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  • Karen Luke Jackson

What Matters Most

Last year I was privileged to study with Robin Wall Kimmerer at Brevard College's Looking Glass Rock Writers' Conference. Robin is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Her book Braiding Sweetgrass weaves together "indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most."

What matters most? How many of us pause from our hectic pace and "things to do" to contemplate that question. Do we consider how our choices affect loved ones, strangers we may never meet, and the "more than human" with whom we share this planet? Robin writes, "For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children's future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it."

Imagine my delight last week when Father Richard Rohr's devotional "Reciprocity" featured a passage from Robin's book taken from the chapter entitled "The Council of Pecans." In poetic and scientific language, Robin shares how trees live in community and communicate in ways we humans are just now beginning to comprehend. These discoveries challenge our notion of human superiority and bring into question our treatment of trees as commodities rather than living beings.

To bring the conversation closer home, perhaps those talks I had as a child with the live oak in my front yard did not fall on deaf ears. Perhaps I need to listen more carefully and with all my senses when I walk among the trees in the park across the road. And perhaps the call to plant more trees and save our forests that women scientists like Jane Goodall and Wangari Maathai and Diana Beresford-Kroeger have sounded will not fall on deaf ears.

Questions for Reflection

1) What is something that matters most to you? How are you making choices that align with that something?

2) How might you become indigenous to the place where you now live? Care for the land as if your life depended upon it?

3) Have you ever had a relationship with a tree? If so, what about that relationship was life-giving?

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