“I love the future when I water my garden,” muses the Traveler, hose in hand.
Robin Wall Kimmerer teaches of the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Planted together in early May, these three veggies grow well in close proximity and form the core of indigenous agriculture.
“I continue to love it. I continue to long for it and lean toward it,” admits the Traveler. “I welcome it without apology, despite what comes to pass.”
“Mmmm,” replies the Narrator, savoring the taste of a tomato. “As do I.”
“I love it and open myself toward it,” continues the Traveler, eyes closed, recalling futures past, “as when I open my heart and mind to the sounds of Sons of Kemet’s Black to the Future and Emma-Jean Thackray’s Yellow.”
Narrator places an arm ’round Traveler’s shoulders, leans close and whispers Prufrock-style, “Let us go then, you and I.” He smiles, pats the Traveler’s shoulder, and steps away. “But first, another of these lovely tomatoes.”
I’ve been purchasing books, expanding the library with pickings from used bookstores. I step away midday and peruse the shelves at Small World Books in Rochester. 30% off everything in the store, so I come away with quite a stack. Christian Bök’s ‘Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, Henri Michaux’s Miserable Miracle, Ishmael Reed’s Chattanooga, William S. Burroughs’s The Western Lands. Robin Wall Kimmerer reads to me “A Mother’s Work” from her book Braiding Sweetgrass as I drive. Ponds and lakes can be made swimmable again in our lifetimes if we attend to them. Let circles of care widen to take in all.
Robin Wall Kimmerer teaches the importance of a “grammar of animacy” in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. The book’s title reminds me of the great Iroquois culture hero Hiawatha, whose name means “He Who Combs.” Hiawatha was a kind of healer, combing snakes from the mind of Onondaga wizard Atotarho (also known as “Tadodaho”). Kimmerer “braids” where Hiawatha “combed.” She’s a member of the Potawatomi, a Great Lakes tribe whose lands were far to the west of the Iroquois. Kimmerer now lives and teaches, however, near the Onondaga Territory, the center of what was once the Iroquois Confederacy.
The phrase “Lady and the Tramp,” like the title of the Disney film, sung to the tune of “Bennie & the Jets”: such is how I begin my morning. I wake to a lovely quiet hour in the tent, sun rising in front of me. There’s a conversation among crows in those trees there — the ones beside which I slept. It’s good to be back in Syracuse, camped in my sister-in-law’s backyard, listening to crickets and birds, music discernible from the park across the street here in Westcott Nation, a sister nation of sorts to the nearby Onondaga Territory. The Westcott’s persistence gives me comfort. To know better where we are, let us listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer’s book has me wanting to enter into caring relation with the pecan trees in my yard — indeed, makes me want to honor all beings, including those crows parked in the branches above my tent. Geese, too — like those in the story of Skywoman. Kimmerer shares this tale: the great Potawatomi creation story. “Skywoman Falling” will pair well with texts I teach this fall, thinks the Traveler as he reads. We have been given this gift. Let us share it with others. Let us fit it in at semester’s end. Let it resonate with Silko’s Ceremony and Snyder’s Turtle Island and Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Kimmerer’s cosmology “places” all of the others. Skywoman transmits “original instructions,” tells us where we are, how we got here. It suggests as well what ought to be done. It sets us within cyclings of a vast cosmic gift economy: one that conceives and receives numberless generations of Skywoman’s daughters — for Skywoman is the Great Mother, bearing life despite the story of her fall.