Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Reciprocity (from Braiding Sweetgrass)

I've been reading Braiding Sweetgrass for the last three months. Braiding Sweetgrass is a book of essays, all of which center on living in the natural world, written by a brilliant Native American writer/botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer.

As I am reading along, I keep coming across the word "reciprocity." Over and over. 

"All flourishing is mutual. Soil, fungus, tree, squirrel, boy—all are the beneficiaries of reciprocity."

"Gifts from the earth or from each other establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. The field gave to us, we gave to my dad, and we tried to give back to the strawberries."

"Something essential happens in a vegetable garden. It’s a place where if you can’t say “I love you” out loud, you can say it in seeds. And the land will reciprocate, in beans."
"When times are easy and there’s plenty to go around, individual species can go it alone. But when conditions are harsh and life is tenuous, it takes a team sworn to reciprocity to keep life going forward. In a world of scarcity, interconnection and mutual aid become critical for survival. So say the lichens."
"Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever...”

On and on. Reciprocity, reciprocity, reciprocity. Finally, I decided to count...just how many times did Kimmerer talk about reciprocity? 
My goodness. 119. Kimmerer talks about reciprocity 119 times in her book. She talks about reciprocity in chapters about the reciprocity of pecans, of strawberries, of asters and goldenrod, of beans, of lichens, of maple sugar, of water lilies, of black ash baskets, of writing, of listening, of gratitude even, and, yes, the reciprocity of sweetgrass. 
I think it could reasonably be said that that's the theme of the book. Braiding Sweetgrass is a book about reciprocity.
It's a beautiful idea, that of reciprocity. It's contrary to all that I learned growing up...I was taught to get all you can, while you can, however you can. Isn't that the American system? 
But when I think about times I've been happiest, it is always a time when I've given back. Somehow we seem to have forgotten that part of the equation.
We have seen so many instances of reciprocity as we have been out in nature over the past few years...
The monarch and the milkweed...

Butterflies and flowers...

Some kind of reciprocity going on with these two spiders, I think...

Here's a last little bit of Kimmerer's wisdom. I hope you will take it with you in reciprocity for spending time on my blog...

“Each person, human or no, is bound to every other in a reciprocal relationship. Just as all beings have a duty to me, I have a duty to them. If an animal gives its life to feed me, I am in turn bound to support its life. If I receive a stream’s gift of pure water, then I am responsible for returning a gift in kind. An integral part of a human’s education is to know those duties and how to perform them...”
"We are all bound by a covenant of reciprocity: plant breath for animal breath, winter and summer, predator and prey, grass and fire, night and day, living and dying. Water knows this, clouds know this. Soil and rocks know they are dancing in a continuous giveaway of making, unmaking, and making again the earth."
"The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibilities for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread our blankets out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. Imagine the books, the paintings, the poems, the clever machines, the compassionate acts, the transcendent ideas, the perfect tools. The fierce defense of all that has been given. Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world. In return for the privilege of breath."

For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.

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