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  • Writer's pictureDon Richardson

“A contagion of gratitude... Acting out of gratitude, as a pandemic" - Robin Wall Kimmerer

by Don Richardson, IBA Braiding

Change and growth. The pandemic has changed all of us, caused much grief and loss, and given us some unexpected gifts. For me, one of the gifts has been diving into Robin Wall Kimmerer's writings, especially Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, and reconnecting with books that convey lessons about dealing with challenges, like Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Two books that convey the “grammar of animacy” - a way of viewing nature and the animals in our lives like elder “relatives” who have much to teach us about our kinship with living things, and one another.

In a recent interview with James Yeh in The Guardian, Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke of how the pandemic is helping people get back in touch with nature. “What’s being revealed to me from readers is a really deep longing for connection with nature... It’s as if people remember in some kind of early, ancestral place within them. They’re remembering what it might be like to live somewhere you felt companionship with the living world, not estrangement. Though the flip side to loving the world so much is to live alone in a world of wounds”.

For me and my family, this has been a year of change. Moving homes to be closer to nature, changing my consulting practice to more align with what I call "#consultingwithsoul", spending lots more time outdoors and planting lots of trees with my wonderful wife and kids... many of them "ditch trees" and cedars that would otherwise be cut down by county ditch trimmers trying to keep the ticks and weeds at bay. We've planted around 375 trees across the months of the pandemic at last count, and giving our dogs new places to dig and chase rabbits and squirrels. And we've been sharing our experiences with nature, and reconnecting with the people in our lives who have always, and will always, have our backs - and vice versa.

And yet the pandemic persists, and lives are altered and lost. And we look to those we love and those we can count on to get through this together, and reconnect with what matters in nature and our lives, reconnect with the people who matter, and who have our backs, and commune with our ever present dogs. “To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to" ~ Garth Stein.

James Yeh's interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer ends with this quote:

"I don’t have the power to dismantle Monsanto. But what I do have is the capacity to change how I live on a daily basis and how I think about the world. I just have to have faith that when we change how we think, we suddenly change how we act and how those around us act, and that’s how the world changes. It’s by changing hearts and changing minds. And it’s contagious. I became an environmental scientist and a writer because of what I witnessed growing up within a world of gratitude and gifts.”

“A contagion of gratitude,” she marvels, speaking the words slowly. “I’m just trying to think about what that would be like. Acting out of gratitude, as a pandemic. I can see it.”

Acting out of gratitude, as a pandemic. Agreed.

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