Adventuring with Ki/Kin

Ki/Kin for the living beings of Earth - art by Jane Valencia
Ki/Kin for the Living Beings of Earth – art by Jane Valencia

This post follows my first: Pronouns for the Beings of Nature – I’m using Ki/Kin

I’ve been musing about how to adapt ki and kin to possessive, objective, reflexive. As I use ki/kin and seek to expand the usage, I find myself inspired by the fact that I use a singular “they/theirs” so as to step outside of he/she (an example is “Each child will choose their book.”). I also find myself inspired by Northern Flicker’s call (“keer”), which I frequently hear these days outside my home and around our island.

As a result of both the usage and the sound, I find myself speaking like this:

Deer moved slowly across the yard. Ki turned toward me. Kir ears flicked. There ki is! Those hoofprints are kis.

Yes, I could have easily used gender pronouns for the deer. Let’s try it for Rainbow.

Rainbow spun outward from cloud and sunlight. Ki touched Earth. Kir colors brightened. There ki is! The sparkle on dew drops are kis.

Another example:

Kin dipped and soared over the yard. I called to kin. Kehr wings tipped in the sunlight. There kin are! That is kehrs.

Sometimes I find myself saying (drawing from some resonance from my study of Old English). “That is ki-held,” “that is kin-held” when working with some sense of belonging, intention, stewardship, but wanting to step away from the sense of possession/ownership in my language usage.

As I type all this blog post, my usage feels clumsy, ill-formed. But in my real-life practice with the beings I encounter, my words feel more like play, like kneeding dough, or shaping clay. Expressing through gesture and sound something that I deeply feel connecting us, then smooshing that clay and shaping again. Not having to agree with anyone yet about particulars, I allow the forms to change.

Light is Returning - art
stamp art by Jane Valencia

I love the idea of opening our language, dancing with words, feeling where ki becomes alive and natural and tender – a truer reflection and expression of the magic I experience and hope to share as we renew and deepen our relationships with one another in every ripple of being.

Words are a storytelling. When we shape language together, we enter a story weaving. A renewed tale for our times about who we really are within this vibrance and tapestry that is Life.

I wonder what story I may discover if I request ki/kin usage for myself.

Do you use ki/kin? What language or  respect do you offer to our more-than-human family in your daily life? Do you feel like you’re trying on new shoes that haven’t shaped to you yet, or does your gesture feel natural, or some other feeling? Please share below!

Pronouns for the Beings of Nature – I’m using Ki, Kin

Spiral Stone - photo by Jane
Once upon a time, Human and Stone engaged in creative conversation with one another – Photo by Jane Valencia

As I’ve become more sensitive to the nature and choice of preferred pronouns, I’ve become more and more agitated about referring to a plant as “it,” or as “she” or “he” (though plants sometimes are monoecious, single gendered). For me, “it” does not convey the deep love and relationship I have for plants (or stones, or insects, or the clouds, the stars …). And “he”/”she” (for the sun and the moon, for instance) don’t convey the fact that some cultures view these beings in the opposite way — the sun as female, for instance, and the moon as male.

Recently I learned about ki/kin to refer to beings of nature, proposed to resolve just this disconnect in our language — a disconnect that reinforces the notion that beings of nature are objects, and it’s okay to treat them that way, to buy and sell them, to be careless, to consume them without thought and regard. In searching for more about these pronouns and their intention, I came upon this beautiful essay by Robin Wall Kimmerer for YES! Magazine:
Nature Needs a New Pronoun: To Stop the Age of Extinction, Let’s Start by Ditching “It”

If you’re new to Robin Wall Kimmerer, you’re in for a treat. Read this, then pick up her book  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants for more beauty, wisdom, and powerful teachings that, I think, can ignite ideas for many of us around how we individually and on a societal level can engage quite differently with the natural world, the Sacred, and with each other. Ourselves, too, for that matter.

As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:

We don’t need a worldview of Earth beings as objects anymore. That thinking has led us to the precipice of climate chaos and mass extinction. We need a new language that reflects the life-affirming world we want. A new language, with its roots in an ancient way of thinking.

She goes on to write that in her search for a word that would reflect the better world for which we wish, an elder  and guide in her indigenous Potawatomi language shared with her a word  for “beings of the earth.” This word led her to choose ki/kin. Really, read the article to discover the poetry and power of this idea. I can’t really do justice to what she describes. What I can say is that her journey with landing with ki/kin points to true sweet magic, the kind that brings me to astonished laughter or moves the earth of me to tears.

Here’s the magic for me: that the ancient and living word for beings of the earth has “ki” at the end. As I understand from the article, ki is part of the sound that means “land.” I note that ki in Japanese is “life force” (also, chi in Chinese). So there’s a resonance here in this use of that word.  Wall Kimmerer chooses a plural, kin. And that feels to me perfect, forming with ki, a beautiful chord.

