“A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikwegamaa—to be a bay—releases the water from bondage and lets it live. ‘To be a bay’ holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers. Because it could do otherwise—become a stream or an ocean or a waterfall, and there are verbs for that, too. To be a hill, to be a sandy beach, to be a Saturday, all are possible verbs in a world where everything is alive. Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods; this is the language that lets us speak of what wells up all around us.[…] This is the grammar of animacy.”

“What if you were a teacher but had no voice to speak your knowledge? What if you had no language at all and yet there was something you needed to say? Wouldn’t you dance it? Wouldn’t you act it out? Wouldn’t your every movement tell the story? In time you would be so eloquent that just to gaze upon you would reveal it all. And so it is with these silent green lives.”

“Joanna Macy writes that until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it — grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

In college I got up at 4:30 am to stand in a cold spring marsh, listening for the sounds of migrating birds before breakfast in the dinning hall. I spent hours in a lab combing through the regurgitated pellets of cormorants, looking for the tiny white specks that were the inner ear bones of fish. I clambered over desert rocks with Cambrian fossils in my hands. I peered into petri dishes of plankton towed from the edges of ponds and over the side of a ship. I learned how to do 100-counts and use a transect, read a graph and write a paper. I kind of learned statistics, and I definitely learned what it feels like when a cold November river floods your waders up to your waist. What I didn’t learn in my scientist’s training was what to do with the despair.

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