“Between takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun's glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun, a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway, a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own. When I turn away from the window, the stories recede into the two-dimensional map of green and brown below. Like a trout disappearing into the shade of an overhanging bank, leaving you staring at the flat surface of the water and wondering if you saw it at all.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, writer and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York and the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and building resilience for climate change. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science training for Native students, and to introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.
Robin is an enrolled member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi. Her writings include “Gathering Moss” which incorporates both traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific perspectives and was awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing in 2005. She has served as writer in residence at Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue Mountain Center, the Sitka Center and others. Her second book is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions and is entitled “Braiding Sweetgrass: renewing reciprocity with the good green earth” on the subject of living in reciprocity with land. Her literary essays appear in Whole Terrain, Adirondack Life, Orion and several anthologies.
She holds a PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge and restoration ecology. She is the co-founder and past president of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society of America. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.