Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist and author who first introduced me to the concept of the Honourable Harvest (hat tip SamMcKoy), and who has recently contributed a beautiful essay to Emergence magazine (that you can read here, or listen to Robin narrate here. )
She launches from a mega picking session of saskatoonberries (that she knows as service berries) into a meditation about the economy and how we’ve got it all wrong, by building an entire system on the myth of scarcity… because anyone who has ever picked berries from a bush knows abundance is at the heart of everything in nature.
Here are a few lovely things that stuck with me:
Saskatoon, Juneberry, Shadbush, Shadblow, Sugarplum, Sarvis, Serviceberry—these are among the many names for Amelanchier. Ethnobotanists know that the more names a plant has, the greater its cultural importance
In Potawatomi, it is called Bozakmin, which is a superlative: the best of the berries. For me, the most important part of the word Bozakmin is “min,” the root for “berry.” It appears in our Potawatomi words for Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry, even Apple, Maize, and Wild Rice. The revelation in that word is a treasure for me, because it is also the root word for “gift.” In naming the plants who shower us with goodness, we recognize that these are gifts from our plant relatives, manifestations of their generosity, care, and creativity. When we speak of these not as things or products or commodities, but as gifts, the whole relationship changes.
In the presence of such gifts, gratitude is the intuitive first response.
Gratitude is so much more than a polite thank you. It is the thread that connects us in a deep relationship, simultaneously physical and spiritual, as our bodies are fed and spirits nourished by the sense of belonging, which is the most vital of foods. Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need. In that climate of sufficiency, our hunger for more abates and we take only what we need, in respect for the generosity of the giver.
How do we inoculate ourselves against the constant pressure or fear that we live in scarcity and must be competitive and ruthless in our pursuit of resources?
Gratitude, says Kimmerer. Gratitude creates a sense of abundance.
I can attest to this – gratitude is a kind of glass-full versus glass-empty practice. While our brains might spend their time comparing and contrasting and looking at the ways we’re falling short of our neighbours, our peers, the lives people on television are living, gratitude practice, that is intentionally stopping and thinking about what you have, rather than what you don’t have (and need to be finally happy and fulfilled), flips our focus, from the negative image to the positive image. Suddenly, we become aware of all that we have… and when you’re holding on to that, all the things you don’t have seem irrelevant, they lose their power of seduction.
Big bowl of berries. When you have that, it’s hard to lament that you don’t have ice-cream or champagne or a steak in this moment. Not when your hands are busy and full and you’re thinking about all the ways you can share these berries, turn them into gifts or treats for a future day.
It’s a lovely listen, if you can carve out the time. Robin’s words are so wise and her voice is so lovely. And the phrase that lands and wants to stick is such a gem: all flourishing is mutual.
All flourishing is mutual.