Songs of Sweetgrass

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I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and as shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother’s back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take. Wiingaashk belongs to herself. So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. -Robin Wall Kimmerer

I highly recommend reading the awe inspiring book, ‘Braiding Sweetgrass,’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer. There is a chapter titled ‘Witness to the rain,’ that I felt particularly moved by. Robin discusses how during her time in a rainforest she discovered how there are different kinds of raindrops depending on the relationship between the water and the surface it touched.

Like how rain that rolls over a maple bud’s scar into a still backwater pool of water sounds relatively different then how a hemlock tree releases the droplets after collecting on every needle before falling. Robin notices how rivers transition and change with seasons; submerging a summertime swale of daisies into a sunken winter meadow. I couldn’t help but wonder what these dormant daisies hear from beneath the cold water. Are they content with a winter’s rest?

Nature as a Mirror

So it seems Robin experienced a symphony of rainwater sounds as they released into the pool from wetland loving alder trees, hemlocks, and maples along a river bank. While reading this chapter I was reminded of my captured attention as a girl in the backseat of the family car mesmerized by droplets of rain as they hit the window glass. Even from a younger age there was always this innate sense there were no coincidences in life and that nature carries both law and mystery.

It was undeniable and I felt it in how the droplets collided and then broke apart from one another as the engine revved up. Eventually they smeared to disappear with the wind, but their story and the way they caught my attention was not forgotten. Although it’s said the veil is thin when you are younger. 

In sanskrit there is an essence known as ‘Sakshi’ or witness. Communing with sakshi enables one to become still and quiet so that they may find truth or equanimity of mind. This is practiced in meditation. In doing so, we realize how we are not the emotions and mind although we have them embodied. They color our life experiences just as the trees do the droplets of rain into the pool.

Rivers are constantly changing with the set of new gravel bars over time as our wild minds can from moment to moment. Sakshi serves to unravel all that may overwhelm and rob us of that inner peace so we can freely flow with the collective current. 

Rivers Reflecting Conditions

Ancient yoga teachings make reference to three sacred rivers in India known as, The Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Ganga is said to flow from the head of Lord Shiva which allow her waters to purify karmas. Yamuna is known in Hindu mythology as the daughter of the sun and the sister of death. Bathing in the holy Yamuna is said to liberate one from the fear of death. Saraswati is a rather mysterious river said to be an invisible metaphysical one that forms a confluence with the sacred rivers Yamuna and Ganges at the Triveni Sangam. 

Sweet Saraswati is named after the goddess of music, art, poetry, and knowledge. I imagine what Robin Wall Kimmerer was hearing in the droplets of rain was a tune our ancestors knew long ago. They heard Saraswati running a river of knowledge and poetry through all life forms. She was inspiring on her swan the kind of awareness that awakens our heart and that kind of river never runs dry. It nourishes all in one.

As the rivers reflect our current planetary conditions so too will our state of mind and actions reflect our well-being. How often today do we see seas of plastic and pollution being dumped in Earth’s water? Or how the marine ecosystems are in danger of total collapse from being over harvested and under protected?

We play a crucial role in the stream of consciousness that flows from Saraswati into moss beds that cover the forest floors and foam that brushes the shores. How we drink it up, care for it, and reciprocate matters and does contribute to the kind of planet we wish to share and leave for generations to come. 

You can visit Robin Wall Kimmerer on the web here at: https://www.robinwallkimmerer.com/

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