In Kimmerer’s section on “Planting Sweetgrass” in the chapter titled “An Offering,” she relates the story of a ceremony she and her father participated in. It was not a Ceremony, big C, but it became their thing, this act of gratitude and the pouring of the first coffee of the morning into the soil.
She recounts how years later she asked him about this ceremony because as she started learning more of what had been forgotten, regarding her cultural identity and practices, she felt like what her father was doing was about giving an offering to the gods of Tahawus. For her it was a light at the end of the tunnel, that although they did not have the words of their ancestors, the ceremony was not forgotten. She asks her father if he learned it from his own father, and the generations before him. His answer was just no, but it seemed right.
If it ended there, at the fact that the pouring of the coffee was really to get the coffee grounds “plug” out of the boiled coffee so that it did not go into the cup, I think that would have been ok. It was a functional, practical “ceremony.” After all, coffee grounds are good for the soil, they had a purpose.
But it doesn’t end there. Her father thinks more on this question
‘But, you know,’ he said, ‘there weren’t always grounds to clear. It started out that way, but it became something else. A thought. It was a kind of respect, a kind of thanks. On a beautiful summer morning, I suppose you could call it joy.’
That, I think, is the power of ceremony: it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to prayer. (37)
As a native Hawaiian educator who has lost the ability to speak and think in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (it has been forgotten for three generations), I do not have the words for ceremony. I do not have the historical memory. But I do know that there are things that we do as a family that may seem mundane, practical (around gathering, fishing, etc.) but they feel right and they are things that we pass on to our children and grandchildren as ceremony.