I received a surprise in the mail last week. Out of the blue, a friend sent me this book: Braiding Sweetgrass. My friend said in her gift note, “Beautiful blend of personal narrative, ecosystems, and botany. Her voice reminds me of your blog posts.” After reading a few chapters, I have to say that latter part is a great compliment. Thank you, Gracie, if you’re reading. Funnily, the author of this book also wrote Gathering Moss, which was listed by the author of How to Do Nothing as a favorite — the How to Do Nothing book I thought I didn’t need, and then realized maybe I do.
Gracie was right about the beautiful blend part. This book has become part of my daily ritual. I read a chapter with my coffee every morning before writing, and it’s a lovely way to begin the day. I get lost in the fragrance of sweetgrass, the power of ceremony to marry the mundane and the sacred, or the reasons certain flowers are striking together.
My favorite chapter so far is the one I read this morning, “Asters and Goldenrod,” about why the author pursued a the path of botany when she went away to college:
I wanted to know why we love the world, why the most ordinary scrap of meadow can rock us back on our heels in awe.Robin Wall Kimmerer
When she told her freshman advisor, “I chose botany because I wanted to learn about why asters and goldenrod looked so beautiful together,” he scoffed and said that’s not what science is about. She, and I, argue, that he suffers from a failure of imagination, and that’s exactly what science is about: testing hypotheses to understand our world. As Kimmerer ultimately deduced,
[Aster and goldenrods’] striking contrast when they grow together makes them the most attractive target in the whole meadow, a beacon for bees. Growing together, both receive more pollinator visits than they would if they were growing alone. It’s a testable hypothesis; it’s a question of science, a question of art, and a question of beauty.Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’m very much enjoying this gentle way to begin my days. It’s way better than scrolling Twitter.