Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants – a celebration and a few musings

My book dealer friend (who has a very good and reliable eye and ear) recently told me about Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Potawatomi citizen, botanist, and professor. Of course I jumped on it. Wonderfully and whimsically written, Kimmerer delves into the natural world and how indigenous peoples had an intrinsic, wisdom and understanding of biological systems, and she uses that native genius to explain how the world is so beautiful, and how we can restore that partnership.

She breaks down the book into parable-like musings on little magics of life and nature: her personal stories and adventures as a mother and scientist, the Anishinaabe language, harvesting, the symbiosis of algae and fungus in lichen, complimentary crops (e.g., the Three Sisters), rain/water systems, the purposeful stories of creation, the first peoples, and other native folklore, basketweaving, cedar, gratitude and so much more.

I only had access to the audiobook via the library and it actually was the ideal way to experience this science-and-poetry amalgamation, this beautiful and gentle memoir. I came away with a whole new appreciation of the natural balances and indigenous intelligence. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook because Robin narrates it, and she is such a captivating, gracious, breezy narrator. This woman would make a truly wonderful friend. I can only imagine all the conversations I could have with her, sitting together in a kitchen bubbling with earthly smells and goods and appreciation, and just listening to and admiring her way of life and thinking.

I listened to this book while practicing my new-found hobby and love, weaving. It is a suiting act to listen to such a good, flowy yet consciously woven book. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but I want to heavily recommend and celebrate this book for its marriage of indigenous knowledge with scientific thinking, both sides of the brain. And when these yin and yang concepts combine, great and healing things can happen.

She describes, in loving depth and detail, the reasoning, the beauty and the balance of her peoples’ lives with Mother Earth, learning from Her and always reciprocating Her gifts, contrasted¬†with the realities of the damage our current system of use and misuse, but Robin offers a positive twist, and positive changes that are already happening. Then she challenges you to carry on the flame of caring for our planet, of making that change, of living different from today’s realm and tapping into that indigenous nature and wisdom.

This is a book that will charge and feed your spirit. Braiding Sweetgrass is one of those few books that hits so many nails on the head and gives so much new yet ancient knowledge that you will carry it within you and carry it on to others.

I told a new well-read friend about this book (I am telling everyone about it and its parables) and she recommended Radical Knowing by Christian de Quincey – it looks very interesting and inline with Braiding Sweetgrass, and it is on my growing “to-read” list.

  • Little Magics
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