The Keeper of Wild Words

The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith and Madeline Kloepper

Our language reflects what we value—what we want to and need to communicate and share knowledge about. So sometimes, we take a break from phonic-based word lists, and make our own nature-based ones full of things we love. We are keepers of the wild words! Then, we take a little hike to try to find some of the things on our list…and sometimes they come to us. As my favourite poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

“Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb’s quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

Mary Oliver (Upstream)

My daughter and I have also been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I have read and listened to this book before, and I think it is such an important book that I wanted to share it with my daughter. There is a chapter called ‘Learning the Grammar of Animacy’, which is about how language also reflects worldview. This chapter and every chapter in this book is beautiful and powerful.

“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. And the vestiges of boarding schools, those soap-wielding missionary raids hang their heads in defeat. This is the grammar of animacy.

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

Stay wild, Kate