Dissolving into Happiness

These sunny, hot summer days call for some special reading material when it gets too hot to move.  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer is one I like to revisit. To me, her writing is lyrical,  elegant and that of a gifted storyteller. Her descriptions of nature as she encounters it, whether seen through the lens of her profession as a bryologist (one who specializes in moss) or through her observations as a Native American, she opens my eyes to a different viewpoint on what this big, beautiful, complex world offers us. 

The following is an excerpt from the book and resonated with me when I was in my garden yesterday, as I was awed by the hibiscus, okra and elderberries I was harvesting. Time slows when I’m in the garden and enables me to sink back and just be.

“      It came to me while picking beans, the secret of happiness.

I was hunting among the spiraling vines that envelop my teepees of pole beans, lifting the dark-green leaves to find handfuls of pods, long and green, firm and furred with tender fuzz. I snapped them off where they hung in slender twosomes, bit into one, and tasted nothing but August, distilled into pure, crisp beaniness… By the time I finished searching through just one trellis, my basket was full. To go and empty it in the kitchen, I stepped between heavy squash vines and around tomato plants fallen under the weight of their fruit. They sprawled at the feet of the sunflowers, whose heads bowed with the weight of maturing seeds.


How do I show my girls I love them on a morning in June? I pick them wild strawberries. On a February afternoon we build snowmen and then sit by the fire. In March we make maple syrup. We pick violets in May and go swimming in July. On an August night we lay out blankets and watch meteor showers. In November, that great teacher the woodpile comes into our lives. That’s just the beginning. How do we show our children our love? Each in our own way by a shower of gifts and a heavy rain of lessons.


Maybe it was the smell of ripe tomatoes, or the oriole singing, or that certain slant of light on a yellow afternoon and the beans hanging thick around me. It just came to me in a wash of happiness that made me laugh out loud, startling the chickadees who were picking at the sunflowers, raining black and white hulls on the ground. I knew it with a certainty as warm and clear as the September sunshine. The land loves us back. She loves us with beans and tomatoes, with roasting ears and blackberries and birdsongs. By a shower of gifts and a heavy rain of lessons. She provides for us and teaches us to provide for ourselves. That’s what good mothers do.

I haven’t had the chance to see her in person, but here is the link to an On Being conversation with Krista Tippett that is worth listening as she talks about the intelligence of all life.

May your summer days be ones of awe and happiness!



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