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Eating will not be a mean occupation, but an act consummated with soul and spirit, for [we shall] know that everything we eat is the external form of something spiritual . . . Why have the initiates of all ages urged people to say grace before eating? The grace should be a token of the recognition that, together with the food, something spiritual enters into [us]."

 Rudolf Steiner

-Universe, Earth and Man.--Lecture III

Stuttgart, August 6th 1908

Growing Up In Nature

      I grew up on a dairy farm in Virginia with parents who allowed my three brothers and me to spend entire days freely roaming the pastures and woods. As the only girl, I often ended up playing alone. Yet in the presence of sprawling Kentucky Coffee trees, gurgling creeks, and elegant Holstein cows, I was never lonely. 

 

 Without anyone to "talk to," I developed my intuitive ability (that all children have) to communicate with other life forms. In these moments of stillness, I experienced nature as much more than mere bark, fur, and molecules.

 

     In states of deep presence with other beings, I connected to something much more powerful within them, something that held no words for me as a child. As I stood before trees, they reached out to me by calling in the wind and as their leaves gently swayed, I felt my heart shiver joyfully.

 

     I simply figured as a child that God didn't live in the confines of a church but outside among the clouds, forests, and flowers. Of course, since "everyone knew that this is not the way reality worked," I was told that I had a big imagination.

     

     Now, I know that the deep sense of peace, aliveness, and unconditional love that I felt in different life forms was actually the very nature of the universe itself, "Source intelligence," "God," "The Great Spirit," "the One of many names," inherent in all the life around me. When I connected to this through a physical being, I discovered my own true nature that was above and beyond my ordinary self in this life.

 

     I never lost touch with this inner feeling as I grew up and I never doubted the true nature of Nature I had experienced. Yet in a world that defines knowing as an accumulation of information derived from memorizing, calculating, and analyzing, there was no place for my indefinable, immeasurable, intuitive experiences.

 

     As an adult, I spent the rest of my life trying to get back to this experience; trying to find what I already knew as a child. I traveled far and wide and worked on different kinds of farms, thinking that farming itself was what I was looking for. Then, while hiking in the Cascade Mountains with Tim, my future husband, I had a profound communication experience with an old-growth tree that reconfirmed this childhood knowing. It led me to want to pursue an emerging field of study called, "spiritual ecology."

 

After that, I spent seven years getting a PhD in human ecology/ anthropology in an attempt to understand humans' spiritual connection to nature. However, in the world of the dissecting mind, I never found the answers I sought.

 

      Years later, Tim and I came back to Virginia and started Davis Creek Farm. Slowly, through my immersion in nature, this deep inner knowing resurfaced. It took me a long time to trust, honor, and work with this unquantifiable feeling sense that has no place in the very formal education that I myself was steeped in.

 

     Over the eighteen years I've spent here in this beautiful hollow with my husband and three boys, I've had the great privilege to work with so many plants and animals. All these beings that have lived on the farm, the cows, chickens, pigs, horses, snakes, plants, and insects . . . have patiently tolerated our mistakes and ignorance. They have graciously taught me what it means to live harmoniously in the flow of life and death.

 

     In moments of pause when I've stopped trying to farm or "do," or when I've given up in complete frustration and surrendered to the life around me, I have remembered what I felt so deeply as a child in the woods. Nature is more than just fur, bark, scale, and feather. It is intelligence, "consciousness" or "spirit" cloaked in myriad forms. Whatever word you choose, the genetic, evolutionary biological packages that we call trees, cows, bugs, or the land have another deeper layer to them that can be accessed, "communicated with" or "aligned to". Doing so can create greater harmony between humans and nature. It can also help us heal our "broken hearts," and it is immensely joyful.

 

      Since moving back to the farm, I have begun exploring spiritual/religious traditions and atheistic/humanistic consciousness studies in search of confirmation of these experiences. Once I moved past the archaic language in religious texts, I found that my intuitive experiences of nature were confirmed in as many different ways as there are of expressing what is "divine": God, the Great Spirit, Krishna, the One, the Way, the formless . . . . Whatever word used, they all point to the same thing: This "divine," unseen, formless intelligence, this state of absolute peace and love is inherent in all forms of life, including us.

 

     What this means in a practical sense is that we can work with nature on the level of consciousness rather than as a collection of objects. Now, I continue to farm with my family, while developing my "communication" skills with the life all around me. This requires that we shift our awareness and refocus into a state of timelessness. I believe that anyone can relearn "our first language"--an inherent part of all life on this planet. I hope that you will join me in discovering your birthright: A true state of "Oneness.' 

 

Elizabeth Van Deventer