I’m half-way through reading a wonderful book by Robin Wall Kimmerer called Braiding Sweetgrass, and I fell in love with this story about Nanabozho. It’s the perfect story for use10percentless.com as it warns against taking and using too much. I hope Robin doesn’t mind me copying her story here and I hope you enjoy it.
Nanabozho was Fishing
Nanabozho was fishing in the lake for supper, as he often did, with hook and line. Heron came striding along through the reeds on his long, bent legs, his beak like a spear. Heron is a good fisherman and a sharing friend, so he told Nanabozho about a new way to fish that would make his life much easier. Heron cautioned him to be careful not to take too many fish, but Nanabozho was already thinking of a feast. He went out early the next day and soon had a whole basketful of fish, so heavy he could barely carry it and far more than he could eat. So he cleaned all those fish and set them out to dry on the racks outside his lodge. The next day, with his belly still full, he went back to the lake and again did what the Heron had showed him. “Ahh,” he thought as he carried home the fish, “I will have plenty to eat this winter”.
Day after day he stuffed himself and, as the lake grew empty, his drying racks grew full, sending out a delicious smell into the forest where fox was licking his lips. Again he went to the lake, so proud of himself. But that day his nets came up empty and Heron looked down on him as he flew over the lake with a critical eye. When Nanabozho got home to his lodge, he learned a key rule – never take more than you need. The racks of fish were toppled in the dirt and every bite was gone.
Cautionary stories of the consequences of taking too much are ubiquitous in Native cultures, but it’s hard to recall a single one in English. Perhaps this helps to explain why we seem to be caught in a trap of overconsumption, which is as destructive to ourselves as to those we consume.Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 2020, Penguin Books (first published in 2013, Milkweed Editions)
I love Robin’s comment that we’re “caught in a trap of overconsumption” and that hurts us as much as “those we consume”. It’s true – everything we do consumes some other form of life, which is fine but we should do it with respect and gratitude, and not take more than we need.
Robin’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, is such a joy to read with so many examples of indigenous wisdom (makes it obvious that we don’t have a lot of wisdom in our current culture). When I’ve finished the book, I’ll write a full review on my other blog – lifeintherightdirection.com – but I can already tell that this is a book that I’ll be highly recommending.
References and Links
- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 2020, Penguin Books (first published in 2013, Milkweed Editions)