Images: © Leo Hosp
In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer pledges for a wider ecological consciousness that involves acknowledging the human reciprocal relationship with other beings in this world. Especially the introduction, as well as the first chapter, Skywoman Falling, offer points of relation to queerness and dizziness. To Kimmerer, Sweetgrass has a gentle, persistent character in the way it grows next to other plants, delighting the author “with their subversive infiltration of the status quo” (Kimmerer 2020, VI)–parallels can be drawn to the possible passive resistance of queer languages (see T. 2014).
The author writes about current challenges like climate urgencies or global pandemics and a need for reciprocity. Her text can be fruitful when thinking about how navigating through states of dizziness must happen collectively: She gives examples of reactions to her book, ranging from art to university curricula, stating that this “renews [her] faith in the possibility of lived reciprocity. Together, this is how the world changes. We have braided a Sweetgrass community, awakening for each other the knowing that we are not alone. The strength of that community has the power to activate change, and our collective rhizomes are spreading.” (Kimmerer 2020, XIV)
Kimmerer explains how plants, especially forests, teach us something about change: “The forces of creation and destruction are so tightly linked that sometimes we can’t tell where one begins and the other leaves off.” (Ibid. XV) This helps understanding the possible simultaneousness of destructive and constructive elements that are inherent in both queerness and dizziness. Referring to the first chapter, Skywoman Falling, Kimmerer writes: “As a society we stand at the brink, we know we do. [...] What does it take to abandon what does not work and take the risks of uncertainty? We’ll need courage; we’ll need each other’s hands to hold and faith in the geese to catch us. [...] The landing might not be soft, but land holds many medicines. Propelled by love, ready to work, we can jump toward the world we want to co-create, with pockets full of seeds. And rhizomes.” (Ibid. XVII)
In Skywoman Falling itself, another parallel can be drawn to the dizziness that comes from standing at an edge, as well as to the need for community: “Wether we jump or are pushed, or the edge of the known world just crumbles at our feet, we fall, spinning into someplace new and unexpected. Despite our fears of falling, the gifts of the world stand by to catch us. [...And] it is also good to recall that [...Skywoman…] did not come alone.” (Ibid. 8-9) Instead of a negatively connoted disturbance, falling is framed as a new start that implies possibilities.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2020. Braiding Sweetgrass. Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Canada: Milkweed Editions.
T., Anna. 2014. “The Opacity of Queer Languages.” E-Fluc Journal, no. 60. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/60/61064/the-opacity-of-queer-languages/.