These are very tough times.

I resist naming all that threatens us women, all that negates the urgency for healing our Mother Earth, the systematic destruction of basic rights of the disenfranchised—the poor, denial of good public education for our children, and…. Sorry! I promised not to give energy to those issues. Yet, each of us knows that every day is a struggle to rise above the political fray. How do we find the balance to remain informed and to filter out the toxic energy that can consume us. Yet, we must persevere; to remember to do something! to bring light into the darkness, to assuage the fear.

In his farewell address, President Barack Obama warned, “Let us be vigilant but not afraid.”

How do we remain vigilant when there is much to fear. Is it possible to be mindful and to remember how much there is to appreciate? When, moment by moment, I to remember to breathe in and out and in…to learn to hold it all—no small task, for sure, I begin to return to my body with heart ease. I try to remember to choose how I use my energy—how much television news to watch, how often to check Facebook; how much do I read to stay informed? I am committed to keeping my balance with a hefty dose of Stephen Colbert!

Recently, a dear friend offered a suggestion: You must, she urged, read this book! Indeed, it is one of the most valuable bits of advice I’ve received. A book of hope and beauty,  Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer is a treasure. Kimmerer weaves together wisdom from her Potawatomi ancestors with her scientific knowledge as a botanist. She teaches the reader with gentleness and humor how we can be (read must be) in relationship with all living things. She urges us to learn the grammar of animacy.  “To be native to a place,” she writes, “we must learn to speak its language.”

As I write a cardinal sits in a tree in the ravine behind my house calling to another who from somewhere in another tree answers the call. I can only hear this amazing duet when I  settle into my body, and breathe into the music just outside my window. As Kimmerer reminds us, only when we tune out all the voices inside our head (or on the television) can we tune into language outside ourselves. There are sounds and songs and poetry and verse just needing to be heard. Kimmerer writes, “I can hear the shhh of wind in [pine] needles, water trickling over rock, nuthatch tapping, chipmunks digging, beechnut falling, mosquito in my ear, and something more—something that is not me, for which we have no language, the wordless being of other in which we are never alone. After the drumbeat of my mother’s heart, this was my first language….

“Listening in wild places, we are audience to conversations in a language not our own.”

I urge you: find a wild place and listen! Listen deeply to Mother Earth’s language—while you still can.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, Milkweed Editions,

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The Thousandth Telling

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