Building Your Spiritual Home

Vermont and Nature

One of the best decisions we have ever made was to live a little closer to nature. When our younger daughter, Julie, was four, we bought a tent and tried camping. We were not too confident nor competent, so we began in our yard. The first night with the four of us in the tent was pretty successful, and exciting too. A large dog brushed up against the side of the tent as we were waking, and we pretended it was a bear, adding adrenaline to our experience. A while later, we camped in a neighbor’s yard. And finally at a State Park about ten miles down the road. We were now experienced. We began out of state camping.

When the kids were eight and six, we bought land near a friend’s house in Vermont, and began camping there, with our own stream nearby to serve as a refrigerator, bathtub and sink. We loved it, but noted that almost every weekend, Saturday morning at about 4 AM two things happened. One of the kids woke crying with a fever, and it also began to rain. This had happened in the State Parks too. We often just packed up and headed home after one night of some sleep. The tent was always soaked. We were pretty miserable. A few years into our Vermont experience, we built a wooden shelter, and said “let it rain”.

One sad night, while we were in Massachusetts, our shelter burned to the ground. It took us several years to decide to rebuild. By then, our children had grown up, and our family had grown with the addition of Brian, Laura’s sturdy and willing husband, so we built a 21x12 foot structure, working weekends all summer. The next summer, loving the process, we expanded to 21x24 feet. No electricity, no plumbing, no heat. Just a wooden shell. But were we proud and happy!

Living was very primitive, with a circle of stones for a stove, a hospital potty chair over a new hole each weekend, our dear stream for washing, no radio or TV. Very little protection from the weather. We lived at the mercy of nature. But we also lived in the midst of nature. We got good at finding snakes and newts, indian pipes, fish. We learned about the stars and constellations, we saw fireflies, we learned about clouds. We did lots of hiking and learned the joy of trail mix. Instead of TV, Linda read us stories like “Watership Down”. In short we felt like we were in heaven.

One of the big advantages was that this living lessened our preoccupation with our country’s destruction of the environment. Our kids felt safe in Vermont, and saw this land as offering a retreat from threats of nuclear attack and pollution, fears so prevalent then. More important, and relevant, we slowed down, and we all gained a sense of Nature’s pace
and its awesome power. It helped us to see ourselves in a new perspective.

Nature was a most reliable and generous mother, even if it did rain and thunder at us. The abundance of life around us, the lushness of the fields, made clear to me the nurturant capacity of the God force. On a sunny day, I could not help but feel how kind and fertile were the forces of sun and soil in which everything grew is such abundance. When I think of how God loves and nurtures us, the visual image is always the lush meadows of Vermont.

I began to see God’s work in a fuller way: when a tree died and became earth again, it didn’t seem tragic. We were aware of the cycles of dying and rebirth that we witnessed every year. Death became more a part of life, not an attack on it. My sense of man’s cruelty was in a new perspective. We saw trees struck by lightning, injured animals, animals hunting animals, all the destructive force that, in civilization, seemed so “bad”. In Vermont, we left the value judgments behind, and I came to see God as embracing all of life, not just the pretty part.

Finally, Vermont taught us all how little it takes to be perfectly happy. Getting up with the sun, foraging for firewood, cooking eggs and coffee, resting in hammocks from all that effort, hiking, reading, bathing in the stream, cooking supper, looking at the stars, hoping for a shooting star, these are the substance of our life there. And it is more than enough. After a week in Vermont we are thrilled to get back to our shower, and we would not do well in the cold of winter up there, but the simplicity of life in the woods is startlingly agreeable.


1) What experiences have you had living closer to nature?
2) What did you like about them?
3) What did you dislike?
4) Do you have ways of getting away from the busyness of your life?

 

CHAPTERS

GET A LIFE
THE JOY OF A DEPRESSED MOTHER
OPENING MANY DOORS
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH ANGER
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
GIVING UP CONTROL
MARRIAGE AS A CHANGE AGENT
STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT LIFE
VERMONT AND NATURE
TO HELL WITH DIGNITY
COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD
DOUBLE VISION
WHAT SHAPES LIFE
DISMANTLING SELF
TOLERATING GOD’S LOVE
MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOD

 

 

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