- Reviewed by: Maria Krenek, UCCE Master Gardener
The book discussed during our first book club was BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
It was a personal and inspirational journey shared by the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her quest to find a bridge between her life as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and as a SUNY Professor of Botany. Bridging the seeming abyss separating the wisdom of indigenous peoples and the methods of modern science became fundamental to understanding the world around her. It created a path supporting her exploration of mind, spirit and inter connectivity to her world, plant studies and the people in her life. As a young child, her fascination with and love of the plants and flowers around her inspired that life path. She used her early childhood experiences with plants and then her university training, to draw us into a clearer understanding of the world. She made a whole lot of sense of the different views each represented. Along the way we learn many things about maple trees, growing and gathering foods, the history of indigenous peoples, plants and their strategies with and without humans and much more. Like braiding sweet grass, she wove a tapestry of observations, relationships, and causation that reminds us to take all that we learn, see, hear, feel and do to know what is around us. And most of all, to appreciate, give thanks for the gifts received and pass on the gifts we can give to others and the future.
So even though you do learn a sizable amount of information about mosses and other plants and ecosystems in these books, your learning is not limited to simple facts. Consider these books looms where a very special cloth is woven revealing a multitude of dimensional relationships to be explored through science, yes, but also the creativity of seeing through eyes of wonder how all things are connected. Written in beautifully poetic and rhythmic cadences, awe and respect with the responsibility for doing no harm and leaving any place better than when we arrived these books are both well worth reading.
KIMMERER, Robin Wall. GATHERING MOSSES A NATURAL AND CULTURAL HISTORY OF MOSSES Oregon State University Press Corvallis, Oregon 2003 165 pages
KIMMERER, Robin Wall. BRAIDING SWEET GRASS INDIGENOUS WISDOM, SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND THE TEACHINGS OF PLANTS Milkweed Editions, Canada 2013 390 pages.