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The Essence of the Willow

Have you noticed which tree is the first to come into leaf where you live? The colours, scents and movement of each specie?

Here in our sheltered valley it is the wonderous willow. Lime, apple green delicate leaves begin to appear at the beginning of March and over the course of the full month the willow woodland on the land I live, is a gently swaying canopy. Blue tits, robins, grey wagtails, great tits and many others sit amoungst the leaves calling out for a mate, flitting through the branches feasting on tiny bugs. This scene is familiar to me and a cyclical gift of spring.

This week walking through the willow woodland on the first hot day for so many months, I was stopped in my tracks by a most enchanting, intoxicating scent. It was something I had never smelt before, a perfume of honeysuckle and jasmine combined.

I was puzzled as to where the aroma was originating from, the blackthorn is an early bloomer but not quite yet in blossom, the celandine is abundant but not the source of my delight. And then I noticed on the branches of the willow the familiar dangling catkins. Each held a minute dusting of yellow pollen. I put my nose close to the catkin, 'Ahhh, yes!' I declared to myself, this was the source. So heavenly, so divine, so utterely absorbing. My senses were filled with the feeling of dancing in rapture with Mother Earth.

I have a keen sense of smell and notice the tiniest of changes as the seasons flow from one to another, so this brand new olfactory discovery was quite simply, magical. Perhaps it was the heat from the sun which activated the scent to be released. What ever it was, I spent the day in a state of bliss.

The essence of the willow is not just it's scent and beauty. This wonderful tree also provides us with wood for heat, whips for easy re-planting , living willow structures such as domes, superb material for crafting baskets, wattel and fencing. You can also strip the thicker branches and create a beautiful 'star' for the central piece in a yurt roof. As a water tree it aids boggy ground to dry out. And as if all that were not enough, it's watery bark sap is natural asparin.

According to celtic shamanic pathways, willow is associated with the Goddess Brighid and the concept of boundaries, helping us to 'distinguish between self and not self' (source - 'Trees of the Goddess' by Elen Sentier).

Learning to set boundaries, to unravel from that which is not mine and to own that which is mine was (and continues to be) a pivotal piece of my healing journey. The trees I planted on the land, sat amoungst, drummed to, listened to were an endless source of connection to the nurturing of Mother Earth. The willows were the first trees I planted to create a woodland, thus transfornming the barren, lifeless fields. I did not (consciously) know at that time of the significant qualities of these magnificent trees.

My desire to create a place of healing, creativity and peace has been gently held by the gifts of this land. We have worked in pleasurable reciprocity. For me it is a journey of discovery as I flow and grow, halt and stumble, laugh and dance within the life force energy of nature. For the land, she breathes again with the return of butterflies, wild flowers, bird song, mice and voles, rabbits and fox, bugs and wee beasties now the trees once again, hold space for it all.

We are already taking bookings for retreats and holidays here at Spirals. We hope to open again fully from April 12th. If you feel drawn to spend some time in this beautiful space and walk through the beautiful willow woods, please feel very welcome to get in touch about availability and cost.

With so much love


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