“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Hold out your hands and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass … Hold the bundle up to your nose. Find the fragrance of honeyed vanilla over the scent of river water and black earth and you understand its scientific name: Hierochloe odorata, meaning the fragrant, holy grass.”

With this opening vision in her preface, Kimmerer welcomes us to her world of botanical science and native wisdom. These lines drew me in, as I have a background in botany and want to develop a deeper relationship with the natural world.

I found a few of the early chapters to be less than compelling, but Kimmerer soon hits her stride and the remainder of the essays drew me in completely. This is a book that I will reread to improve my understanding and internalize the teachings.

While there are some bitter moments, sadness at the destruction we have wrought on our planet, Kimmerer never loses hope. She finds the people and places that are fighting back, fighting for all life on earth. Understanding and honoring our interconnections with other living beings, plant and animal, is necessary for sustainability.

It seems that our day of reckoning, the day it all collapses, may be near at hand. Perhaps it is too late to change the tide. But the clarion call of Braiding Sweetgrass has found a large audience. This is encouraging. People want this message, now. I highly recommend it as essential reading. Where there is hope, there is action. And action is urgently needed.

As Kimmerer puts it:

But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. … I chose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”


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