Restoration and hope

Lynne Smith, OSB Care for the Earth, Living in Community Leave a Comment

Restoration is a powerful antidote to despair. Restoration offers concrete means by which humans can once again enter into positive, creative relationship with the more-than-human world, meeting responsibilities that are simultaneously material and spiritual.  –Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer (p. 328)


I made a quick trip to Illinois to visit my brother and his wife and my sister and her husband last week. It was fun to see them and get caught up even if for just a few days.

It rained the three days I visited my brother and his wife in Naperville, Illinois. Since we couldn’t go bike riding, I helped my brother paint the inside of his garage where he had put up new walls. They do what they can to care for the earth where they live. My sister-in-law has a garden and volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation center. They began composting this year.

From Chicago, I took the train to Bloomington-Normal where my sister picked me up to go to her home near Danvers, Illinois. She and her husband live in the country among corn and soybean fields. It has been quite dry in central Illinois this summer and much of the corn is nearly ready for harvest. My sister and brother-in-law have planted prairie on both sides of their quarter-mile lane leading up to their house and in the acre next to their woods. The day I arrived, my brother-in-law received a box of night-blooming cosmos seed that he plans to add to the prairie this fall. We went for a drive one afternoon to check out the wildlife area along the river near where they live. They like to canoe on the river, but this year the river has been too low for canoeing most of the summer. As we drove through the countryside, I noted a number of plots of prairie growing alongside the acres and acres of corn. It appears others see value in returning some of the land to prairie.

I am still slowly reading and savoring Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass. In a recent chapter, the quote above caught my attention. When student intern, Kate Stel, was with us, she remarked a number of times that many people feel hopeless in the face of climate change because they don’t know where to begin nor what they can do to make a difference. Kimmerer emphasizes the necessity of forming a relationship with the earth community and points to restoration as a source of hope. Working on restoration is a powerful way to enter into a relationship with a particular part of the earth community. Perhaps that is why so many people are drawn to work on and walk through the prairie and oak savanna at Holy Wisdom. The hands-on, feet-on-the-ground time spent in the prairie or the woods has the potential to restore our soul while restoring the land.

Given the recent flooding we have experienced in Madison and the surrounding areas, we can readily see the benefit of restoring prairie and wetlands that hold water in its place when it pours down so heavily. Without the prairie at Holy Wisdom, the rain water would have been flowing over County Road M, through the neighbors’ yards and into Lake Mendota. Prairie can absorb 5-7 inches of rain an hour. That’s amazing flood control!

A BIG thank you to everyone who, over the years, has prepared the earth, sowed seed, picked prairie seed, hauled brush, groomed trails or otherwise contributed to restoration of the land at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Your work and relationship with the land is reason to hope!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.