As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence
is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
~ Carl Jung ~
The world is a scary place these days. Sometimes it’s hard to see how we will find solutions to the myriad crises the we face. But then wise people like Robin Wall Kimmerer, a brilliant “plant ecologist, educator, and writer articulating a vision of environmental stewardship grounded in scientific and Indigenous knowledge,” wins a MacArthur award. Kimmerer’s writing always gives me hope and inspires me to just be and do better as I move through the world. One lesson I took away from her book Braiding Sweetgrass is the importance of knowing the names of the plants and animals who share this earth with us. Because I have no one left to teach me, I rely on technology to learn the names of plants and flowers that have surrounded me since childhood. Now I have iNaturalist on my phone, so while I’m out walking or working in my yard, I can take a photo of whatever plant or animal I come across, and iNaturalist will do its best to tell me the name of my nonhuman neighbor.
Last weekend, I found this glorious little berry behind my house:
I had never seen such a plant! My first thought was that it was a wild strawberry, but it’s October and strawberry season is long past. After a quick search through its database, iNaturalist informed me that this is a mock strawberry, a species native to eastern and southern Asia. I know I should have left it for the squirrels and chipmunks who have been busy devouring the feast to be found outside my backdoor, I couldn’t resist setting a woodland table:
Of course all this creative play inspired a poem!
Bright red and glistening
with morning dew,
a plump mock strawberry
is a beacon
to a chipmunk
foraging for breakfast.
Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022
If you haven’t read Braiding Sweetgrass, find a copy today. Or listen to the author herself reading it in her soothing, patient voice. Your world will be made brighter! Also be sure to visit Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Roundup.