for kith and kin and ki

Posted by Daniela Elza on Jan 02 2023

What is a year without new beginnings? I am happy to think back on the last year with a number of beginnings. Let there always be new beginnings to remind us that we should never stop learning and growing in our hearts and minds and abilities.

Last year was another year of transitions as well. Some not as exciting as I would have liked. So much of what I did in the last few years involved one learning curve after another. During the pandemic a lot of those curves felt like curveballs. I kept dreaming of a teaching term in which I could teach without having to learn another platform, or technology, or fight with technology, or try to outsmart technology, just to be able to get to my work.

The pandemic also forced more of us to think about time and rethink how we spend our time. That has brought on a lot more focus on what we are doing with our lives, the planet, and an awareness when we have reached our limit with the speed with which our lives move. I too have been doing these kind of re-evaluations and have made more progress toward balance in my life. I can do better still. I probably did the most yoga in the last year compared to previous years. I sure needed it. Thank you, Yoga with Adriene.

In keeping with these thoughts, an idea has been percolating in the back of my head on how to rethink our relationships with the living world. Ever since my kids went to kindergarten the world was split into animate and inanimate. I resented that.  It felt like doing damage to their spirit and souls. It went downhill from there. The world they lived in was sensate and animate and they could talk to a tree, a rock or an animal with no trouble. What if we continued to have that stance the the living world. Many cultures do, so why not this culture that decides so much of the fate of the planet?

My wish going forward is to be mindful how we speak of the living things that are not human, without rendering them dead or taking away their agency with the strike of the small word “it”.  Here is a piece to inspire you by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I heard her speak of this a while back:

“Inspired by the grammar of animacy in Potawatomi that feels so right and true, I’ve been searching for a new expression that could be slipped into the English language in place of it when we are speaking of living beings. Mumbling to myself through the woods and fields, I’ve tried many different words, hoping that one would sound right to my leafy or feathered companions.
…With full recognition and celebration of its Potawatomi roots, might we hear a new pronoun at the beginning of the word, from the “aaki” part that means land? Ki to signify a being of the living earth. Not he or she, but ki. So that when the robin warbles on a summer morning, we can say, “Ki is singing up the sun. Ki runs through the branches on squirrel feet, ki howls at the moon, ki’s branches sway in the pine-scented breeze, all alive in our language as in our world.”

With her permission I would like to adopt this generous and aware word ki. I invite you to join me in your own way of acknowledging the animate and sensate world around us: all our kith and kin, where kith used to mean the land and living earth and kin is all our relatives.

Wishing you all a lighter step and breath in 2023. Let’s hope it is healthier and saner from the last few. And let it be more animated and alive with the respect each living being deserves. We will not be here without this circle of relations and life that made it possible.

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