Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lessons from Mother Earth

I recently shared a lovely picture book with my kids written by Elaine McLeod and illustrated by Colleen Wood called Lessons from Mother Earth. McLeod was born Mayo, Yukon and is a member of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation. This book tells the story of Tess, a five-year-old girl visiting her grandmother's cabin in the mountains. Grandmother decides to show Tess her "garden," which turns out to consist of the edible plants growing wild in the woods and meadows surrounding her home. They go for a walk with bucket and basket in hand, and Grandmother shows Tess where to find the plants and teaches her the proper way to gather from and respect the land. She explains that the plants are ready for harvesting at different times in the year, and that there is a balance to strike between harvesting too much or too little--too much and the plants won't produce for you again, too little and the plants will eventually wither and die. Grandmother also teaches Tess that she must care for the land which provides for her, never littering and being careful not to trample plants. "If you are careful and thankful, my granddaughter, our garden will care for you. There is plenty for everyone to share if we don't destroy the soil." Grandmother whispers her thanks to Mother Earth as she harvests and explains that her mother taught her about the plants, so we see the passing of the tradition to Tess. In the end, Tess has learned to be thankful for the Earth and all it provides, as well as the wisdom of her grandmother. This is a beautifully illustrated book, full of soft curves, warm and bright colors, and details (such as the many animals which follow and observe Tess and Grandmother as they harvest). Wood has a gift for portraying smiling faces--she gets the light and shadow just right. The story teaches a gentle lesson of respect and appreciation for Earth and the resources that we share with other creatures. It also provides a nice model of native spirituality, with reverance for Mother Earth and the Great Spirit.

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