Kin an English word that is about family and relationship. It feels right to me that our society which wreaks havok in so many ways can help to breathe respect, delight, and new life into our relationship with the beings of nature with this use of “kin.”

Salish Sea and Shore - photo by Jane
Clouds, setting sun, the shore, and opposite Peninsula, the Salish Sea and kin meeting. Kin. Photo by Jane Valencia

It’s difficult to introduce new words into one’s language. It’s difficult to rewire our automatic responses, woven from years of use and years of immersion in a certain societal mindset. But to me, it is so worth shifting my speech in this way, to speak of ki, to speak of kin: When I give paho to the plants and state my appreciations and intentions to kin. When I watch the deer and how kin move like clouds across the land. When I let the chickens out in the morning and feel our engagement with one another. They are kin. The creek splashing across stones is ki, just as ki is when skimming over sand and entering the Salish Sea. Stones are kin. The forest is kin. The Salish Sea is ki or kin. The sunlight dancing on the water is ki. I want myself to be ki/kin, woven of breath exchanged, with starlight and with salmon, with roots, and with feather. Ki is in my nature. I too am a being of this living earth.

As are you.

What words or language do you choose that celebrates life? That honors relationship and true nature? Please feel free to share here.

For more on the grammar of animacy by Robin Wall Kimmerer read: Speaking of Nature, published by Orion Magazine

Barred Rock Hen
Barred Rock Hen in the garden. She glances back from California Poppies and Rosemary. Kin are so vibrant. Photo – Jane Valencia

Welcome to my Library and Hello to your Dragon Nature

I’ve started a personal library! It’s called the Greenwood Library in Forest Halls. The first book I scanned into the collection was the children’s herbal fantasy, Wise Child, (wise woman Juniper also plays the harp!) and the first book loaned is Flowers and Fables: a Welsh Herbal (both pictured here). You’re invited to browse the library. I’ll be adding many more items over the coming weeks — so easy to do with the app on my phone! Loans are available to on-islanders and other local folk. If you live out of the area (as many of you do), I hope this library will point you to some of the great resources that are available out in the world.

Greenwood Library "Firsts"
First book  entered into the system, first book loaned. Bookmarks are serve as reminders that these are library loans.

My 11-year-old self is in heaven. As a sixth-grader abandoned at the start of the school year by my until-then best friends (who, during the previous summer, had embarked on a mission to become popular), I deepened my friendship with the girl across the street. We spent  many recesses, lunch hours, and after school hours reading and imagining together, and much of that time was in our school library. My best friend Jenny had been helping the librarian with the circulation cards. When Jenny shared this part of her world with me and I started helping too, well, that opened the door to a new kind of awesomeness!

With my library, with its online catalog linked to the global world of books, my twenties self is in heaven too. The jobs I loved most as a young adult were the years I worked as a Library Specialist in Interlibrary Services at the Stanford University’s Green Library. My work involved tracking down and retrieving books and making photocopies of articles from the myriad campus libraries and from Green Library’s mysterious stacks and labyrinthine regions (some so little used and remote that you had to snap on the lights when you entered some  areas, and snap them off when you left).

And quite happy too, thank you very much, is my inner dragon and voracious lifelong learner self who has always loved books, gathering information, and prowling the long shadowed corridors of the anima mundi, nudging open the compact shelving of the heart with secret words, and discovering the hidden treasures that nestle within each one of us and which glimmer and ring with the true nature that is the world.

It seems that with the opening of this library, I’m saying yes to my imagination. So here is fair warning to you, and an invitation. With the opening of this library, I dedicate this blog to fully expressing my magical life and peculiar take on this world, and to welcoming you into a story of myth and medicine, true nature and kindness. This walk through the woods and words, however, isn’t a one-directional path. It, I hope, is a conversation, a polyphonic and polyrhythmic musical improvisation, a reciprocal sharing of resources in terms of tales and imaginings and illuminations, such as is enjoyed in book and article form by the research libraries for whom I once served.  I look forward to hearing your stories, your ways of perception, the heart of the world as it expresses within your singular and beautiful dragon nature.

Water Snake Wonderings - art
Wonders at the Heart of our Nature – art by Jane Valencia

How is magic and sweet surprise alive and well in your world? How do you live it out in your daily life with family, friends, community, and with nature? How does your unique take on life and your way of being nourish the children, help heal culture, and better our world? How do you experience yourself as Nature, as a child of the earth, imagination, and the Sacred? How can you and I grow our magical nature — our medicine selves — in service to living out our responses to questions such as these? What are your dragon nature questions?

These wonderings are the waters from which this blog springs.

I invite you to record your musings in the comments box below.

Visit the Greenwood Library in Forest Halls here.

Books Are Magical Doors