plants are teachers of reciprocity

Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Introducing people is like a label making machine…a wikipedia entry.  Let me tell you about the woman I know. She is an influencer of my soul.  I approach Robin Wall Kimmerer like one would approach Mick Jaeger.  She is a teacher, writer, poet and scientist ”  Elizabeth Gilbert introducing Robin Wall Kimmerer. I have going to NYBG lectures at for years, and this was the most of out of the box talk I have ever been to.

Desert Moss, Syntrichia caninervis. Moss uses its leaves – not roots – to collect moisture, from molecules to raindrops.

Kimmerer assured the audience that her talk was not going to involve botanical charts and scientific terminology. She is the State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse and a member of the Potawatomi Nation; her talk was going to be about plants as teachers of reciprocity.
Kimmerer pointed out that plant neurobiology is teaching us how plants communicate; plants can learn and hear, plants make decisions about their behavior, plants provide us with medicine, plants feed us, plants build soil, plants purify water, plants cool us.  In fact plants are our oldest teachers, being on the earth for 400 million years.
Who are the super heroes of the plant kingdom?  Who are the survivors… they are not the biggest, nor the fastest.  They are ancient beings.  The answer MOSSES.

Mosses teach us about sustainable living.  Mosses live at the boundary layer.  They live in still air when there is no wind and air is warmer.  They create their own greenhouse.  Mosses are true minimalists.  They have learned how to live with few resources.

“Moses have, in the ecological sense, very low competitive ability, because they’re small, because they don’t grab resources very efficiently, and so this means that they have to live in interstices.  They have to live in places where they dominant competitive plants can’t live. ”  Kimmerer

I felt I was in the presence of a modern day shaman.  During the Q&A with Gilbert, Kimmerer was asked “People are freaking out these days.  They are terrified about what’s going on.  Some people are barricading themselves away and others are out there confronting the world.  Hope is in short supply.  What makes you hope?”

Kimmerer:  “If we build good soil, we can nurture new things.  We need to invest in what we love.  We need to build capacity for renewal.  We are co-creators.  We celebrate, we are grateful.”







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