It was a very grey and chilly morning on the Moors, for our March Wild Church Birch Retreat, but to our (Sam & Cami’s) surprise several brave souls turned up to join us! A welcome gathering organically formed in the farm courtyard as people arrived and settled in together. Fully prepared, 15 layered and waterproofed creatures made our way into the enchanted Stone Lane Gardens near Chagford on Dartmoor.
We entered in silence and began to explore the winding pathways and secret offerings of the land. Birch trees of all different colours and textures, from all around the world welcomed us, beckoning our wonder and curiosity. Mythic sculptures and art installations are creatively placed amongst the trees to draw us deeper into the beauty of this magical place. Layers of wild, visible and invisible scapes to discover- a true feast for the senses.
Heartful reflections of awe and reverence were expressed as we came together for our first sharing circle. We tasted the refreshing sweet sap of the birches for our first communion and connected with the rising energy of spring time. I (Cami) shared a poem that I wrote when I tapped my first Birch trees a few years ago.
“Drunk on moonlight
she glows sunset and silver.
Her hidden mysteries written in
layers of texture and bark.
Her beauty too brilliant to be fully received,
she stands on her own in the woodland whispering
to the newly growing green ones
the stories of Springtime…”
Excerpt from Silver Birch Cup 2014
We then shared a deliciously abundant picnic beneath a cozy and much appreciated wooden shelter. Olives, pizza, quiche, sourdough bread, rabbit stew, salads and yummy chocolates – just to name a few of the generous offerings. Lunch was divine!
After lunch we gathered around a birch bark altar where my partner Jamie and I shared a glimpse into our experience tapping birch. We offered tips for tapping with respect and care for the health of the trees. We touched on the connection between the birch and the honeybees as well as some of the folklore and ancient traditions of the Lady of the Woods. Completing our little mystery school with a Birch Leaf Tea communion.
Flowing from our minds back into our hearts, we dropped into prayerful crafting with birch bark, cedar, rowan and primrose. Serendipitously, the full moon time (14:43pm) aligned perfectly with making our earth bundles, filling them will prayers and offerings of gratitude for the upcoming Spring Equinox.
With our bundles, we wandered back out into the gardens to be in silent communion with a tree that called to us. The invitation was to spend time getting to know the tree through touch, sound, smell and deep listening – an opportunity to sit in reflection and digestion of the day’s unfolding.
In our final circle, we sat amongst the dancing Birch and I shared a story from the Czech Republic about Bethushka and the White Lady of the Woods. A big thank you to Clare Viner for sharing this with me and for encouraging me to tell the story on the Pilgrimage. It was the first time I’d ever told a story before and I was utterly terrified. I’m so grateful for those who opened their listening hearts and received me in my vulnerability. This was a particularly big moment for me and I felt deeply encouraged and held in my fear, thank you! To tell a story where you are sitting in the scene that you are trying to portray is very special, so I also want to thank the birches for holding us in their grove temple. We closed our day with reflection, prayer and a Birch Sap & Primrose Wine communion.
Deep appreciation for Kenneth & June Ashburner for creating Stone Lane Gardens, a place for us to dance with the White Lady and discover all of the many blessings she has to offer. Thank you to Paul Bartlett and all who now care for the land, making it possible for us to continue visiting.
Thank you to all of you who joined us and shared your wisdom and your presence, it was such a delight to spend the day with you.
Above all, thank you to the Birch Trees, to the White Lady of the Woods for your endless generosity and wild beauty. A “pioneer” who deserves our deep respect for all the ways she brings fertility and new growth to our Earth. Thank you for being my teacher and my ally sweet birches, I love you.
To plant a birch tree visit www.stonelanegardens.com for their eclectic collection from around the world.
(Words by Cami and photos by Sam)