Favorite snippets (just a few of so many!)
RWK: I can’t think of a single scientific study in the last few decades that has demonstrated that plants or animals are dumber than we think. It’s always the opposite, right? What we’re revealing is the fact that they have extraordinary capacities, which are so unlike our own, but we dismiss them because, well, if they don’t do it like animals do it, then they must not be doing anything, when, in fact, they’re sensing their environment, responding to their environment in incredibly sophisticated ways. The science which is showing that plants have capacity to learn, to have memory, it’s really — we’re at the edge of a wonderful revolution in really understanding the sentience of other beings.
RWK: What I mean when I say that “science polishes the gift of seeing” brings us to an intense kind of attention that science allows us to bring to the natural world, and that kind of attention also includes ways of seeing, quite literally, through other lenses — that we might have the hand lens, the magnifying glass in our hands that allows us to look at that moss with an acuity that the human eye doesn’t have so we see more. The microscope that lets us see the gorgeous architecture by which it’s put together, the scientific instrumentation in the laboratory that would allow us to look at the miraculous way that water interacts with cellulose, let’s say. That’s what I mean by “science polishes our ability to see” — it extends our eyes into other realms. But we’re, in many cases, looking at the surface. And by the surface, I mean the material being alone. ~ ~ But in indigenous ways of knowing, we say that we know a thing when we know it not only with our physical senses, with our intellect, but also when we engage our intuitive ways of knowing, of emotional knowledge and spiritual knowledge. And that’s really what I mean by listening. By seeing that traditional knowledge engages us in listening. And what is the story that that being might share with us if we know how to listen as well as we know how to see?
RWK: In talking with my environment students, they wholeheartedly agree that they love the earth. But when I ask them the question of does the earth love you back, there’s a great deal of hesitation and reluctance and eyes cast down, like, oh, gosh, I don’t know. Are we even allowed to talk about that? That would mean that the earth had agency and that I was not an anonymous little blip on the landscape, that I was known by my home place. ~ ~ So it’s a very challenging notion, but I bring it to the garden and think about the way that when we, as human people, demonstrate our love for one another, it is in ways that I find very much analogous to the way that the earth takes care of us, is when we love somebody, we put their wellbeing at the top of a list and we want to feed them well. We want to nurture them. We want to teach them. We want to bring beauty into their lives. We want to make them comfortable and safe and healthy. That’s how I demonstrate love, in part, to my family, and that’s just what I feel in the garden, as the earth loves us back in beans and corn and strawberries. Food could taste bad. It could be bland and boring, but it isn’t. There are these wonderful gifts that the plant beings, to my mind, have shared with us. And it’s a really liberating idea to think that the earth could love us back, but it’s also the notion that — it opens the notion of reciprocity that with that love and regard from the earth comes a real deep responsibility.