My Pick for A Better World of Books: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer #betterworldofbooks #indigenouswisdom #braidingsweetgrass

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When you open this book, you begin to fall inside of yourself. I can’t promise you the fall will be gentle or painless, but I can promise you the journey through the path of the prose will be exquisitely beautiful.

I was introduced to Braiding Sweetgrass many months ago by two close friends of mine. “You must read it,” they both told me and so finally I did. For Mother’s Day I requested a copy and got it. It took me two months to slowly devour its pages, savoring a few hundred words each night before I went to sleep. That’s how I recommend reading it. Alone and in a quiet space where your mind can wander into the depths of its narratives and find that sometimes uncomfortable, but always welcoming place, of home.

Naturalist, scientist, teacher, mother, and writer, Robin Wall Kimmerer has woven together stories from her own life, combined with indigenous wisdom, into her book Braiding Sweetgrass. Although there are so many words that rang through the walls of my heart and beat it fiercely with the call of truth, below is the passage that I marked because its words sand directly to the core of my being. In this one small paragraph, I felt the author calling me home. Her longing, also mine. A longing that I believe exists somewhere inside each of our cellular memories.

“I want to stand by the river in my finest dress. I want to sing, strong and hard, and stomp my feet with a hundred others so that the waters hum with our happiness. I want to dance for the renewal of the world.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, pg. 251

The world needs more books like Braiding Sweetgrass, written in languages that are approachable to each of us. Books that stir the detritus of indifference and even despair. Books that break open the shell of the self and allow it to bleed a bit before it seeks healing. Healing that can always be found in the Mother we all share.

About halfway through the book, Kimmerer tells us the story of “The Honorable Harvest.” On page 177 she writes, “I am not the vibrant leaves on the forest floor — I am the woman with the basket, and how I fill it is a question that matters. If we are fully awake, a moral question arises as we extinguish the other lives around us on behalf of our own. 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?”

Indigenous wisdom, as Kimmerer tells us, teaches to take “only that which is given.” How far most of us have traveled from that edict. How far we have traveled from the honorable harvest where we stand before the offering and take only what is offered.

While picking wild leeks, the author pauses and studies the abundance before her. She pauses to ask permission of the plant before she indulges in the taking of its life. In return for a “yes,” she digs into a pouch holding tobacco leaves and leaves a gift in exchange.

I have been practicing “The Honorable Harvest” with the land surrounding my house. Beside my natural lawn there is a patch of wild berries. This year the bushes are filled with abundance. I have formed a quiet agreement with the land and its offering. Take just as far as you can reach, leave the others for the wildlife. Each day, when I go out with my bowl to fill, I pick just as far as I can reach. If I reach too far, I am scolded by a thorn in my foot or arm, and so I back off and remind myself not to give into greed. Each day I fall a little more in love with the wild bushes and their plump purple berries that seem to magically appear while I sleep. And, I think they know it. As Kimmerer shows us in her stories, the Earth loves her children and honors our love with her gifts. When we love her back, the harvest blooms with abundance.

If you feel the calling, as I did, to purchase a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass, please consider finding it at your local bookstore. And when you do, perhaps take a moment to honor, in your individual way, the trees that formed its pages, the soil, water, and sun that nourished their growth, and the author and the bookstore for bringing its exquisite teachings into your hands.

To discover more about Braiding Sweetgrass and Robin Wall Kimmerer, please visit these links:

The publisher of the book: Milkweed 

Dr. Kimmerer’s faculty page at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry

Robin Wall Kimmerer on Wikipedia 

Are you an author with a vision for a better world? Do you have a published book of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction that uplifts and empowers readers to create a more positive inner and outer environment? If so, I’d love to hear more about it. On a “Better World of Books,” I interview authors and review books of all genres that offer a vision for a better world. If you think your work is a part of this vision, please contact Alethea

 

 

#Veiled #writephoto

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

Her eyes searched the mist over-looking the chasm. Sometimes the heart is blind to fear, and hers beat only to the destination. Rocks piled like stone sentinels watched, beckoning her footsteps. “Welcome home,” they whispered. Below three rings shivered in wait.

The pulse grew stronger, urgent, the closer she got to edge. “Come to us,” they whispered. She didn’t care that she might never return. Lost to her was the voice of logic as she hurried onward. The green earth held strange holes that could swallow her whole in one misstep, but she hadn’t thought about the possibility of falling. No, she figured instead that she would finally learn to fly. Again.

