continue on Zoom for now.
I hope that everyone is getting an opportunity to be outside in Nature to enjoy the miracle of Spring where living is reaffirmed and life is started anew. The Serviceberry is blooming as well as the Redbud. The Virginia Bluebells are nodding in the breeze while the Golden Ragwort is spreading and standing proud with its yellow blooms. Close by to me, I watch two Bluebirds attend their nest in the birdhouse we recently relocated and I laugh at the little Skinks as they scurry across the deck. There’s suddenly so much going on that I could write pages just on my observations!