Ecofluency: A Conversation with Saskia von Diest about Co-creation & Communication with Nature [Episode 25]
In the latest episode of the Woman Who Rubs the Mountain, Nature communication consultant, teacher, and facilitator, Dr. Saskia von Diest, shares her story of shifting from her PhD in plant pathology to postdoctoral research investigations of intuitive farming. With the guidance of the living world around her, she created a term to describe a deeper way of knowing - Ecofluency. Perhaps it is the most critical skill we can develop as humans, the ability to sit in dialogue and ask the Earth directly: what is needed at this moment on the planet? Because it's only when we ask and listen with more of ourselves, that we really begin to understand what nature truly needs.
With eloquence and thoughtfulness, Saskia shares her love of Ecofluency with us. Here are the highlights from our conversation:
- Saskia begins by introducing us to the dramatic thunderstorms and mountains where she grew up in South Africa, where she felt most at home nestled up with warm rocks, “cuddling the landscape.” When she lived in the UK later as an adult, she learned to find a different kind of intimacy with the forests, springs, and stone circles, engaging the plant kingdom for help in creating new kinds of relationship with Nature.
- After a personal experience with animal communication rocked her world during her PhD studies, she embarked on postdoctoral research into how farmers use intuitive communication with nature to inform their practical management decisions. This is when she began to discover the power of two-way dialogue: with open-hearted communication, we can negotiate agreements, create treaties, or set plans of intent, even with more-than-human beings that we consider problematic.
- Saskia explains the etymology of Ecofluency as ‘eco,’ coming from the Greek for ‘house’ or ‘habitation,’ and ‘fluency’ coming from the Latin for ‘free-flowing’ or ‘relaxed.’ Ecofluency has a quality of gentle fluidity: how relaxed can we be with ourselves and on our home, planet Earth?
- Without even realizing it, we are ‘enmicrobed' (von Diest) by the landscape where we live, swapping DNA with the microbes and on a cellular level becoming part of the land. When we travel or share space between many places, we can adjust more quickly by drinking from local (clean) waterways, eating native greens or herbs, making physical contact with the soil and trees, or consciously allowing our energy field to be grounded to that place.
- The changes that are needed in the world require innovative thinking, or as one of Saskia’s academic mentors says, “The only way we are going to know where the line between possible and impossible lies, is by venturing into the impossible.” Saskia describes some of the challenges she encountered being in an academic environment as she became more interested in plant communication and how these interests seemed to threaten the core worldview of some, especially in academia.
- Taking up American psychologist James Hillman’s inquiry, Saskia explores the open-ended (and vast) question of “where do I begin and end?” While acknowledging the necessity of having boundaries, she considers the many ways we might expand our ideas of self and other.
More on Ecofluency:
Subtle Agroecologies: Farming with the Hidden Half of Nature by Dr. Julia Wright
Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm by Stephen Harrod Buhner
The Secret Teachings of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner