Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants MP3 CD – July 5, 2016
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MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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As a medical student training in mainstream hospitals, this book is a lifeline. I read a few pages at a time and take notes along the way. I won't spoil it, but if you are thinking that maybe this book might be good ... it's good.
Kimmerer filters scientific knowledge through indigenous story and wisdom about the natural world. Essay titles and compose reflect the intricate weaving of the book: “Skywoman Falling”, “The Council of Pecans”, “Maple Sugar Moon”, and “The Consolation of Water Lilies”. She brings the ancient wisdom to our contemporary world and poses the question, “Can we all understand the Skywoman story not as an artifact from the past but as instructions for the future?” (p 9).
Kimmerer shares her acute sense of beauty with not only the physical landscape, but also the linguistic. In the essay “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” she writes, “My first taste of a missing language was the word Puhpowee on my tongue” and her amazement to discover it means, “the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight” (p.48). With the discovery of Puhpowee, Kimmerer embarks on a journey to learn the language that was forbidden, beaten, and starved out of Native American children in government boarding schools. When the irritation at the verbs “to be a Saturday, and “to be a hill,” Kimmerer throws down the book, ready to give up, “Oh, the ghosts of the missionaries in the boarding schools must have been running their hands in glee at my frustration. ‘She’s going to surrender,’ they said.’” And in that moment she swears, “In that moment I could smell the water of the bay, watch it rock against the share, and hear it sift onto the sand…the verb wiikwegamaa—to be a bay—releases the water from bondage and lets it live” (p. 55).
An exquisite exploration into the natural world through ancient wisdom, Braiding Sweetgrass brings physical, cultural, and linguistic landscapes to life with such exquisite detail, it’s as if she paints the world anew. The three shining strands of sweetgrass in a braid, and strands within this book “represent the unity of mind, body, and spirit that makes us whole” (p. 378) A gorgeous and wise book.
Top international reviews
Wall Kimmerer draws on her own life experiences and her half North American Indian and half white settler ancestry. Her writing blends her academic botantical scientific learning with that of the North American indigenous way of life, knowledge and wisdom, with a capital W. She brings us fair and square to our modus operandi of live for today who cares about tomorrow, our throwaway society and our greed that can never be sated. It is clear that by comparison with our indigenous brotherhood we are absolutely the younger brother; the loafing teenager with no respect for anything their elders have to tell them, but rather thinking they know everything and they know best.
The author, rightly in my opinion, says that all of the messages that we receive, practically on a daily basis, about the destruction that we have so far wrought to our home planet do not in fact spur us into action, but rather send those that care into a frozen state of despair. Her idea is rather to take relative baby steps to try to restore landscapes local to us. She gives an example of a wrecked landscape local to her that people are gradually trying to rescue and bring back to life with some success. It is also about developing a creed of gratitude and reciprocal relationship to our environment, only taking what is needed and never more. Wall Kimmerer gives plenty of examples of how this can be done.
She is never sanctimonious and is the first to acknowledge that it is far easier to write about the correct way to live than to actually live it.
For all who care about our planet and nature and for all who wish to learn about the balanced life that the North American Indians lived before the white settlers destroyed their culture and way of being, I would highly recommend this book to you.
It is expressed very delicately, and points at how one can live gracefully, generously,
and how that in itself brings happiness.
It makes you feel close to nature and the beauty that surrounds us while giving us an understanding of botany and the interconnection of all life.
I would recommend this book to everyone interested in the natural world. I also intend to read more from this author.