On July 31st, 2013 I was headed back from Seward Park in a sweaty van with a bunch of gregarious fellow camp instructors when the phone rang. It was my relator Rick, letting me know the keys for the double wide were in his office, along with the final copy of my bill of sales for a 9.8 acre parcel outside of Duvall, WA. At that moment, a huge clap of thunder split the air and Rick and I both paused in stunned silence as the rolling continued through its momentous roar. There was no rain, just the break in what had been an extremely tense day of mounting dark clouds.
The release of the heavens came as my shoulders felt the weight of this new responsibility and the commitment to a vision taking very real form. In that thunderstorm, I walked the land for the first time as its steward. Lighting flashed in celebration, as I danced, along with two friends, who witness my celebratory greeting in tears, to the trees, stream, grasses, and all the thriving life of the land that had so captured my heart. Here now I would have a home, place, and footing to start on an epic quest to cultivate abundance for the future needs which are fast approaching as we the people continue to grow.
Giving has been instilled in me by the generosity I have received from others in this life. Such abundance motivates me to cultivate place for more abundance to give. Finding that expect place, and figuring what I would do one there, has reached full fruition over the past two decades. Location is everything, and Washington has everything in my vision from diverse ecosystems suited to human habitation and thriving, to openminded people with a more progressive outlook on the world. There are glaciers, ocean, forests, rainforests, deserts, dunes, rivers, lakes, and about any natural feature you can imagine in the topography. Washington has a strong Native population of First Nations, a close tie with Canada, and a rich tradition of agriculture alongside the worlds greatest tech industries. The possibilities and opportunities are endless!
My personal relationship with Washington State started with a visit to the greater Seattle area when I was still in high school. A good friend, Brad Sacs, invited me for a week to visit and see the spectacular Pacific Northwest. I remember stepping off the plane into what felt like the Jurassic Era. Huge trees towered above and the thick underbrush was packed with berries and strange plant life with giant lush leaves. To an Oklahoma girl from a wind swept grassland, this was the jungle! My other strong memory from that first visit was Snoqualmie Falls. I’d never seen a waterfall that big. It was such a magical visit, I had no idea at the time that one day, that waterfall, the river, the trees, and all that is western Washington, would one day become home.
I would go through several more years of school on The East Coast, and spending all of those summers working in some kind of outdoor educational employment from The Central Park Conservancy in NYC, to The Vermont Wilderness School in Brattleboro Vermont. The passion for learning in an outdoor environment was compelling, for me, and everyone I worked with, wether students or instructors, we were all learning together. I took this phyilosaphy with me to The Pacific Northwest, when I chose to cotinue my education in naturalist training. I’d begun learning about eight shields mentoring from people like Jon Young and the ideas around nature awareness in cultivating an innate sense of self. So many young people were struggling with self identity and connecting in a world now boxing them inside in front of a screen. I wanted to help get people outside and awake, active and engaged, so I sought the best training in the most alternative, fun place I could find. That turned out to be Duvall, WA.
The Wilderness Awareness School’s 9 month Anake program fundamentally changed my understanding of the world through a close connection with nature. I already loved the outdoors, but until then, I had really thought most people just came out into the wilderness for camping, or hiking. It was a thrill to see so many people wanting to actually return to a more natural rhythm in their lives, and to want to explore that through nature based education. Anake offered a sort of rewinding of the heart and soul through connective regeneration of self in the learning journey. I’d spend much of my life outside, starting as a girl on horseback on The Great Plains of Oklahoma, and later in lazy New England Rivers, and the Green Mountains of Vermont, where I learned about Tom Brown’s journey in “The Tracker”, and began learning from a friend who had taken a standard class at The Tracker School.
Primitive skills were a gateway to creating the sense in me of self awareness and sufficiency, which has nurtured in me independence, creativity, and confidence. I saw how valuable this natural learning is, and began a journey to educate others, introducing them to their own inner power through the reflections of the natural world. The story of how nature helps us “find” ourselves has already been written about by many philosophers, scientists, and romantics, so I will stick to my own journey to what brought me to this land and what I am doing now to fulfill my dreams and the dreams of many others.
