I recently read Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plantsby Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013).
RWK is of native American heritage (Potawatomi). She is also a research botanist. In this book she blends her science-based understandings of life with the ancient wisdoms gleaned from the teachings of her heritage. The result is a remarkable work of knowledge reconciliation, with the effect that the science she understands so well makes the best and most sense when studied in the context of the wholeness of creation.
My top takeaways:
-Ceremonies represent a way for us to “remember to remember,” they marry the mundane with that we hold sacred.
-Ceremony has the effect of converting attention to intention.
-Wisdom is best thought of as a compass – providing orientation – not as rules or commandments.
-It is immensely useful to think of plants, animals, fish, all of creation as beings(just not human) rather than things and resources; they are nonhuman persons vested with awareness, intelligence, spirit.
-Compelling new research is yielding the truth that plants really do talkto each other.
-Reciprocity is the currency of relationships.
-We understand fully only when we understand with our mind, body, emotion, and spirit; that is indigenous wisdom.
My favorite quotes:
“It’s not just land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land.” (p. 9)
“Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise.” (p. 338)
“To name and describe you must first see, and science polishes the gift of seeing.” (p. 48)
“Food plants and people act as selective forces on each other’s evolution—the thriving of one in the best interest of the other. This, to me, sounds a bit like love.” (p. 124)
“To be heard, you must speak the language of the one you want to listen.” (p. 158)
“Paying attention acknowledges that we have something to learn from intelligences other than our own.” (p. 300)
“But I know that metaphor is a way of telling truth far greater than scientific data.” (p. 368)
Braiding Sweetgrass was one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in the last few years. That makes me happy.