Braiding Sweetgrass

It’s so hard for me to figure out how to talk about this book, it is so many things at once. A primer on the idigenous way of thinking about Earth, a bit of a primer on science, and a strong statement on what we’re doing to this home of ours. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book is beautiful, filled with wonder, filled with pain, and filled with teachings we all need to hear.

I highlighted quite a bit, which is part of why I wrote a separate review for this read, but it’s also because it hit me hard and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since I finished it. Kimmerer is one of the most eloquent writers about the problem we face, which is how do we get ourselves out of the absolute horrible spot we’re in with the climate, when taking and possession and money are what we hold dear as a culture.

I like to imagine that when Skywoman scattered her handful of seeds across Turtle Island, she was sowing sustenance for the body and also for the mind, emotion, and spirit: she was leaving us teachers. The plants can tell us her story; we need to learn to listen. (p 10)

The market economy story has spread like wildfire, with uneven results for human well-being and devastation for the natural world. But it is just a story we have told ourselves and we are free to tell another, to reclaim the old one. (p 31)

What would it be like to be raised on gratitude, to speak to the natural world as a member of the democracy of species, to raise a pledge of interdependence? No declarations of political loyalty are required, just a response to a repeated question: “Can we agree to be grateful for all that is given?” (p 112)

What happens when we truly become native to a place, when we finally make a home? Where are the stories that lead the way? (p 207)

We are all complicit. We’ve allowed the “market” to define what we value so that the redefined common good seems to depend on profligate lifestyles that enrich the sellers while impoverishing the soul and the earth. (p 307)

Maybe we’ve all been banished to lonely corners by our obsession with private property. We’ve accepted banishment even from ourselves when we spend our beautiful, utterly singular lives on making more money, to buy more things that feed but never satisfy. (p 308)

I never thought that night of what I might save from a burning house, but that is the question we all face in a time of climate change. What do you love too much to lose? Who and what will you carry to safety? (p 370)

I fear that a world made of gifts cannot coexist with a world made of commodities. (p 374)

Scarcity and plenty are as much qualities of the mind and spirit as they are of the economy. Gratitude plants the seed for abundance. (p 376)