following the life

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“Just about everything we use is the result of another’s life…” Robin Wall-Kimmerer

These past few weeks, we’ve been reevaluating our relationship to space and stuff… but this weekend, I read something that suggested that I ought to consider more than just the energetic weight of things and how we care for each and every thing we have – it’s something Kimmerer suggests “to follow back the thread of life in everything and pay it respect.”


During a holiday weekend where all of us were inundated with marketing about sales, this was a real paradox to consider.

If I look around our house, can I “see the life within each object?” Do I know who made it, how it was made, from what, and where? There’s gratitude, but is there reciprocity between what I have and what I give?

On Sunday, I conducted my own experiment. As I used an object, sat in a chair, wrote in a notebook with a pen, I tried to imagine where the object began - not just the hands that made it, but all the way back to the materials it was made of, tracing it back to the original life... the tree, the plant... 

This new practice slowed me down, unnecessary tension fell away as I partnered differently with each object. I sat differently, handled things with more care, and I felt the difference between one thing and another. It changed my relationship to what I was using because there was a newfound respect - or in some cases, a lack of connection...

I have grown to be conscious about spending money - but not to be cavalier about the whole thing -  there's also convenience, what I can afford, and what I consider to be a fair price. It’s a conscious decision to purchase a book from our local bookstore rather than buy it at Amazon where it will be at least $10 less expensive… It’s frustrating that this kind of attentiveness always seems to cost more. Organic food. Fair trade clothing. Products made in ways that don't further strain the environment. Buying local rather than at big box stores.

Sometimes it’s possible, and sometimes, given all the other factors, it’s not. There are a lot of moving parts.  

I remember something a friend of mine once said (she happens to be a high school teacher and former mechanic in the army). She doesn't mind paying a few dollars more for health care if it means someone else can be covered. If she has a little extra to give, why wouldn’t she offer it? She recognizes she had help along the way and she's willing to give back - not because she has so much, but because she has enough. 

We've all had help along the way. Not just from others helping us to get wherever we are (either by support or by giving us resistance to grow muscle), but even in the little things we use every day. We’re all dependent on the work of others for our every day necessities and conveniences. These are not just local and national conversations, they're global. If you look at it this way, not one of us, anywhere in the world, stands in isolation. 

Everything we have in our homes, each piece of clothing we wear, all the food we eat, the energy and water we use, the home we live in, is the result of many someones along the way, including plants and trees that take new forms. It takes an entire ecosystem to produce the things we take for granted in our daily living patterns.

As I look around the house, I am surrounded by so many hands of support. Cleaning and making sure we have only what we can purpose-fully care for suddenly takes on a whole new responsibility. 

And joy... 

always in motion,


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