My Favorite Book of the Year: Braiding Sweetgrass

Author Robin Wall Kimmerer aptly named her gorgeous book Braiding Sweetgrass. Within it, she braids together indigenous wisdom, perspectives on our Creator, and scientific theory through the pages that are both essay and autobiography. Never have I read a book similar to this. It’s information, wisdom, and beautiful storytelling cultivated an awareness of my ecological “relatives” that barely existed previously .

Kimmerer’s membership in the Potowatami Nation and background as a professor of botany weaves together seamlessly as she shares lessons learned from the earth. Indiginous ideologies acknowledge a commitment to a harmonious relationship with plants: ” “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” Because of what is shared here, I will forever be indebted to wild strawberries, pecans, and maple trees.

While lamenting the loss and dismissal of indigenous wisdom, the author shares how colonization and industrialization affects both her personal story as well as the bigger narrative of our country. “The consumption-driven mindset masquerades as “quality of life” but eats us from within. It is as if we’ve been invited to a feast, but the table is laid with food that nourishes only emptiness, the black hole of the stomach that never fills.” It left me pondering how we have messed up the commandment to be stewards of creation. What blessings are we missing as a result of a zest for control and accumulation regardless of cost?

Through sharing stories of her own pain staking experiences restoring nature, Kimmerer does not leave one in a state of discouragement. She lifts up hope. But it will involve commitment to doing the hard work together. “How we approach restoration of land depends, of course, on what we believe “land” means.” It’s on this premise that Kimmerer engages the reader. She paints an exquisite and compelling picture of a demographic of creation. Historically, our nature family is taken for granted at best, and treated with disregard at worst. But, as she says, we all live in a circle of reciprocity, not a line.We need each other. Even algae and salamanders. For her words, I will forever be thankful.

” “Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”

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