She knew she had been here before in some time long lost to the memories held in books. She could see the stars collapsing the veil. She knew her feet walked their pathway to a home that promised so much more than the one she cared little, at this moment, if she left.

At one time, when the fires burned with the dance, the veil did not exist. There had been no separation from what she now sought to what was always there. That is why she nearly wept when the voices of reasons called through the mist. “The time is not right. We must turn back.”

To what, she wondered? More of the same. Yearning for the place just beyond. Now she had only the dreams. The hush of night to part the veil so she could walk the path home before she woke again to frustration.

No, she thought, I will not rest until you call me back.

For Sue Vincent and her #writephoto prompt, #veiled and the opportunity to relive a day I’ll never forget.

The Guardian of the Serpents #Guardian #Writephoto

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

The giant had been there a long time. As long, they say, as the serpents themselves. His body nestled into the cliff face hidden except for his stone face. Brows furrowed with concentration and lined with age warned even the bold to keep their distance. Not many were brave enough to mess with a giant, even one who looked like he hadn’t moved in ages.

Most failed to notice what he guarded, or wrongly assumed he was guarding them from falling of the precipice. Fools! If they fell it was no fault for him to own. Let them do what they will. Humans were often such careless creatures, believing their bodies would somehow defy death. Yet they had long forgotten how to fly.

The serpents watched, unnoticed. Their twinned noses pushed into the wind while their bodies pulsed Earth’s veins.  Few witnessed the power of their alchemy, because they had learned to fear lightning. But what a gift it was to watch! Fire called from the clouds as it sought the womb of water. To witness creation from their mouths…what a pity, the guardian often thought, that their minds had gone numb.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt #guardian

#Dance #writephoto #stonecircle

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

They came to dance with the stones. Drums found the unheard rhythm of the mother beat, opening the sacred veins. Above, ravens circled the moon, full behind a mist that would soon part. Even the children were unafraid. Perhaps even more so than their elders, for they were closer to the thinning veil. The air, stirring the tide into spring, was cool, but the fires burned with heat.

They arranged themselves by order of birth. Those closest to the womb found the center and those nearest death, the edges, but the dance wove them together. Feet weaving the grid of the hidden lines, as the energy rose into the opening. And with it rose their song and the mist, which parted upon the sigh of the wind. One last breath and all was silent as night unveiled the path to the stars.

Time collapsed into dimension and space revealed no separation as one tiny hand reached through the veil to welcome them all home.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt “Dance” 

Hope in the Shadowland #Causeway #writephoto

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

In the land filled with shadows hope slipped behind the clouds as the light receded. The great womb of the sea felt the hollow, pulsing the dull ache of emptiness. “What have we done?” the lonely souls called into the wind. Long ago they had given up a reply, but something was different about today. The breeze felt softer on their skin, like a mother’s caress, urging. It brought the scent of honey to their lips. “How can it be?” they wondered.

Resigned necks lifted tired heads, and eyes sought answers from the sky. How long had it been since they had looked beyond the horizon? Above, gray clouds morphed into shapes deformed and grotesque. Yet still the eyes gazed above, transfixed, for the eyes were seeing themselves. “Do not look away,” the voice whispered through their minds, “you must see who you are and who you can become.”

And so they looked, following one scene of horror as it passed into another. And as they watched, the earth below began to shift. Above, the gray of hatred gave way to pain. Bruised and battered, the clouds turned violet-blue until sadness released the heaviness and tears began to drop upon the lifted faces. They trickled down naked arms and fell, one drop upon another, into the womb below. Heavy with need, Her water’s broke in release and the causeway lifted their bodies to be reborn.

Together, they shuttered and sighed as their lungs released the effort of holding back. And the sky above continued to change. Pink bloomed around the edges of violet as their hearts softened into harmony. One hand reached for another, and then another, until fingers laced a pattern of unity. The wind blew away the final wisp of gray and the mirror broke into blue and gold. A warmth that felt like wonder filled the land as joy slid from the golden rays of a sun long forgotten. Cells felt the memory of truth and began to dance the feet back to life.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt challenge #causeway. 

