News - 20 April 2020
Book review: Braiding Sweetgrass
A good nature book is a surefire way to spark your curiosity and unravel the natural world's mysteries. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer is no exception, as Lily Weinberg finds in her review. Kimmerer, a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, lives in upstate New York, near to where Lily grew up in New Hampshire.
One of my favourite ways to connect with nature is to learn about how it works. How do trees communicate with each other? Why do certain fungi grow in some areas and not others?
Nature is full of mystery and reading is a surefire way to spark curiosity. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer is no exception. Beautifully written, its pages are enthralling. Where once I had no interest in the habits of lichen, I found myself suddenly keen to go on a lichen hunt to observe what I had just read about these fascinating symbiotic organisms in the wild.
A botanist and Native American, Kimmerer uses both of these backgrounds to describe our broken relationship with nature and paints a vision of how it can be healed.
Kimmerer’s curiosity and respect for nature is infectious—and highlights one of her guiding principles that plants and animals are the oldest teachers.
And we have much to learn.
She urges the reader to reimagine our relationship with nature, to picture a world where we are grateful and aware of all the things that Earth provides. She asks us to consider what good we do for nature, emphasising that to heal our relationship we must return to reciprocity—“to take only what is given, to use it well, to be grateful for the gift, and to reciprocate the gift”.
Kimmerer connects some of her life stories to the teachings of plants—even creating a whole life philosophy based on berries! If you’re looking for a way to reconnect to the places we love, I’d definitely recommend picking up Braiding Sweetgrass. And, narrated by Kimmerer herself, the audiobook is particularly delightful.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer is published by Milkweed Editions.