In spending time learning about survival in the wilderness, I began to better understand why there was a shift in humanity away from traditional hunter gatherer, to civilization and domestication. Security in numbers is real, survival alone is almost impossible in the long term. The basic needs, like shelter, food, and water, are best established and maintained through agricultural practices to sustain urban growth. World population dictates our reliance on engineered systems designed by bright minds. This is why learning is so important, for the future of our evolution as a species, we must continue to reinvent and expand our thinking to solve ever growing challenges faced by such a large and diverse culture.
This is what I am working on with the land. The people have spent a lot of time walking away form the wildness that once held them. This was innovative, but also a sacrifice in so many ways. Where we once turned to nature for sustenance in sacred relationship, we now demanded it on our terms, and we force the land into submission through tilling, seed selection, and mass deforestation for the sake of maintaining an ever increasing population, which is being raised with the notion of entitlement, which the earth can no longer support. Maybe we all need to take a moment to go back and read “The Giving Tree”, because the people have forgotten generosity, and now only take to survive.
In a world of scarcity, there is never enough. In a world of abundance, there is always more than enough. Let’s cultivate abundance! For me, that looks like literally planting seeds in the earth and growing food. This recourse is a basic need, and one that’s a real challenge to find on a wild landscape (trust me). Our ancestors had endless land and ocean to wander, today, what’s left of the wild spaces in the country is either privately held, or too small to support a large number of foragers. So, we have to cultivate land and continue to advance our understanding of how to stay ahead of consumption by making more.
Nature is finite, like us, like everything. The illusion is this belief that the people can keep reaching, and something will be there, and that’s not the truth for MANY people. For those who think it is, please take a moment to ask if you really need to reach, and what you must put back in its place. Truly, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. (a quick note on this theory, opposite does not mean the negative in all cases, sometimes, it might be referring to a reflection, or maybe even, the vibrational response, a returning wave) But there is a return, and in this capitalist illusion, we call it profit, bur at what actual cost? On the land, when I want food, that literal consumption of one thing to sustain another, I take life, with my own two hands, from the field, forest, water, the land. That’s as real as it gets, and I would like to encourage others to experience this, and understand: when you take, it feels good because a need is met, but someone else has to give for you to take, please give a heck of a lot, because if you are able to sit here and read this, you already have so much.
Giving time is the most valuable place to start; what is eating most of your time? What is that time giving back? In my own life, giving time to being outside was the pivotal connector and inspiration to enact change in my self. This is why encouraging the people to be outside is crucial in forming good relationship with self, and place. I found land that wants to be productive, with the right stewarding, to give what I can from a place that is held with intension, vision, and a lot of love.That place was Washington, because the temperate climate and abundant waters offer abundant recourses and mild climate for thriving life. This makes my intension to grow food seemingly easier to fulfill, though a drought this summer has made that path a little rockier then expected.
The land is also located in a place where people are awake and active on a grassroots scale for me to know personally, and support. There is a Main Street with a coffee shop (more than one) where people gather in the morning to talk and exchange ideas. Our local library is a happening place, and the used bookstore thrives. There are influxes of people arriving in the area, continuing to diversify and expand the population with new energy. New housing at the farm will offer some more affordable places to rent, stretching available resources that have already been developed, leaving other wilder places free of new building. Shelter is another basic need, and world population is going to demand it in the billions. Get ready!
I know that this land can offer great abundance in so much, but food is my other personal quest. Maybe the country’s big agricultural industry is not the best place to invest in the future of our food and health. In working with the wonderful wisdom: “let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food”, I felt that beyond merely connecting people to the land through conscious exploration and questioning, it would also be a service to cultivate connection into the soil its self, and ask in return for sustenance, we will tend, as we have done in union with the earth, since the people began.
In moving forward, places and people are constantly inventing, defining, and shaping the course of our reality through action, which creates reaction. If we are not reacting fast enough… this is where the work comes in, but where to start? The race began when you realized your first conscious thought. Keep thinking, it’s as fresh as your mind, and might make you forever young. More lessons two years of observing in one place had gifted me, time, grace, practice, self, food and medicine I grew and tended with intension, craft, confidence, intension, intension, intension.
Gratitude for the journey and place, may the work continue and the lessons abound! Thank you people, land, water, sky, birds and bees, all the creepy crawly things, all that is seen and unseen, and to the vision which guides us in love and peace,
Liz Crain, owner and steward of Leafhopper Farm