A year ago, at Midsummer, I went on a personal, spiritual retreat in the ancient redwood forests of Humboldt County, California. I went for silence, for prayer, for healing. I went to take from the forest — as so many humans regularly do. Loggers take lumber. Tourists take photos. Fishermen take salmon. Spiritual seekers take their ease. Many of them leave trash in their wake. Few leave evidence of gratitude for the many gifts they receive from the redwood forest.
While hiking through forest, near the Founders Grove, I passed this spot…
…and was struck by a sudden vision, vivid and clear: I was to organize a gathering of Druids in the redwoods, to sing to the trees, to study the ecology, and draw attention to the beauty and power and importance of that place through various works of artistic expression. As Druids, it was our role to begin giving back. To build, and role-model an appropriate reciprocal relationship to that ancient forest, a forest that had been there, giving of itself, for more than 50 million years.
The trees even gave me a song, while I walked among them, which I transcribed upon my return: “Gifts of Awen”
And so, I organized. I located a lovely little grouping of cottages at the edge of the redwood forest in which to stay, to enjoy meals, and to host a few workshops. I scouted the area for good places for ecological studies and performing rituals. And I invited Druids from far and wide to attend. I have just returned from our first official Redwoods Gathering, delighted with the entire experience, and wanting to share a bit of our journey.
Six druids (and one young druid in training) attended our inaugural Redwoods Gathering, which began on Friday morning with a guided nature walk through Founders Grove.
As we roamed the forest after Francisco’s talk, our group happened upon the spot where I had originally received my summoning vision. And if anyone was still wondering whether we were truly welcome to celebrate in that forest, or if anyone had a question regarding the most appropriate spot for a Midsummer ritual, the trees themselves offered up the answer — an answer discovered by Thea, as she rounded the very next bend in the path…
The question remained: now that we knew where we would be celebrating, what would a wildcrafted Midsummer ritual look like? Seasons in the redwood forest are not at all like seasons in other places on Earth. A lot happens there in autumn and winter and spring, but come summertime, not much happens except for the influx of summer visitors — both humans on summer holiday, and birds chasing the insects that come to escape the dry summer heat. So, our focus became the visitors, and how we might re-enchant the forest for those visitors, on behalf of the forest. We thought about how we might work to change the energy of a popular hiking trail, to encourage people to have more mindful connections with the forest, rather than the disrespectful, flitting, consumption-oriented attitudes typically found among modern tourists, bent on Instagramming themselves with the largest/oldest/tallest trees.
Also, since North, South, East and West have so little meaning in the middle of the redwood forest (which runs along meandering river valleys, and whose landscape varies by distance from the river’s waters and distance from the very rare canopy gaps, sliced open by falling giants), we decided to use a Land/Sea/Sky approach, with liberal application of nature connection meditations, offerings of gratitude, and songs of praise. The energetic nature of rituals is really difficult to convey in mere words, so I will simply share a few images (taken by our Dragon), while we worked our Druid magic.
Rounding out the weekend were a delightful series of shared meals, BBQs, and marshmallow roasts, games of horseshoes, swimming in the Eel River, workshops on plant communication, and ritual wildcrafting, as well as plenty of time to work on arts and crafts, and simply shoot the breeze with other Druids. Everyone had so much fun, that we decided to do it again, next year! I am already counting the days.