Book Club: Eat, Drink, Braid Sweetgrass
In late 2016, we started a book club. And before you roll your eyes at the thought of yet another group of women starting a book club, know that this one was conceived after reading Rufi Thorpe’s ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT essay: Mother, Monster, Writer, Maid (please read this; it will change your life) and then entering a black hole on Vela Magazine which publishes truly elegant non-fiction works from some of the most valuable women writers out there today. This is the kind of website that puts Scary Mommy to shame. And it occurred to me that this is what we should be reading. Reading to shift our perspective instead of wallowing in it. I mean, some wallowing is good of course- especially the funny kind. But to read something that enlightens us, changes us, that is a really good thing.
So we started a book club: Women Reading Women. And we meet and discuss and of course eat and open several bottles of wine and stay up late talking about the book and about things that seem to have nothing at all to do with the book, but are still thoughtful digressions, inspired by whatever our context for the evening may be. And last night our context was Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass.
I must be honest and report that not one of us had finished the book in its entirety. Not for lack of trying. But this book is dense and chewy. Or I suppose I should go with a more appropriate analogy and say that it takes time. Like planting and harvesting, like waiting for the sap from the maples or the season for the pecans. It is, decidedly, not a “page turner”. It moves purposefully and with dignity through a collection of stories, each one a moving portrayal of gratitude. She is graceful and without contempt, an extraordinary teacher, and I am deeply inspired to do and be better, to see the planet and all life existing upon it as equally invaluable, inseparable from my own.
And to finish the book of course.
According to my Kindle, I have completed 38% of the book. The last story I read was about the Three Sisters of the garden. Corn, Beans and Squash who, when planted together, grown more beautifully and bountifully than they ever would alone. There is, naturally, a science behind it: the emergence of the monocot corn, the leafy circumnutation of the bean stalk, the protective broad lobed leaves of the squash, there is structure and pace and underground communication. The specific choreography of their cooperation is, well, I’ll let Kimmerer phrase it:
“The organic symmetry of forms belongs together, the placement of every leaf, the harmony of shapes speak their message. Respect one another, support one another, bring your gift to the world and receive the gifts of others, and there will always be enough…in ripe ears and swelling fruit, they counsel us that all gifts are multiplied in relationship. This is how the world keeps going.”
I encourage you to read this greatly affective book, to take it apart, piece by piece, and offer a prayer that we all journey, together, toward a kinder, more purposeful and more grateful partnership with this earth.
And while you are at it, try this recipe, inspired by the Three Sisters themselves (and some enchiladas I found on Pinterest). It’s the perfect thing to take to book club.