in Braiding Sweetgrass, author Robin Wall Kimmerer tells of Evon Peter, a Gwich'in man and Chief of Arctic Village in Northeastern Alaska. she said that she heard him speak once and that he introduced himself as "a boy who was raised by a river". the author shares that in a way, she was raised by wild strawberries.
i'm embarrassed to say that this statement initially produced a lot of rapid-fire mixed feelings. i was sad - where was this person's family and community? frustrated - as a mother there are days when i'm left feeling empty and unappreciated and this statement somehow brought up those feelings. i was curious. doubtful. but it also left me hopeful.
Labour Day weekend has come and gone and many are back to school.
we managed to sneak in a few days of camping to welcome in the end of summer.
it was glorious, and it was overdue, and it was the little's first camping trip.
it was a drive-in campsite but we had no signal to speak of and after the obligatory disconnection disorientation i dove into a book i had been waiting quite a while to read.
i wasn't too many pages into the book before my mind was whirring and my heart was warmed. i can honestly say i was excited to read the next page. and the next.
i can't imagine why i hadn't read this book as soon as i had bought it, why hadn't i read it before? but this is also a very fitting time and place for me.
this book found me exactly when i needed it.
like i said, i felt a lot of emotions by someone stating they had been raised by an element of nature. but very quickly the reader can see where this is going. very quickly you can't help but be swept up into the naturalness of it all.
i was raised in Northern Ontario. we were no strangers to the outdoors and i got to thinking, what was i raised by? how am i shaped, how was i fed by my place?
the night sky? wild raspberries? bullrushes? the cold winter snow?
i admit i was quick to jump to the cool waters of Northern Ontario. i mean, who wouldn't be? we lived on a lake for a number of years and the water really does ground me ...besides it sounds terribly romantic doesn't it?
but it isn't about romanticism.
it is about finding answers. finding connection. i had to spend some time with this and then realized that my answer, in all its rotted goodness, is the forest floor.
the forest floor has been there throughout my life. early lessons come from family camping trips before we moved out of the city to the country. they come in memories from long before we moved to the lake.
my life is full of tripping over cedar roots, of walking barefoot through old pine needles and rotting leaves, of running my fingers over soft, bright green mosses and onto the cold rough granite beneath, of collecting fallen birch bark to take home for drawings, of catching toads so we could pet their little bumpy backs before releasing them, of the smell of damp humus, of how the light filtered through the trees onto the saplings by our feet. the forest floor shows her path even to my shoe-wearing adult feet. the forest floor teaches me. the forest floor grounds me.
in my most basic memories i can hear, smell and feel the forest floor as it changes through the seasons. i am at home here.
i find myself watching my son explore these forests with new eyes. i watch as he makes his way over fallen branches and around roots that have tripped him previously, as he hears the leaves in the wind, and watches the dappled light on the forest floor. he loves when i find wild blueberries and raspberries for him. he knows the feel of last season's fallen pine needles and hugs the soft new growth of spruce tips. i watch him as he is fascinated by the wildlife around him and notice again later when he remembers to check all the animal's hidy-holes to see if he can spot anyone in there.
who will my son say raised him? how will his body and soul be fed and formed?
the vacation is over now and the camping equipment is all packed away.
i haven't finished the book yet. i admit, i am hanging on to it a bit.
there is a consciousness and a celebration within its pages that needs to come with me as i head back home.
if i said i was raised by the forest floor, who would you tell me raised you?