You may have noticed in my recent Instagram and blog posts that I use the terms ki and kin to describe the more-than-human.
While reading Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass as well as listening to her interviewed on my favorite podcast, On Being, I developed a great affinity for her work. Kimmerer is a professor, a community leader, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a brilliant writer exploring the intersection of science, culture, and intuitive knowing.
We know we're a part of the land with whom we dance. On a cellular level, transcending all politics or spiritual beliefs, we remember ki is a part of us; the physical and experiential representation that we are, indeed, one organism incarnate in multitudinous different bodies yet all dependent on Earth and Source.
These endurance practices that bring me into greater attunement with the natural world with whom, and as whom, I dance are practices of awakening. By assigning a dehumanizing, dead pronoun to them I place myself in hierarchical superiority to kin's unthinkable power and intelligence. That is false.
As we begin speaking and thinking about the natural world in terms permitted by speech that recognizes kin as yet another living being, other antiquated constructs also fall easily away; the paradigm of competitive achievement begins to look unnecessarily extractive to the athlete on a spiritual path of oneness; the notions of 'conquering' a mountain or 'devirginizing' a summit begin to feel as violent and non-consensual as they actually are.
By speaking about the land (snow, ice, owl, dirt, rock, trees, deer, all of them) as our equals, as co-creators in the mountain experience, we create space for beauty, connection, and recovery alongside the more-than-human and between each other.