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Gratitude, Reciprocity, & Celebrating Plants Dianne Dowling


n the book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer has written what she calls “a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world.” The three strands of the braid are “indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service of what matters most ... an intertwining of science, spirit, and story.” It is her storytelling that drew me in. I hear the voice of a gentle and strong woman, confident and caring, with a simple, wise message — we can heal our broken relationship with the earth. Reading the preface, I sense she is sitting near me, speaking to me in a direct and compassionate manner, “Hold out your hands and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass, loose and flowing, like newly washed hair … Hold the bundle up to your nose. Find the fragrance of honeyed vanilla over the scent of river water and black earth ...” Ms. Kimmerer has a PhD in plant ecology and teaches at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, in northern New York state. She is also an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and was raised learning indigenous knowledge about the earth. She combines scientific and indigenous knowledge in “Braiding Sweetgrass” and in her other book, “Gathering Moss.”

“everyday acts of practical reverence.”

The back pages in my copy of the book are already filling up with notes of sections I want to remember or to go back to later. For instance, about the Thanksgiving Address, in which indigenous people give thanks and recognition to all aspects of the world (page 111), “You can’t listen to the Thanksgiving Address without feeling wealthy. And while expressing gratitude seems innocent enough, it is a revolutionary idea. In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires. Gratitude cultivates an ethic of fullness, but the economy needs emptiness.” On page 166, the lesson of sweetgrass, “Through reciprocity the gift is replenished. All our flourishing is mutual.” The honourable harvest (page 177) challenges us, “Whether we are digging wild leeks or going to the mall, how do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives that we take?” On page 190, “... our first thoughts are not, ‘What can we take?’ but ‘What can we give to Mother Earth?’” Ms. Kimmerer suggests we can enter reciprocity through gratitude, ceremony, land stewardship, science, art, and

Reading this book has me thinking about the part plants play in our lives and in the world, whether or not humans are around — pecans, strawberries, asters, goldenrod, sweetgrass, maple trees, the three sisters (corn, squash, and beans), ash trees, wild leeks... I thought I had a pretty good appreciation for plants, having lived on a farm and been a gardener almost all my life. I see now that my relationship with plants is rather superficial and not very conscious. Reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” has me resolving to be more observant, more informed, and more grateful. There will be a discussion of “Braiding Sweetgrass” on Thursday, June 13, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Kingston Community Health Centre at 263 Weller Avenue. All are welcome and refreshments will be served. This free event is hosted by the Food Policy Council for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox-Addington. Dianne Dowling is a member of the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative, Local 316 of the National Farmers Union and the Food Policy Council for KFLA. Her



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The SCOOP // June / July 2019  

The SCOOP is an independent community newsmagazine. Since 2005, we have been covering rural life in the Ontario area north of the 401 and so...

The SCOOP // June / July 2019  

The SCOOP is an independent community newsmagazine. Since 2005, we have been covering rural life in the Ontario area north of the 401 and so...