Some quotes from Braiding Sweetgrass

The cropped photo is from a Kamehameha schools t-shirt my cousin’s son gave me years ago. The saying is, “He ali’i ka ‘āina, he kauā ke kanaka.” The land is chief, man is its servant.

I had been reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer for several weeks. This isn’t a detailed book review, and I can’t even articulate exactly why this book resonated with me. Apparently it’s the #1 book in Ecology on Amazon. She expanded the way I think of plants and helped me realize so many relationships and interconnections between plants, humans and life that I hadn’t been aware of. I took down many quotes, about gifts, gratitude, ceremonies, our purpose — she worded things so beautifully and poetically. Here are just a few:

“This is our work, to discover what we can give.  Isn’t this the purpose of education, to learn the nature of your own gifts and how to use them for good in the world? … The circle of ecological compassion we feel is enlarged by direct experience of the living world, and shrunken by its lack.”  

“These ancients carry teachings in the way that they live.  They remind us of the enduring power that arises from mutualism, from the sharing of the gifts carried by each species.  Balanced reciprocity has enabled them to flourish under the most stressful of conditions.  Their success is measured not by consumption and growth, but by graceful longevity and simplicity, by persistence while the world changed around them.  It is changing now.”

“What if we could fashion a restoration plan that grew from understanding multiple meanings of land?  Land as sustainer.  Land as identity.  Land as grocery store and pharmacy.  Land as connection to our ancestors.  Land as moral obligation.  Land as sacred.  Land as self.”   

“… as we care for the land, it can once again care for us.  Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise.  It is relationship that will endure and relationship that will sustain the restored land.  Therefore, reconnecting people and the landscape is as essential as reestablishing proper hydrology or cleaning up contaminants.  It is medicine for the earth.”  

“Naturalist E.O. Wilson writes, ‘There can be no purpose more inspiring than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.’”

Restoring our little plot of land, the family coffee land, isn’t on the same scale as restoring a lake, a Superfund site or public lands. But I relate to the author’s sentiments at the personal level.

To remind you and us, this link shows before and after photos of our land. When we weed and pull out the undesirables, I always think of futility, of how this is only good for as long as we maintain the effort. Then I remind myself that every bit counts, we’re moving in the right direction, take each day as it comes without getting immediately defeated. And I remind myself that it’s satisfying to see the fruits of your labor. It matters more when you have skin in the game. We’re playing the game without knowing the end game, trusting the universe.

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