The Earth Loves Us Back

A review of the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer called it a “hymn of love to the world” and indeed it is a quietly revolutionary book that calls on its readers to look closer at the natural world, and become part of it, rather than existing outside of it. Dr. Kimmerer weaves scientific knowledge with ancient indigenous wisdom and the teachings of plants, showing that they needn’t be mutually exclusive. She channels her love of the living world, with grief for the living world, into action to care for the land. It is a book we can all relate to as she weaves in personal stories and feelings of being a parent, a neighbour, a teacher and our relating to other human beings of all walks of life too.

Here is an extract from the Chapter “Picking Sweetgrass – Epiphany in the Beans”. I hope it
inspires you to purchase this book and discuss these ideas around you. In this Great Turning we are fortunate to have so many great minds around us, lifting up their voices in love for the Earth and in self love, for we are truly bonded in love, giving and receiving.


     Gardens are simultaneously a material and a spiritual undertaking. That’s hard for scientists, so fully brainwashed by Cartesian dualism, to grasp. “Well, how you know it’s love and not just good soil?” she asks. “Where’s the evidence? What are the key elements for detecting loving behavior?”

That’s easy. No one would doubt that I love my children, and even a quantitative social psychologist would find no fault with my list of loving behaviors:

  • nurturing health and well being
  • protection from harm
  • encouraging individual growth and development
  • desire to be together
  • generous sharing of resources
  • working together for a common goal
  • celebration of shared values
  • interdependence
  • sacrifice by one for the other
  • creation of beauty

If we observed these behaviors between humans, we would say, “She loves that person”. You might also observe these actions between a person and a bit of carefully tended ground and say, “She loves that garden.” Why then, would you not make the leap to say that the garden loves her back?

The exchange between plants and people has shaped the evolutionary history of both. Farms, orchards, and vineyards are stocked with species we have domesticated. Our appetite for their fruits leads us to till, prune, irrigate, fertilize, and weed on their behalf. Perhaps they have domesticated us. Wild plants have changed to settle alongside the fields and care for the plants – a kind of mutual taming.

 We are linked in a co-evolutionary circle. The sweeter the peach, the more frequently we disperse its seeds, nurture its young, and protect them from harm. Food plants and people act as selective forces on each other’s evolution – the thriving of one in the best interest of the other. This, to me, sounds a lot like love.

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