In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, “In a way, I was raised by strawberries, fields of them.” She goes on to explain how wild strawberries gave her a sense of the world, and her place in it. She writes evocatively about picking and eating and celebrating with wild strawberries, and also about what the strawberries taught her.
We asked this question in the group of friends with whom I am reading and discussing Braiding Sweetgrass – what about the place you grew up in gave you your sense of the world and your place in it? It is a fine question and we answered with the first thing that came to our mind. It is hard question to answer, and as my first answer (birch trees) did not satisfy me, I continue to think about it.
I am at Christie Lake, one of the places I loved dearly as I was growing up. I return once a year if I can. Each time, I see aspects of the natural world here as if for the first time, or I remember something about the natural world that I thought I had long ago forgotten.
I love to get up early and come to the beach for a swim – usually before sunlight has fully crept into and transformed our bay.
I could watch the play of light and shadow and wind on the water, the sand beneath the water, the reflections from the nearby trees and rocky shoreline for hours. I suspect that I spent many a dreamy moment as a child doing just that. In this dappled world, everything is shifting and changing every moment…it is all glimmers, possibilities, dance. The felt sense I get here belongs to this particular place, and no other place that I can think of.
I can’t come close to capturing this feeling with my Smartphone – which wants to focus in on one aspect of the scene in front of me and give it prominence. As soon as I step into the water to try to take a picture, I create ripples, changing the picture. Even if I could capture some sense of it visually, I would be missing the smell of the wind off the lake and decaying seaweed, the feel of wet sand under my toes, the songs of the birds, the waves lapping, the distant drone of a boat engine, the CheCheChee of the osprey, the feel of this air on my skin, the sound that this wind makes in these trees at this moment. I would be missing the constant movement and interplay of light, shadow, reflection.
The play of light and shadow and glimmer on the water did not raise me, but surely, it played a part in the raising of me, in giving me a sense of the world. and how I see and experience it.