Happy Pi Day everyone! I usually say that four is my favorite number when asked, but I think 3.14 might be the best number because pie:

chocolate chip cookie pie

Yes, this is a deep dish cookie pie, modified from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe. What a world we live in when what is basically a giant chocolate chip cookie can also be a pie! And of course we had it with a scoop of vanilla coconut ice cream.

It was a bit of an exhausting whirlwind sort of week. The wind outside was gusting hard almost everyday and rarely was it in my favor (ha! see what I did there?). Biking into a 13 mph headwind with gusts exceeding 20 mph is a lot of work. Monday and Tuesday afternoon temperatures ticked up to about 60F so I got to bike home in shorts. My legs have not seen sunlight since early October and it was utterly glorious.

Then Wednesday it rained. It was just a light rain on my way to work, so I was more damp than wet when I arrived. But on the way home I got caught in a downpour. I wear a rain jacket but I don’t have rain pants. My torso was dry when I got home but the rest of me was soaked. Since I was going home, I was able to actually enjoy the rain thumping in big drops on my helmet and back because there were cozy, dry clothes and James making a warm dinner at the end of it. Another good rain like that and the streets will be washed clear of salt and I can put my winter bike away and get zippy on my summer bike. I am really looking forward to that!

Yesterday I spent a little over five and half hours on the bike trainer riding 109 miles on Zwift’s Prudential Ride London course with some friends and a couple thousand other people from all over the world. I virtually rode the course last June by myself and completed it in about six hours and ten minutes. With all the people riding it together there was lots of opportunity to draft, which helped me save energy and go much faster at the same time. 

The week hasn’t been all about the biking though. For Women’s History Month the university where I work had a special lecture by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. The subject of her lecture was what we owe the Earth. And, as you might expect if you have read her book, was marvelous.

In addition to the lecture, Dr. Kimmerer led a workshop on writing environmental justice the evening before. Thanks to a coworker who kindly recommended me (hi Paddy!), I was selected to be among the 30 people in the workshop. Dr. Kimmerer is such a kind, generous, and thoughtful woman. She talked a little about her approach to writing, which takes the form of a medicine wheel containing the elements of body, mind, emotion, and spirit. These represent different ways of knowing, none of which is more important than any other, and they all need to be present in order for the writing to be whole. This also offers different pathways for a reader to enter the story.

Then she talked about language. If you have read “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” in Braiding Sweetgrass, you will have an idea of what she said and why. Essentially, in her native Potawatomi language, there are very few nouns because her culture sees everything imbued with life and agency from rocks and mountains to plants and animals. They are all persons, not things like in English. English is a language of nouns with which we very easily objectify beings into things, the consequence of which is moral exclusion. When you objectify a tree from a living being into a thing—“it”—you then have no moral obligation, no reciprocal relationship, and you can do what you want with it because it is just a thing.

Then followed a long discussion of pronouns and a proposal. What would happen if instead of calling a tree or a butterfly or a deer or any more-than-human being “it” we say “ki” instead? Ki, implies “being” and is snipped from bmaadiziaki, a word meaning earth being. It conveniently also has a sound relationship in English with “kin,” which she proposes as a plural form of ki.

Then we had a writing exercise. Dr. Kimmerer put up a slide of a field of asters and goldenrod and monarch butterflies flitting among the flowers. Write about what we see using ki and kin as pronouns, no “it” allowed. Then we talked about how that went, how it made us feel, whether it changed the way we thought about butterflies and flowers. I ended up imagining what the aster felt–tickly butterfly feet and a slurpy butterfly tongue giving ki a kind of wet willy. Try this one yourself and see what happens. Let me know how it goes!

Dr. Kimmerer called ki and kin “pronouns of the revolution” and said if we can change the language, we will be able to shift how we relate to the world. If we can do that, then we just might be able to save ourselves and our kin from climate change destruction.

This is not the first time I have heard about ki. Dr. Kimmerer has been speaking and writing about pronouns for several years now. For a much more coherent and thorough explanation of ki in her own words instead of my interpretation, read her article at Yes! Magazine, Nature Needs a New Pronoun: To Stop the Age of Extinction, Let’s Start by Ditching “It”.

I am going to take Dr. Kimmerer up on her proposal and begin using ki as a pronoun for non-human persons. I suspect I will fumble for a while until I get used to the pronoun. But it seems the right thing to do, especially in this time when we are so aware of pronouns for people, why not expand our inclusiveness to the more-than-human too? As Dr. Kimmerer mentioned in the workshop, the circle of the medicine wheel includes the whole of Earth.

11 thoughts on “Pi is the Best Number

  1. That pie looks absolutely delicious – I hope you guys thoroughly enjoyed it! What a fascinating talk that must have been with Dr. Kimmerer. I hope you’ll let us know how your use of “ki” is going.

  2. That sounds amazing: what a wonderful opportunity you’ve had. And if you can put those principles into action, you’re widening the circle of her influence. Wonderful. The pronoun makes me think of a very small book I read recently, with some very big ideas, including the idea of rivers being grandparents: Ailton Krenak ideas to Postpone the End of the World. There are only three essays in there, and they are very short, but they would build nicely with your experience with Kimmerer.

    1. If feel so lucky to have attended the workshop BIP! Kimmerer is such a kind, generous person. I imagine her botany students love her. Thanks for the book recommendation! None of my local libraries have it so I placed and ILL request 🙂

  3. That sounds like a wonderful workshop and I love the idea of “ki.” I’m going to try and use it and see how that makes me feel.

    That cookie pie looks AMAZING. Going to check out the original recipe now.

  4. A chocolate chip cookie pie. Why have I never heard of this before?! That looks amazing! Anyway, belated welcome to your new online home, Stefanie. Hope you’re settling in OK and getting everything fixed up the way you want it.

    I love the point about pronouns. “It” is definitely a good way of turning a being into an object, which can then be mistreated or destroyed without remorse. It’s interesting how we often use “he” or “she” for animals we care about, like pets or even wild animals that look “cute”. But others, which we want to reserve the right to kill or spray with chemicals or whatever else, are “it”. Language is so powerful, and changing it is a difficult process, but it can be done. I hope ki takes off.

    1. Thanks Andrew! Someone in the workshop remarked on how we don’t hesitate to use he and she for out pets and give them agency but we can’t quite find a way to stretch that boundary. Language is very powerful and I too hope the pronoun takes off. What a wonder that would be!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: