Kristie Dahlia Home
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We Are Beloved

To Give and Give Again

Mar 28, 2024

Beloved friends,

In one of the early chapters of Braiding Sweetgrass, "The Gift of Strawberries", Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of the nature of gifts and gift economies, centered metaphorically on the wild strawberries that grow where she lives in Central New York. I grew up just a few miles from Robin's home and remember those strawberries, the wonder and joy of lying in the field across from my grandmother's summer cottage eating the tiny berries, as small as my fingernail and impossibly sweet. Oh, the awe I felt at finding food growing in the field between the space we mowed to park our family's cars and the outhouse. In describing how she and her sisters would pick berries to make a shortcake for father's day, Robin says,

"That is the fundamental nature of gifts: they move, and their value increases with their passage. The fields made a gift of berries to us and we made a gift of them to our father. The more something is shared, the greater its value becomes."

This passage came to life for me this week. After Saturday morning yoga, Jessie Raeder and I were chatting and she picked up her laptop to show me something. In doing so, she realized anew that one of the items beside her on her family's altar, the brass gong nestled amongst "rocks and heart shaped rockes and feathers and bird nests and beaver-chewed sticks and bowls we made of clay and more rocks", as she later said – that this gong had come from me.

When James and I were preparing to take to the sea, we let go of as much as we could bear. This gong went to Jessie's home, where it was treasured. During the pandemic when the children were homeschooling, they would take turns ringing the gong to mark transitions between subjects. "Math is over, I get to be the one to ring the gong!"

When her eye fell on the gong while speaking with me, Jessie offered to give it back to me. Oh, my heart! The memories: receiving this gong as a gift from my husband's mother, and all the years I carefully tucked it into my basket to take to retreat. I felt that feeling I'm sure you know: that this was too precious to accept. I suggested that Jessie sleep on whether she wished to let it go, but she affirmed with a warm smile and strong voice that she would love to send it back to us. As I felt into how much more precious the gong seemed now for having made this journey to live with friends, be cherished there and, return, I remembered Robin's words about how the value of a gift increases with the giving. Ah, yes, yes!

I hope you might feel this, too, in this newsletter; so many of the items are followed by an italicized Thanks to, sending gratitude to the person who shared this thing with me. I do this not only to honor the givers; I hope also to nurture for you a sense of this extended web of giving which we share and co-create and in which you, too, are connected.


Meditation for Spring
As promised, last Thursday's Meditation Gathering was recorded to share with you. We practiced in honor of the Vernal Equinox. It was a lush, somatically and visually oriented session connecting with nature and the sense of the rising energies of spring. You are welcome to enjoy the recording (Passcode: HappyEquinox<3) for the next month; it will expire on 4/27/24.

My best friend had been a friend of James' since he was a teenager and she, too, has more value for being shared in this way. She doesn't like mushrooms, but knows that James and I love them and try to eat them often because of the research that shows that people who eat 1/8-1/4 cup daily have a 45% less risk of cancer. I was touched when she sent us this recipe for smashed crispy mushrooms drizzled with balsalmic vinegar and parmesan cheese and oh, goodness, it was so simple and delicious. I'd love to hear if you give it a try! Thanks to Aimee.

Acts of Service
When this poem showed up in my DMs, the friend who'd sent it added a note that said "I see you" and it sent me straight to tears. I've been cherishing it ever since; this is the late UA Fanthorpe's poem "Atlas". It is from her 1995 book Safe as Houses, which is out of print, but here it is to cherish now. If you want to connect on Instagram, too, I'm Priestess of the Mystery. Thanks to Anastasia.


There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

Land Back
Braiding Sweetgrass is a wave on the rising tide of the movement uplifting Indigenous thought and toward justice. Another aspect of this movement is the Land Back seeking to return land to Indigenous hands. A beautiful step in this movement recently was taken by the city of Berkeley, which will purchase a piece of land and transfer it to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. This piece of land is described in different places as "Spenger's parking lot" off 4th Street and as an Ohlone heritage site and sacred ground. Sogorea Te' is led by indigenous women; the7 "cultivate rematriation". If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might consider paying shuumi land tax to Sogorea Te' to support their ongoing work. Remember: small donations matter. I made a small shuumi payment monthly to this organization for years and it is hard to express how it feels to know that I was a tiny part of saving this historic site. Thanks to Jennifer and Robert, whose practice of paying shuumi inspired mine.

One to Grow On
Tyson Yunkaporta's book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World was mentioned in two Long Now Talks that rocked my world: Jenny Odell's Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock and Denise Hearn's Embodied Economies: How our Economic Stories Shape the World. I'm looking forward to reading it; perhaps you will as well. Thanks to my husband James, the Director of Communications and Design for the Long Now Foundation.

Trans Day of Visibility
The magnificent Mercury Stardust, Trans Handy M'am, of TikTok and Instagram fame, is doing a fundraiser for Trans Healthcare. And while I'm mentioning this delightful being, her book Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair has also been warmly and widely recommended by folks I know.

Reading Circle
On April 2 we will begin in the chapter "The Three Sisters" at the first section break. In the 2020 hardcover milkweed editions book, this is page 130; in the Kindle version this is page 134. On April 9 we will not meet as I will be on an airplane.