this is not a review: ‘braiding sweetgrass’, by robin wall kimmerer

Oh nuts. Time has whipped by and my inter-library (thank you, *Trent Hills!) copy of Braiding Sweetgrass  is due back before I’ve had the chance to read more than a few of its essays.

This is down to a couple of things. The stacks of books and papers in my house being the only one worth mentioning. (Tho’ if you must know, the other is an obsession with watching taped episodes of Escape to the Country, which occasionally cuts into my extracurricular reading time.)

In any case.

I did read enough to know that I’m not troubled by having to give it back because I’ve decided I need my own copy of the book. In the same way and for many of the same but also different reasons that I needed my own copy of Theresa Kishkan’s beautiful Mnemonic…  a memoir through the memory of trees and, often, the houses and lives surrounded by them, not all of them her own — “All my life, I have wondered at the feeling I have in particular houses, usually ones in which no one lives any longer.”

And Peter Wohlleben’s The  Hidden Life of Trees , which I read in a Kawartha forest cabin and then wandered among the birch and spruce in a whole new way, alert and hopeful for a sense of the conversations I now realized were going on all around me.

And The Sweetness of a Simple Life, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, one of those tiny eye/mind openers that change your world in the very best way. Every bit of clover in my yard is because of her.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to adding Braiding Sweetgrass  to that particular shelf and to continue reading Kimmerer’s gorgeous essays on nature. Here’s just a wee slice from ‘Asters and Goldenrod’ where she writes about the reason she chose to study botany in the first place… a moment from her intake interview at college:

“How could I answer, how could I tell him that I was a born botanist, that I had shoe boxes of seeds and piles of pressed leaves under my  bed, that I’d stop my bike along the road to identify a new species, that plants colored  my dreams, that the plants had chosen me? So I told him the truth. I was proud of my well-planned answer, its freshman sophistication apparent to anyone, the way it showed that I already knew some plants and their habitats, that I had thought deeply about their nature and was clearly well prepared for college work. I told him that I chose botany because I wanted to learn about why asters and goldenrod looked so beautiful together.”

Kimmerer is my kind of guide through the natural world because she doesn’t see a difference between it and us. (Spoiler alert: she gets into botany school and learns the science, but never, thankfully, unlearns her innate connection and unique eye/heart/spirit for what is real.)


* That Trent Hills Library happens to be in Campbellford, a place I only discovered and fell into great affection with last year (they have a Stedmans!), is the kind of scrumptious serendipity that makes my heart sing. Also, I love the inter-library system.


6 thoughts on “this is not a review: ‘braiding sweetgrass’, by robin wall kimmerer

  1. I came here to say how much I love Braiding Sweetgrass and wow, I see Mnemonic here too! (This is me, blushing.)Robin Wall Kimmerer makes you smell the grass she is planting, learning to braid, using as connective tissue to the history of her extended family and you never forget it. I have a small Anishinaabe basket, bark rimmed with sweetgrass, and decorated with dyed porcupine quills, and I often take it down from the shelf to hold it in my hand. I can smell it for ages afterwards.

    We had a Stedmans in Sechelt for years and it was a favourite place for kids clothes, kitchen stuff, sheets I used for quilt backs. I think there’s still one in Osoyoos but they’re rapidly disappearing.

    1. I completely understand the need to hold that basket from time to time. Oh, the magic that’s out there… (But you know all about that kind of magic. ‘Mnemonic’ is filled with such beautiful moments. Honestly, your book, and those others listed, live on my very favourite shelf.)

      Re Stedmans… I hear the love in your voice! Speaking of magical, what a great place. On the one hand I’m surprised it still exists but, on the other, I can see how people would treasure these throw-backs to a whole different time and way of shopping. Will keep my eye out for the one in Osoyoos next visit. (Am always being distracted by wineries.) (:

      1. Baring a Stedmans (I think I bought my first lipstick, almost white, at the Stedmans in Abbotsford in 1969), a Fields is pretty good. So much stuff on racks so close together you can’t get between them! But the one nearest us, in Gibsons, often has Roots bathing suits, old styles, for 35 bucks. I swim 3 times a week in a chlorinated pool and so these are great. They don’t last longer than 6 months but neither do the expensive ones!

        1. Oh I love these places for exactly this kind of thing… the slightly ‘less than’ merchandise that, really, is perfectly fine, and usually not findable elsewhere. (I remember white lipstick too. And black Laurentien pencil crayon as eye liner.) (I also smudged geranium petals on my cheeks during my, ahem, flower child period.)

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