I was raised in the most beautiful place on earth.
At least that’s how I see it right now as my 10 year old self. I’m talking about that one sweet moment, as a child, when you look around and think, “This is the most beautiful place on earth…”
What was your moment?
I’m standing in a grove of apricot trees in an old established orchard.
If I look to the east, I see the brown and blue, grey and beige, blending together into miles and miles of desert valley, reaching out into oblivion. Oblivion that is captured by a purple Mountain range in the distance whose silhouette always looks to me like a Native American man laying down on his back asleep and smiling - his hands resting upon his chest, knuckles making the rolling ridge that eventually leads to a beautifully shaped nose - known also as Notch Peak.
I turn 90 degrees to the South where there is a dirt road with a cattle guard disappearing on the horizon. I know this is my one path out into the world. My one mile of hilly, winding gravel that my bicycle tires have graced every inch of (not to mention my elbows and knees).
I turn again to the West and here is Heart Mountain, its gigantic snowy peak towering breathlessly over me, sending me the constant and consistent message that “all is well little beast, trust me, I come from the wise ones, I know.”
I turn once more turn to the North and drink in the deep hues and shapely, feminine mountain range of Mount Moriah. She reminds me that beauty is a feeling, not a thing.
The circle complete, I look up and take in the open blue sky. I look down and feel the Earth pulsing up my feet and legs. Scanning once more, but a little closer in: an inviting pond, green alfalfa fields, and all of our strange and exotic dwellings made from stone and cement, metal and wood. Elda Claire, the milk cow who can be just such a pain in the ass, a coop full of chickens who have been gossiping since well before sunrise. Pigs, horses, meat cattle, an orchard full of of fruit, and 3 big gardens protected by high fences to keep the deer out. A wood shed, a metal shed, and car port.
The Main House, the Centrum, the Main Lawn - meeting places for a community of people who know how to survive the silence and heartbreaking desolation of the desert.
Miles and miles of wild open space.
I was raised on the most beautiful place on earth.
My dog and I explore and explore and explore. My cat and I nap in the sun. And then there are always chores to be done.
I grew up on the most beautiful place on earth.
Every person here is striving to be their best selves. Every person here believes they can change the world by stepping away from capitalism and patriarchy and stepping closer to nature and God. Every person here is willing to sacrifice, striving to make the world a better place for their children and for other people’s children. Every person here cares about the future of the earth and humanity on it. There are artists and gardener’s, musicians and writers. There are philosophers and builders, thinkers and doers. And there are lovers. There are a lot of lovers.
We eat meals together every day and we build houses, we weed gardens, prune trees and dig ditches. Twice a day we milk the cow and then we make butter and cream and cheese. We tend beehives and harvest honey.
We spend hours in the orchard getting stung by wasps as we pick fruit by the bushel and then more hours canning and drying and cooking in preparation for the winter. At the end of every day we sit in silence and listen to the stars and the crickets.
Yes, I grew up in the most beautiful place on earth.
I watch my mom and her best friend transform the lives of many of the children in this rural valley with their teaching. I watch them bring creative, intelligent curriculum to everyone regardless of race, gender, economic status or religious beliefs.
I watch my dad hold sacred space for endless travelers who are looking for a place to heal and feed their souls. I watch him show them over and over that the only place they need to go to find peace, is within.
I attend weddings and births, festivals and funerals.
I play endlessly with my cousins, friends and brother - the land is a wild and dangerous Disneyland with endless opportunities for creative play, art and work. The adults are ready and willing to teach us any and everything they know.
We grew up in the most beautiful place on Earth.
When childhood left me, we left the community. It wasn’t just our family, it was the 90’s. Communes all over the globe that were started in the 60’s began to fold in on themselves (if they hadn’t combusted already). It became more difficult to stretch a dollar and some had to find work outside of the farm, some had definitely had enough of hermetic life and longed for the excitement of the city, some were simply ready to move on. Over the years, I watched this precious place dwindle.
Today it is on his deathbed.
