As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
With deep compassion and graceful prose, botanist and professor of plant ecology Kimmerer (Gathering Moss) encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live. In such a culture, "Everyone knows that gifts will follow the circle of reciprocity and flow back to you again... The grass in the ring is trodden down in a path from gratitude to reciprocity. We dance in a circle, not in a line." Kimmerer recalls the ways that pecans became a symbol of abundance for her ancestors: "Feeding guests around the big table recalls the trees' welcome to our ancestors when they were lonesome and tired and so far from home." She reminds readers that "we are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep... Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put into the universe will always come back."
A revealing, insightful, caring, necessary book of philosophies and positive information about the importance of holding nature's gifts close to your heart in every aspect of your conscious life. Every paragraph, every story, every philosophy, and every intention was deliberately written to reciprocate organic food for thought to the open reader. A gorgeously written and earnest novel that I recommend for everyone :)
A Tender Textbook
From personal exemplar essays of bringing up children to love and care for the land, extending out to the history of clearcutting vast old growth forests and back to saving salamanders the author is a brilliant storyteller with the ability to draw you into the lessons she teaches, the trial and error attempts of many to clean up the acts of those who use and abuse the gifts of the earth, and give hope to the disenfranchised people and ecological permaculture of a healthier earth.
This book left me breathless and speechless. Having lived the greater part of the decade in the shadow of Lake Onondaga, I can feel as well as see this ecological terrorism. I am moved by Dr. Kimmerer’s call for reciprocity, for us to quiet our minds to learn lessons lost in grief and greediness. This book had me laughing and crying, almost at the same time. I was very moved, and personally challenged by it. It is not a read it all at once Book, but one than needs to be read in chunks to fully comprehend it. Highly recommended 5/5