A peach tree grows in my childhood. Her leaves, like a thousand green tongues, swallow me. Smooth silvery bark ripples like skin over her limbs. Her branches perfectly spaced so that my little girl legs step on one and then another. I settle into my spot. Thick strong arms reach around me. I am held. A threshold to a mysterious land opens.
Tucked inside our peach tree I see a line of Spirea shrubs streaming towards me. Straight as a sentence and punctuated by a French lilac bush. Every June, for one week, our yard fills with the fragrance of lilacs. How I feel shifts as I survey our yard. I sense a deep inner connection to all that is present.
My memories of sitting there are strong.
Looking back with my adult eyes, I see seeds of my spiritual life in those moments. Rooted now in my heart this tree is a keeper of my soul.
Our spiritual life starts in childhood. In our early lives, we are citizens of two realms, the ordinary and non-ordinary. Rudolf Steiner, educator and founder of The Waldorf Schools, named early childhood a time of the “ethereal child.” A stage were children know of a world that is present alongside and beyond this world. A place that proceeds the world of edges, rules, and agreements.
Parents and therapists report that children, especially under the age of seven, speak of angels, say they talk with trees and animals, sometimes know things that seems impossible for them to know. Children see things that are not visible to the adult eye.
We may not remember such dramatic events as angels. Yet most of us have had a “peach tree experience.” For many of us these moments appear in nature, a backyard, a prairie, by a lake or pond. We feel a unity of self and setting. Others find that music or creating opens them while still others say a special relationship with a person or animal is their entrance point. These experience may be infrequent or fleeting. That doesn’t make them less real.
Enchantment with the world may depend on whether our spiritual observations were treated with curiosity or discomfort?
Without affirmation we lose the ability to look with eyes of wonder. We repress rather than refine these abilities. If “God Talk” or questions about a spiritual realm makes the adults around us uncomfortable we fall silent. If we are taught to shun the unexplainable soon our big questions drop away. Our view of life will become more in line with the adults around us. We abandon “childish things.” We disconnect from a burgeoning spiritual life.
The Ogalala Sioux say “grown men may learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure and therefore the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”
What are some of the lesson children teach? Everything is connected and alive. View the world with wonder and curiosity. Live in the moment. These are often the things that we “older people” miss.
Budding spirituality happens in ordinary moments; on a playground swing, watching a sky of puffy clouds or looking into the eyes of a loved pet. Spirituality sprouts in moments like these. When we are young, we don’t have words to explain what we see and feel. Mystical experiences leave adults searching for the right words. Words that children do not have.
How do we reclaim a pure heart that’s open to Mystery and spontaneity? Look for moments when your spirit quickened. Bring these recollections back to awareness. Let them enter your body. Celebrate them! Spiritual lives have a life cycle, a path of development. It is worth exploring. It’s worth honoring!
Childhood wonder is not lost. It’s still with us when…Sunsets stir our souls. Spring rains refresh our spirits. Digging in the dirt of our garden delight us. Music moves us to dance. Creating enraptures. Sometimes we need to become an elder to rediscover childhood wonder.
Writing and creating are my pathways back to child-like glee. Putting words on paper brings these moments alive. Painting or creating, nests, rattles and most anything connects me to my exuberant spirit. I gather the waiting seeds, plant them deep in my body and with gratitude honor the little girl perched in her peach tree.