• Danielle Cotter

I Follow the Path of the Ancient Ones; Nature is My Church

Updated: Jan 7

Our family recently moved to the woods in northern Minnesota. It was a decision prompted by the quarantine time I had spent contemplating my life, what I truly desired, and what was meaningful to me in this season of my life. I spent hours roaming the woods, gazing at the stars and moon, and appreciating the change in seasons. As I did so, I couldn't help but notice the ever present spiritual metaphor nature was offering me at any given moment. I began to see myself in the way the trees are both strong and graceful. I discovered how I, too, could make room for others the way the water in the lake does. I felt how forgiveness and warmth could wipe the slate clean, just like how the sun offers a new beginning each day.

As isolation from my city-charged life continued to swell and create space to listen to myself and surroundings, I began to unravel a deep-seated need to be closer to nature. I didn't just want to spend more time in nature, I wanted to crawl into the womb of mother earth and feel her heartbeat. Each day I wanted to feel dirt under my feet, instead of concrete. I wanted to get lost in the woods, feel the vibration of the trees, float in the lake, and hear silence that was only to be interrupted by singing birds, snapping sticks, and lapping water. The calling for a change continued to strengthen until it was being demanded out of me by the pulsing aura of nature that surrounded my being.

As I listened to my own intuition, the subtle yet firm voice undulating inside me, I learned that the answers to my questions often leapt out of the corners unsuspecting environments or in the stillest of moments; a shift in wind direction, an unexpected wave in the water, when the sun shined as it rained, the few silent moments before a big storm. All things that I have experienced before but missed because I was too busy, too rushed, and too tired to notice. As I listened to my inner voice, I began to see nature reflecting its wisdom back to me. It would guide me toward insight about my current state of being and gave me direction in where I needed to go next. I created a relationship with nature and I would allow it to speak to me. I would ask my question as I walked outdoors or looked out the window and just noticed what I saw, what distracted me, what thoughts I was thinking, what emotions I was feeling, etc. Then the "aha" moment would come, as if delivered by the wind itself. And just like that, I would have my answer.

I realize now that like a mirror, nature is reflective of how we see ourselves, how we feel about what we see, and gives us access to narratives that are barriers to feeling more connected to our own being and to others. I now cherish the moments when nature reveals her mirror to me, for that is the moment where I fully meet myself and arrive home.

The whole reason for my choice to leave life in the city and begin anew was rooted in a calling that came from somewhere bigger and brighter than me, and also came from within me. The voice took me by surprise on an outing with my children in the exact town we now call home. It spoke confidently and unwaveringly.

"You belong here," it said.

That voice never once wavered. Still though, I continued to look for the signs that I was on the right path. I never doubted the decision to move to a more remote and nature-filled area of the gorgeous state of Minnesota, and I could not ignore the obvious beacons of light showing up on my path to a new place to call home. One moment in particular stood out above the rest. On a journey to find "welcome home" gifts for each family member, I came across a local shop that sold beautiful photography, crafts, and prints made by artists in the area. As I delicately fingered through a stack of paintings, I came across one that made me almost fall to my knees and weep. There it was, a beautiful painting of a woman enveloped by butterflies, maple leaves, and marigolds. Her words leapt off the page and gripped my heart, as if to pull me in closer to hear her. She wisely and firmly presented me with my next mission in life,

"I follow the path of the ancient ones; nature is my church."


This sentence encompassed the essence of what I had been feeling but unable to articulate for months. The ancient ones symbolizes the rich history and vibrational intensity of the land we now call home. Nature IS my church, it is my place of worship and reverence for life and all that I can't see but know is there. Nature is the place I feel closest to God, where I feel zero separation between my own mortal humanness and the infinite expansion of heavenly blessings. Nature is the place to nurture my relationship with myself, my loved ones, my community, and spirituality. It is the place I wrestle with my shadow; the parts of me I would rather discard and pretend are not there. Lastly, Nature makes me pay attention to the unconditional love and positive conspiring the universe has for me and everyone all the time.

I encourage you, dear reader, to create your own relationship with nature. Go to her with your joy and sorrow. Ask the questions your heart longs to answer. Be open to seeing the similarities between you and what surrounds you. Allow for a mirror to take shape in the form of trees, water, grass, and sky, so you can so clearly see yourself. Bear witness to the changes that occur in wildlife and see what you can accept about changes within yourself. Let the earth steep away your worries and improve your ability to appreciate the intelligence of what is constantly cycling around us. You are a creation of nature, and nature is a creation of you.



And that is what it took. A "yes." With each step forward, with each step back, with each joyful decision, we had a unified "yes." Others asked, "are you sure?" or "aren't you going to miss....." or "how can you do that?" The answer to all the questions was Yes! Simple, straightforward, no explainations to comfort and control uncertainties. Just a "yes."