Living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle begins with connection and relationships to the land. I allow the lines to blur between reality and imagination a bit when following nature’s lead; often, that’s where a path begins to reveal itself to me.

By path, I mean, way.

A glimmer, which appears as something brighter or more interesting catches my attention — I take note of the glimmer, and move forth, paying close attention to the internal signals I perceive, using them to guide my conscious choices. I have come to call the path of these inner sparks an emergent map (I’ll write more about this soon).

Recently I visited Mt. Lassen in Lassen National Park, an active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range in Northern California, not far from the infamous Mt. Shasta.

Most areas have a particular energetic quality, and this is where my sense of connection to a land begins. The Cascade Mountain Range emits a dynamic quality, reminiscent of clarity and peak states of consciousness. Some of the cascading waterfalls in the range remind me of a great goddess. Imagining her presence brings a reverent quality to my way of being when in Nature.

Although I’ve never been to the Appalachian Mountains, I imagine much of the folklore and love for the mountain range attributes to a resonant feeling detectable by people who feel connected to the land. For me, the Cascade Mountain range feels like divinity with notes of mysticism and awakening, which feels persistent in the atmosphere.

Alpine regions like Lassen connect me to some past way of life — both of this current life and that of something older, beyond the life I’ve known presently. A more ancient awareness as if my connection to these mountains spans eons sparkle in my mind’s eye, producing a bit of that glimmer I mentioned earlier.

Getting a Bit Closer

I harvested Mullein herb while in the Lassen region, which grows profusely there. While thinking about the medicine I could make with the plant, an alpine essence mingled in my awareness and spoke to me of a unique energetic signature that is present in these particular plants, specifically of the ones that have grown in this region. Though I am a novice plant whisperer, I understood signature when the two braids of energy (mullein and alpine) were presented to me through the crisp, late spring morning wind, revealing a balancing essence of stabilizing receptivity.

Julia Graves, author of The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures wrote that energetic resonance explains how plants heal ailments for people and animals. The shape of plants is due to the formative energetic forces of those plants which can be perceived through clairvoyant and clairsentient means (Graves, 2012). When connecting and relating with Nature, I allow my imagination to reveal the energetic forces of plants as I come to know them. By jotting them down in my journal, I keep track of my ongoing study of a plant.

I do not know much about plant signatures, save for a small bit of reading I have done that has yet to make its way into my full understanding. I tend to meet the plant first before reading anything about it. In this way, I have primed my mind for what information to look for by having already familiarized myself with the plant in the real world.

I collected a large handful of mullein leaves with plans to dry them and make a base oil for homemade ear drops and skin salves for my families use.

We are just a few weeks officially into summer by way of Gregory’s calendar, and my leaves are ready for the next stage in processing. Shortly the leaves will be crushed with a mortar and pestle and sitting for several weeks in a wide-mouthed canning jar of oil. The medicinal compounds will infuse the golden oil, silently transferring nature’s healing code into a form usable for our family.

Rising Awareness

When collecting herbs, collecting eggs from chickens, getting meat from a hunt, or fish from a stream, an awareness regarding sustainability naturally rises as conscious thought.

I become mindful of taking just what I need and giving credence and recognition back to Nature for providing it to me.

When I gather and process the various lifeforms for our family’s use, I use less and am more careful about using everything I can from the lifeforms. Doing so causes me to be more mindful about everything I do because a particular kind of sacred efficiency rises in my awareness. Naturally occurring knowledge about sustainable practices does not have to be taught. It more or less happens and is a consequence of doing the work of gathering and processing with my hands.

When I can buy something from the market, say, an herbal tincture, for instance, there is a subtle awareness in my thoughts that I can easily replace the product if I damage it, overuse it, or misplace it.

While not proud of this way of thinking, I notice it as a product of convenience living.

Whereas when I make medicinal remedies, I am careful about the entire process, from collecting the raw material to processing it for use to storing it for future use, and even when choosing to use it.

Paying Attention & Noticing Subtly

The same carefulness and attention described when gathering herbs goes into the fish we catch for eating.

From the moment a fish is caught and brought out of the water, thru to cleaning and preparation for eating, I have a close eye on that fish all the way to my family’s dinner table, whether it goes straight there or into storing for later consumption.

Water-to-table fish involves cleaning the fish, packaging, storing, preparing, serving, consuming it, and disposing of its bones and the parts we don’t eat (head, skin, bones, and fins), through composting. Each of these acts involves micro-processes that culminate into comprehending what it means to use sustainable living practices. Each of these acts also consists of using our hands, our attention, and our effort to see the proper handling through the work.

These micro acts of engagement feel sacred, and each fish caught receives praise for the offering it provides us. Giving reverence to the fish emerges naturally from the close handling of the fish from its habitat to our family’s use. These are components of being in relationship with the land and her inhabitants.

Yielding to the Emergence of Ethics in Sustainable Ways

And herein is where my choice to gather our food and medicine subtly begins to transform into an obligation to live lightly as a member of the natural world.

I’ve become aware through processes like gathering and using wild herbs and fishing in the rivers for sustenance, of the gentle, pervasive life-giving qualities of Nature. I have come to think of my relationship with Nature as having a sacred obligation to choose the more considerate, longer way of doing things.

The obligation at this point doesn’t feel like a burden, but rather an enlightened choice.

What’s more, I notice that by living this way, I feel more attuned with life, and more whole within myself. I feel at peace; open, accepting, present, and accountable to Nature. This way of being, creates a sensation, of an active, lived, kind of spirituality.

By each of us learning to listen and follow the ways of Nature, there is hope that we will once again find our way to living in right relationship with Nature, with ourselves, and even one another.

May we find our way…