I find myself going there in my dreams, tending to this farm as if I am sitting by the bedside of an old great, great grandparent, listening to the last wheezing breaths and praying for peace and ease. It’s sad but it is also sweet and I’m filled with so much love and gratitude for what that place gave me, I don’t have words…
I’m living with so many conflicting feelings. I know this is the natural order of things. I know everything has its time. All things are born, live and die. This the the cycle of life.
But selfishly, I don’t want this idea of “home and refuge” to go away. I don’t want it to leave me on the earth alone without it.
Enter stage right, my darkest thoughts and worries:
“Where are we suppose to go now? Where will we go to experience such immense wisdom and joy, community and healing, redemption and growth? In these times of such intense upheaval, where are people going to find refuge? To search for their highest selves or to just take a breath and drink in the beauty of the earth and each other? Where can we work hard and then meditate? Where can we strive in the physical world and then sit back into the spiritual world? Where are people going to go to learn that now?”
I am afraid. For all of us. We grew up in the most beautiful place of earth.
But I can not stay inside fear for too long, so I train my mind to go elsewhere. I start to focus on all the people who grew up there and what we are doing today:
One own’s a house in Denver and it’s always filled with people. She and her husband take in anyone, and lead through example how to be healthy and happy: physically, mentally and spiritually.
Another started a nonprofit, bringing art programs to children in rural areas, offering the exposure of many cultures to what can sometimes feel like a mono-cultured existence. She opens eyes and expands minds and gives children a place to BE.
Another has dedicated his life to protecting the natural world by being a voice and advocate for the Earth when She can’t speak up for herself. He’s been on the front lines facing contractors, builders, and the bigger-better-faster more model. He’s brought in his wisdom of ecosystems and the natural order process, showing people where it is smartest to build.
One bakes and decorates the most amazing cookies and runs a business dedicated to making people smile.
One saves lives. She’s a paramedic and goes out into the world every day and she saves peoples lives. Then she comes home and loves her lover hard and then she gets up the next day and does it again and again and again. Even in these times when it would be so easy for someone in the medical profession to throw their hands up in the air, bang their head against the wall. She just keeps coming back to doing what she CAN do. She’s like a sunshine or sunflower.
Another has a house full of dogs, chickens and children: blood, foster, adopted - you name it, she's got your back! Over the years she has given countless people a home, especially when they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
I bring music, art and spirituality in a way that teaches that joy comes first, that there is no such thing as a wrong note and that everyone has magic inside them just waiting to come out. I help people who are intuitive and spiritually in-touch feel like they’re not going crazy when they realize their power. I help people remember to breathe.
Each of us is providing that same kind of beautiful refuge we received as children growing up on the most beautiful place on earth. Each of us has created our own "most beautiful place.” Each of us is sharing it where and when we can. We have taken the gift of that wise old farm and we have paid it forward in droves. We ARE the wisdom and joy now. We ARE community and healing, reemption and growth. In these times of such intense upheaval, WE are finding and offering refuge. We are searching for our highest selves. We are taking a breath and drinking in the beauty of the earth and each other.
Each of us is a seed...
You don't need a utopian commune to do this. You just need to remember one moment when you felt like you were standing in the most beautiful place on earth.
So this is the task.
The task not just for the people from my tiny childhood commune, but the task of every person who gives a shit about the future of this planet. Each of us must look into our past and remember just one moment as a child when we really felt like “this is the most beautiful place on earth.” Each if us has a story of this. Each of us have to take that memory as a seed and plant it in our hearts, deep.
Water it. Take it out in the sun. Whisper your dreams to it. Tend to it. Most importantly share it…. Because in 100 years I want my great, great, great granddaughter to be able to stand in a grove of apricot trees and think.
“This is the most beautiful place of earth”
* Disclaimer! I want to make clear that not every day on my communal farm felt beautiful like this! There were plenty of tears, dysfunctional interactions and decisions, cloudy days and shadow moments. There were plenty of times when I wished I was somewhere else - ANYWHERE else. There were plenty of times I could not not see the beauty for the trees (or in my case, the sagebrush). This is just speaking to that one sweet moment when everything feels perfect - if only for a second. What was your moment? How are you going to pay it forward?