“We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.” – from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)
We end each year with a harvest meal during November and a sharing of gifts in December. Most families across our country have traditions that they follow year after year in the fall and early winter. These traditions may be the food that is eaten, how gifts are shared, if they are shared, or the games played. It may also be the return to a food shelter for a shared and free meal but it is a tradition of some kind. A gathering with those you are friends with or relate with.
I spent this weekend with traditional Swedish meatballs and rice pudding, the watching of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, fires in the fireplace and spending time with family and neighbors. This year more time was spent on gathering,talking and listening and food. The gifts were there but not front and center of the activities.
This may be in part because we are mainly all adults with no little ones running around the Christmas tree with sparkly eyes. It is also in part due to a year of frustrations, hostility and devisions between people, issues and beliefs. When we gathered it was clear we all were leaving the politics of our day outside the door. We came with smiles, stories of the past, and questions about current events happening in our personal lives. We came to restore relationships. We came to strengthen the ties that bind family and friends through understanding, sharing and giving.
We gathering to give but also to harvest the care and love from those who have been part of our lives for years – some for a life time and others for only a few short years.
Christmas night I left our last gathering and hurried across the front yards, in the 20 below temperatures, into the quiet of our home. I curled up under blankets to warm myself and continue to read from Robin Kimmerers book called Braiding Sweetgrass. A rich and quiet ending to time with people.
The chapter before me was about harvesting from the wild. This book is connected to Native cultural ways, and science of plants but more than that it is about how we live in our world. It is about how we care for the land, the plants and the animals. It is about how we care for ourselves and other humans.
Robin shares the biology of the plant world and the stories of the Native Culture but for me last night in this chapter she also spoke of restoration. She spoke of looking to the generations ahead. She talked of the care of giving, of sharing and also the taking of what is needed but not over taking. She shares the balance that has made our world work for generations. Her simple words written a few years back showed me how out of balance we are right now. It was easy to reflect on how far we have stepped out and sent our world tumbling in crazy circles. The taking and the taking – the forgetting of those with less clearly fit into her words of caution.
It isn’t always easy this idea she shared of honorable harvest – we need to look to our spending, to where we place our focus, to what we say, to what we take and what we support. Although I know how hard it is to deal with the negativity that we seem to be harvesting in our lives right now. I found that we can be honorable in the little acts we do.
We can have a honorable harvest. Our gatherings and “harvest” this holiday season turned into one of giving more than getting, of listening more that talking, of finding ways to support those around us. We each on our own way were careful to think of others – folks who live alone invited over, a neighbor whose family lives far away invited friends who are closer to share an evening of food and games, conversations were positive and supportive not combative. It was a time of sharing and giving of ourselves not of things.
It restored a small sense of balance to our personal lives and family. It left me feeling like I could turn to 2018 with renewed energy for the tasks ahead.
Robin created a list of guidelines for a Honorable Harvest. This could be the harvest of wild leeks or wild greens in the woods or it could be how we work and live with in our world as a whole.
(In the Native culture these are learned and shared but not written down. They are reinforced in small acts daily life.)
- Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you make take care of them
- Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Asking permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
- Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
- Take only that which is given.
- Never take more that half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
- Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
- Give thanks for what you have been given.
- Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
- Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
May we step into 2018 with balance, care, support and a honorable harvest so that our world can be sustain forever!