Friday Open Thread: What are you reading? ~ Braiding Sweetgrass
“Suppression of our natural responses to disaster is part of the disease of our time. The refusal to acknowledge these responses causes a dangerous splitting. It divorces our mental calculations from our intuitive, emotional, and biological embeddedness in the matrix of life. That split allows us passively to acquiesce in the preparations for our own demise.”
“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.”
“When a language dies, so much more than words are lost. Language is the dwelling place of ideas that do not exist anywhere else. It is a prism through which to see the world. Tom says that even words as basic as numbers are imbued with layers of meaning. The numbers we use to count plants in the sweetgrass meadow also recall the Creation Story. Én:ska—one. This word invokes the fall of Skywoman from the world above. All alone, én:ska, she fell toward the earth. But she was not alone, for in her womb a second life was growing. Tékeni—there were two. Skywoman gave birth to a daughter, who bore twin sons and so then there were three— áhsen. Every time the Haudenosaunee count to three in their own language, they reaffirm their bond to Creation.”
“until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it—grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants is a 2013 nonfiction book written by Indigenous author Robin Wall Kimmerer and published by Milkweed.The book is about the world of botany as described and explored through Native American traditions. Kimmerer, who is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, also shares stories about her own experiences working with plants and learning to become reunited with her own people's cultural traditions. She also gives a background on history in relation to plants and also discusses botany through a scientific perspective.
American Indian Quarterly writes that Braiding Sweetgrass is a book about traditional ecological knowledge and environmental humanities. Kimmerer combines her training in Western scientific methods and her Native American knowledge about sustainable land stewardship to describe a more joyful and ecological way of using our land in Braiding Sweetgrass.
Kimmerer said about the book that "I wanted readers to understand that Indigenous knowledge and Western science are both powerful ways of knowing, and that by using them together we can imagine a more just and joyful relationship with the Earth." Plants described in the book include squash, algae, goldenrod, pecans and the eponymous sweetgrass.
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer discusses topics found in her new book “Braiding Sweetgrass” in which she 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 a rich braid of 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 a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement 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.
[September 2, 5:30 p.m. Call Alumni Auditorium, Kennedy Hall, Cornell University]