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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you feel a pull to connect with nature but aren’t sure how to go about it, listen to this gorgeous audiobook. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a professor of environmental biology at SUNY in Syracuse, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a mother. Her stunning essays about natural history, ecological science, parenting, and indigenous wisdom weave together ancient stories, modern environmental crises, funny tales from her fieldwork, and memories of her own childhood. Braiding Sweetgrass offers vital lessons about the principle of reciprocity in nature—Kimmerer advises we think of nature as a wise, generous elder relative—and loads of infectious hope and enthusiasm. This is a wonderful book to dip in and out of, but reading the whole thing will really drive home Kimmerer’s fundamental message that everything—and everyone—is connected.
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 Must Read
This book is so foundational, that anyone who works for change, for reversing global warming, for justice will be better prepared to face our uncertain future. Also some of the best prose poetry being written today.
One of the most beautifully written love letters to nature I’ve ever read. It was recommended to me by a friend. Once I started reading I thirsted for it at the start of each day. I have been buying up every copy I find and sharing it with my friends who love the earth and plants as much as I do. Thank you Robin.
Never too late
This book of ancient teachings is so relevant…