The Study of Our Home

Printed in the  Spring 2021  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Van Gorp, Andrew"The Study of Our Home" Quest 109:2, pg 10-11

By Andrew Van Gorp

There is no such thing as separateness.
—H.P. Blavatsky

Who is to say what small actions led to the burgeoning environmental movement we see today? After all, long before Rachel Carson walked onto the dewy grass of this cosmic plane, H.P. Blavatsky observed that nothing in this reality is disconnected from any other aspect of it. Her writings ring out along with those of John Muir in his sentiment that “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The ripples of our actions in time here on this beautiful planet can never be truly measured.

In fact, the ripples of one local Theosophist are still sloshing across time. With one simple statement, he changed my life forever: “You should start a garden here,” said Chris Bolger, IT guy extraordinaire. So we did!

Since 2015, our nonprofit, Sustain DuPage, has been building a sacred relationship with the Theosophical Society in America and the land they safeguard in Wheaton, Illinois. It began when the TSA graciously opened 600 square feet for our nonprofit to grow fresh produce communally. The partnership has since grown to include ecological forest healing, traditional skillcraft, community cooking classes, a sacred altar (“ofrenda”) to honor the Ancestors during the autumnal equinox, an urbanite keyhole herb bed, a permaculture fruit tree guild, a sun scallop bed, chinampa-style hydroscaping, a community composting station, vertical farming arbors, a market stand, a hand-dug detention pond, a willow coppice, and a performance art stage. 

The garden that was once a lawn is now in its fifth growing season and is fourteen times the size of the original few beds. There are many intentions woven into the design and operations of the garden. One is to demonstrate the ancient practice of communal land protection. The garden models various mediums for the growing of food in USDA Growing Zone 5b, but visitors would tell you they can sense that something much greater is occurring in the space. In the garden, we are showing our community members how to be in right relationship with the ecosystem of our bioregion, as we were once shown. We are engaging in powerful moments of spiritual healing for our community members, who are daily strewn against the rocks of contemporary life, yearning for the positive spiritual posture that can only be earned through the decolonization of our daily transactions with the world economy. 

Growing food without petrochemicals is a pursuit of integrity and moral uprightness. Faced with catastrophic climate change, the people in our world today, all of us, are complicit in a system that is blasting megatons of carbon into the atmosphere. Our garden is a space where we can gently discuss with community members the meaning of true ecoliberation: that no human society can find true liberation without a concurring liberation of the ecosystem. We hold it true that humanity is a part of the ecosystem. 

It is such a beautiful gift to watch all of these souls, incarnated into primate bodies, reexplore one of the most ancient and most human of traditions: agriculture. It is gratifying to see folks reach their hands into bowls to instinctively feel the satisfying tactility of seeds—to watch the memories held in our blood sing out as we drop them in the Earth  and smile; as we plant into her, we are planted into. As below, so above. It may be true that we live in a mostly cold and unforgiving universe, but I will carry the acts of love I’ve experienced in this garden with me as treasured gifts for as long as my soul endures, and perhaps beyond.

 Folks entering the garden in search of the labyrinth often linger to ask us a few questions: What is this place? Are we allowed to be here on this land? Who owns the land? We joyfully respond with information about the Theosophical Society of America, explaining the unique status of private land made public. We brag about our little equivalent of the library of Alexandria, with literature from every world religion and spiritual belief: a gem of interfaith study available to our local community! We explain that the grounds are open to be walked upon as long as the sun is up and as long as each footstep resounds with respect for this place. 

Many ask us if the yurt on the premises is used for sweat lodges, and we explain that it is used to thaw little Prairie School students in the coldest days of winter. They chuckle at that. So do we. It’s magical to watch how the distance from road noise and the soft kiss of green on our eyes allows for our people’s shoulders to release a little tension, for bellies to release laughter. 

We invite all TS members to visit with us during the growing season and perhaps pick up a few skills for the raising of food, fiber, dye, and medicine. Our nonprofit is incredibly grateful for the relationships we are building here. We look forward to our many fruit-(grain-veggie-tuber-and-nut)-ful years to come in this place!

Andrew Ruggiero Van Gorp, a lifelong DuPager, is a queer community organizer who sparked the creation of Sustain DuPage in DuPage County, Illinois, in 2013. As a Theosophical Society member, Andrew is most drawn to the Theosophical pillar of service as a standing meditation.

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