I love to respond to requests to lead workshops in nature. This Summer I held one around the time of the summer Solstice. It took place at the old Nunnery at Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon. It happened at the behest of Gerald Daly ex UN for whom I compiled a pilot programme Reconnecting with Gaia. A few months later one of the participants from this workshop urged me to hold one in the beloved Burren that is on my doorstep. I immediately knew the venue ought to be Lough Avalla Farm on the fringes of the Burren National Park. This was in late August and marked the lunar month of the Hazel and Crabapple trees. People venerated these mighty Irish trees in older times when the lunar cycle was prominent. In my book Reconnecting with Celtic Trees I share my insight on why the traditional Celtic year is represented by a cycle of native trees. This yearly succession of trees seemed to form a dynamic template upon which human consciousness can evolve. More importantly, this year marks the succession of Irish trees in close accordance with current cosmic influences.
Lough Avalla Farm – biodynamic farm extraordinaire
When I first encountered Lough Avalla Farm in the Burren, County Clare, there was no looped walk around the limestone hills. As I walked along the farm track I immediately felt a shift in quality in the landscape. It was if the land was singing.The wild flowers, the beautiful cattle and the thick hazel groves all glowed with health and happiness. After meeting the family who farmed the land I understood why I sensed such an intense shift. They clearly loved and respected their land. In return, the trees and animals shone more brightly.
One of their five daughters Melissa became an expert in goat husbandry and produced delicious cheese rounds from the goat milk. Then they started making cheescakes to die for! It was a sad day when she left the farm to go onto new pastures, this time managing the wild goat project on the Howth peninsular in Dublin Bay. This is a concerted and so far successful bid to keep the summer fires at bay. Her father Harry has adapted to his great loss by opening up his farm to more visitors who all can enjoy refreshments in his stone cottage. The tea room leads into a now derelict room where the ghost of the beautiful round cheeses lingers.
Walking to our Venue
Returning to the tree workshop held in August 2022, our group met at the sign for a meandering walk the family have created across their land. We presently walked off the main track and followed a narrow path beside a field in which Harry’s prime herd of Belted Galloways grazed. Harry had explained to me that trees appreciate the presence of cows beneath their boughs. He has noticed that the trees his animals gravitate toward actually thrive more. Looking at the ash trees, I could see that this was indeed true. Wherever the cattle had lain, the ashes still were healthy. Others were not so fortunate…We turned into a grove of hawthorn, hazel and alder and walked into the undergrowth a short way before crossing over a mossy stone wall. We entered the hazel grove.
The Hazel and Crabapple Lunar Month
I held this workshop during the hazel month within the Celtic lunar calendar which is based on the lunar cycle where each month is dilineated by a specific native tree. During a tree month, its inner qualities come more to the fore than those of its sister trees. Whenever I choose a site for a tree workshop I like to select a site that suits the tree species best.
The inner quality of Lough Avalla Farm is one that resonates well with the hazel and the crabapple, as these trees are about creating wisdom, love, acceptance and inclusivity. There is an abundance of hazel trees on the limestone landscape here, and also a wonderful ancient crabapple resplendent with fruit.
An inner Journey
It is good practice to start any inner dialogue with a tree by showing our appreciation and setting up a two way communication from our hearts toward the tree. With a simple gesture we all greeted the hazels in this manner, and then I spoke of my own insights into the noble tree. The hazel tree that was once a teaching aid for those who wanted to become elders in the tribe.
We began with a tree meditation I adapted from my book and a short guided meditation with simple gestures from the earth healer Marko Pogacnik. Then we now turned inward to find our own insights on the haze. We soon would come upon the bountiful apple tree of old, with its sister trees the ash and hawthorn intertwining. Ivy grew over the entanglement, lending a further air of magic or even mystery to the tree. Again, we gestured to the tree with reverence one by one, and then began our second guided tree meditation.
A Water Blessing
Using the well water once more as an integral part of our sharing, we found there were similar themes of peace and stillness emerging. We are working with both the hazel and crabapple. There is a blend of the higher mind of combined Hazel and higher heart of Apple vibrations. Like the complex line-up of planetary alignments for 2022, this time or year is intense. It marks the end of summer and the highest of dreams. A transformation is occurring at both the individual and community level, and as our second affirmation echoes
In truth I am an eternal spirit filled with love and harmony for all
Now walking back in contemplation along a narrow path we carried our water to the holy well where we released some into the stream to be returned to the inner earth.
We asked for a blessing on the remainder and then we walked to the nearby ancient fire pit (fuluchtai fia) and sat on its stone edges, so we could do another imagination exercise set by Marko Pogacnik, as channeled from Gaia, the living essence of our planet.
The Animals are Sentient
A beautiful cow wandered in and in complete stillness for the duration shared our space. As I stated near the beginning of this workshop, the animals are sentient as are the trees, and can sense our intent. They appreciate our stillness in nature, sensing how we start to pay them more attention. Birdsong always seems louder after these workshops. Today was the first time a cow had graced us with its presence.
Without developing a healthy attitude to nature we orphan ourselves from a deeper, healing reality. If we cannot connect to nature we are disinherited, and true orphans of our world. When we engage in active service via heartfelt ceremonies to reconnect, we as part of nature are healed too. We do not know where our prayers and intentions go always. But by honouring nature she graces us with her healing spirit in return. In our dreams and our future actions, Gaia’s presence will bless us more than we realise.
In our tumultuous times, we need to steer our paths with a deeper support than our intellects can provide. It is my belief that the greatest service to Gaia we can offer is to develop our spiritual awareness now. We can from there be more effective in whatever we do. Many of us love the trees of the ancient Celts. I am finding that each lunar tree can awaken us more to our potential role in this great transition.
I hoped you enjoyed this account of a beautiful afternoon spent in like-minded company.