Karl has been telling me for days there is something special about this place, something beyond what he sees. He is Latvian and is living in Switzerland to study and gain experience to eventually take back to his home country and start a community. With his environmental science degree recently completed, he is eager to find ways to apply what he has learned. After meeting a mutual friend/colleague at a Gaia Education training, he jumped at the opportunity to come to Damanhur and spend time in my nucleo community home to talk about the plant world and interspecies co-creation. Just like me, Karl to bring more nature in to the city and into the corporate world.
There is no easy way to describe where I live. The simplest term used to describe Damanhur in northern Italy is “spiritual ecocommunity”, but what we really are is a whole new society. We are a society based on the principles found in our constitution: solidarity, respect, collaboration, alchemy, and an understanding that there are many beings that inhabit this universe along with us. There are numerous books, websites, and videos that do a much better job describing Damanhur than I ever could, so let me take you back to Karl and why he came to see me.
On the day of Karl’s arrival, I gave him the customary tour of the roughly two hectares of our community. (As a quick aside, my nucleo community home is one of about 25 in Damanhur, which is why we are a federation of communities.) We started by seeing the house, in which live the majority of the 21 adults and three children that make up our family, then off to the pigs, chickens, rabbits, fruit orchards, wild herbs, and greenhouses that cover the land, but what impressed Karl the most was the Great Oak—the oldest tree at Damanhur—and the stone spiral near it.
I found out later that Karl had taken to sleeping out by the spiral. At night he would lie in his sleeping bag and count the falling stars, soaking up the energy of the area. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what he was feeling, but I knew what it was.
Most of the time, when you have a tree as old and as important as the Great Oak, in an attempt to create an adequate space around it, you forget that the tree is not human. You add benches close to the base, hang things from the branches—in essence, you bring your humanity in and around the tree without thinking of who else may already live there. Just as a walk in the woods often scares away the critters, your non-aware humanness can scare away many of the other beings that live in the area. Excessive hugs—remember, plants don’t have arms—careless stomping over roots, more sound that quiet… disturbances to the subtle energy flow strong enough to push the natural inhabitants deeper into the forest.
Lucky for my community, we have Pooka. My favorite way to describe Pooka is to say he is part human, part tree, and part nature spirit. Pooka designed and cleaned the area around the Great Oak to make it a place hospitable to all the beings that live there and visit. The benches are in a circular shape not around the Great Oak, but in a clearing in the terrace below and around a firepit that is far enough away to keep the branches safe from burns. In his cleaning, most of the trees that are part of the Oak’s family and friends were preserved, as was the underbrush shrubs that are both part of the natural family ecosystem and protect the soil from erosion. There is also a healthy amount of leaves to create new soil, while taking away excessive acidic chestnut leaves that come from the longtime companion of the Great Oak sitting below her, and damage the shrubs.
Beyond the plant world, there are the other inhabitants—those that have always lived there, such as the nature spirits, and those that have asked to move there, like the spiral. Each one of them has its place in this complex ecosystem, and Pooka made sure to ask their opinion and permission before making any changes. There are not many traveled places in the world where guests are readily invited into an ecosystem like this. In most places, out of fear and mistrust, many beings disappear at the first sight of someone new. But thanks to our spiral, the loving care of Pooka, and other connected inhabitants such as myself, we have created a safe space for interspecies communication to take place.
A good friend that lives deep in the Amazon recently came to visit, and as we walked up to visit the Great Oak, he was telling me about the incredible feeling he gets sleeping out in a hammock deep in the Amazon where all the mother worlds—human/animal, plant, nature spirit—are still united. “There are very few places I have found still like that,” he said in his thick Irish accent, “it is as if the nature spirits in particular still have a hard time trusting humans.” You can imagine my joy at seeing his face light up with the realization that such a place exists right here on our land. Even before seeing the Great Oak, he exclaimed, “Can you feel that? The nature spirits are still here in this area, and the spiral has joined the family!”
It has long been my dream to create more places like this, especially in our cities. The recent main-stream acceptance of studies on plant intelligence, the move toward biomimicry and bioutilization in urban and product development, the realization that biophilia is a real thing, makes me think that maybe I will get to experience more places like this in my lifetime, and not just in the middle of a remote forest. Maybe, just maybe, I will feel them in the local park around the community garden, in the school playground where children play in the soil, in the lush gardens of a corporate headquarters, and in backyards everywhere where they grow food, not lawns.
Do you also think it is possible? Because only when you do, will it be.