The things I might have learned


Heal-all Source: Wikipedia

If my Abenaki grandmother
did not have to live white,
I might have learned
the uses for heal-all, burdock and spirea.
How to read the meaning
in a wolf call.

I might have learned
to weave baskets of sweetgrass,
the best time to dig
the root of the blackberry,
the names of the healing plants
that live in the bogs and wetlands.
How the crow lost its song.

I would have learned
that children are
cherished by my tribe,
meant to be seen and heard
and encouraged to discover
their own voice and gifts
to contribute to the community.

I would have learned
about the changes in the wind,
why the mountains call to my heart,
and to take strength from the feeling
of the soil beneath my feet.
How to live in balance
and only take
what the earth can give.

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
sweetgrass basket by Jeanne Brink from NH State Council of the Arts

sweetgrass basket by Jeanne Brink from NH State Council of the Arts

Sometimes I feel sad that I know so little about the Abenaki heritage of my grandmothers and that no recognizable tradition survived in my family by the time I was born.  (Abenaki women married into both my father’s and mother’s families 5-6 generations ago.)  I wonder how much more we might value the plants around us if we understood their ability to heal illness and contribute to our health.  I wonder how much cleaner the earth would be and how much happier we might be if our community values were centered around cooperation and balance rather than competition and accumulation.

I recently re-read the book “Aunt Sarah: Woman of the Dawnland: by Trudy Ann Parker.  It is a fascinating story of an Abenaki healer who lived 108 winters and spent her childhood living in a family tribe on the Connecticut River, her teen years with a traveling circus and later returned as an adult to live near her “home” after those lands had been “distributed” to the whites.  I can’t help but wonder if Aunt Sarah would have known my grandmothers since they would have lived in the same area.

2 thoughts on “The things I might have learned

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It means a great deal that you are aware of the intrinsic value of tradition and the Abenaki way of being in the world. All is not lost! I have met Trudy Parker, author of ‘Aunt Sarah: Woman of the Dawnland” and she, with other Grandmothers, embodies that grounded attitude of which you speak… I believe the time has come for a degree of restoration and appreciation of those affirming values. The Alnobak (Abenaki people) are finding their voices again, just as the Earth sorely needs them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving these words. It means the world to me to have someone comment on something near to my heart. (I bought a second copy of her book and gave it to my naturopath – this world makes it hard to walk against the grain and use plants for healing but we so need the people who do.)

      Liked by 1 person

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