Fairy Bells #writephoto

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

The fairies began to spread the blue bells soon after the last footstep had departed. In the center of their forest, they heaved the torn limbs of an ash into a pyramid. Gaia sighed relief as they gathered around the remains of the fallen and began to dance, calling in the salamanders to light the pyre.

Orange flames sang through the night as the salamanders caressed the broken branches. Sparks of light rose to taste the darkness, only to be caught on the tongues of the sylphs as they wove the invisible threads into a star.

Water arrived to collapse the flames, pouring down from the clouds to hydrate the hungry land. Undines rode the raindrops to the pyre, collapsing the flames. Out of the shadows, the columns of light appeared to take their places.

The lines of the hexagram glowed golden as the elements joined through dimensions, uniting the above to the below, and the ground began to rumble with life. The dragon was awake.

 

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt, #Bells 

Wistful Hope #wistful #writphoto

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photo credit: Sue Vincent

Hope took a deep breath and inhaled the sky. Fear slid behind her into the recesses of Night as New Day slipped over the land. A land long-troubled by the burden of Misuse and Misunderstanding.

As she stood atop the hill, Hope thought about the green spreading over the barren patches of earth. A sense of wistful longing took hold of her heart and she smiled. It had been a long time since she had smiled. Even longer since she had laughed. Yet, beneath her feet, Hope now felt a tingling. The Earth was waking her children. It was subtle, but Hope knew it to be Life stirring through the Long Darkness.

Her veins began to hum a quiet song, and Hope new it to be Harmony.

Harmony had not been a part of Hope’s life before the breaking of New Day. She had lived a long time. A very long time. She had watched and waited. Her feet stumbling over Dissonance. Cracks in the landscape ever-widening, instead of rejoining. Before the New Day had dawned, Hope was starting to feel Despair in each footstep. Faith had become a long-lost friend and Hope knew only Loneliness.

And then the sky had changed its worn and tattered cloak of gray and dawned the New Day filled with the blush of pink and Hope felt that stirring to breathe deep and full its promise. If she had felt it. So would the others. Soon they would return. Coming out of their caves of Isolation to feel the stir of Harmony. And when they did Love would rekindle its fire and spark the Light of Unity in each heart.

Hope could hardly wait for the Dance of Life to begin.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt challenge, #wistful 

The Queen’s Crown #Crown #writephoto

I had a feeling Sue was going to post a photo that would align with what brought me out of sleep early this morning…

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

The men saw the mighty crown rising over the earth and raised their spears in ecstatic joy. “The land is ours to claim,” they yelled, walloping each other on the backs. “Let us go now, before others find what we now see.”

So they set off, gathering their women and children, their knives and axes, and whatever provisions their horses could hold. They waited until night, carving a path through the land with their footsteps and scythes, oblivious in their revelry that they were walking the path of stars.

They arrived before dusk, to an eerie mist hovering over the stones. One man shuddered. Another gasped. It was the wee child, barely three years of age, who spoke what they were all thinking, “They look like teeth.”

And so they did. The crown, that seemed to shine golden in the light of the sun, now appeared as fearsome fangs. Monstrous in their size, the teeth pierced the mound of earth, rose above the mist, and circled the moon.

Only the women remained quiet. There was no need for them to speak. What they knew to be truth had stirred the embers of their hearts. Soon, they thought as one, the reckoning will begin.

For Sue Vincent’s#writephoto prompt #crown. 

 

#Choice #writephoto

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Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

Her spirit lingered above the water to watch it carry the remains of her body back to the Great Mother. Along the banks her people drummed to the rhythm of Earth and she could feel their love soar into the currents of the wind. She waited with them, in silent reverence to feel the pulse of the flow one more time between the lands of the living and the lands of the dead.

High above, nine ravens circled her beloved stones. She felt their presence and a pull of longing to sit once again in the place of the Seer. One by one they had left their gifts in the small hollow of her stone. Three black feathers and a turquoise stone. Now they soared in watch. Sealing the magic she had left behind. Below, a ring of white flowers lay like stars upon the trodden ground.

She had known death would bring peace, but she could not know how much she would long to return. Her body, already breaking apart to the elements as the water carried it home, was no longer hers. Yet she knew the stones held her secrets for those who would travel to them through the pull of the heart. Here they would sit, as she had done so many times, leaning against the stone to feel the circle. Some would close their eyes to see. Their bodies finding the pulse inside the rock would hear her voice. And, when they left, she would go with them through her beloved land.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt #Choice