Solstice: an uncivilised summer school, a place to ‘catch the heart off guard’

Amidst acres of wilderness and woodland, we hope to slow down, recalibrate and attune to the rhythms of the natural world

The Fumbally Cafe will provide a sit-down supper at the Solstice

The Fumbally Cafe will provide a sit-down supper at the Solstice

 

There have been moments in my life where I have experienced a feeling of interconnection with a force bigger than me. These are the moments that “catch the heart off guard and blow it open”, as Seamus Heaney so beautifully put it in Postscript.

I have been caught off guard in many places, from the forests of Tipperary to the Himalayan foothills and the desert canyons of Colorado, and every time it feels like coming home. Sometimes we forget that we are an integral part of the aliveness of the universe. These moments of interconnection are spontaneous and mysterious, and they are available to all of us.

We have a reciprocity with the natural world. Whether we are on the Camino de Santiago or wild swimming in Connemara we are reminded of this symbiotic relationship. When we rekindle our connection to nature, our own wild nature is revealed and the world becomes a different place. The gateway to this aliveness is through our sensory perception of the world, and our sensory participation with the world.

Right now as a human species we are being reminded on a daily basis of the fragility of this place we call home. In many indigenous cultures there was no word for “nature” because they did not experience wilderness as some “thing” separate from themselves. We seem to have lost that understanding but maybe it’s time to return to our senses.

In1968 three NASA astronauts became the first humans to orbit the Moon. The Apollo 8 mission captured a photograph of Earth from space that forever changed the way we saw ourselves. That moment became known as Earthrise and heralded what Joseph Campbell called The Dawning of a New Spiritual Age. “The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it. When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see the divisions of nation states. This might be the symbol, for the new mythology to come because our ideas of the universe have been reordered by our experience in space.”

Natural world

And 50 years later, 90-year-old Joanna Macy’s Netflix documentary The Great Turning explores why the natural world matters to us all, and what steps must be taken to preserve it, while a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg has ignited a global climate strike movement.

Extinction Rebellion has decreed “life on Earth is in crisis, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making”, yet Ireland has recently become only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. So what is needed to restore the balance?

Horses on the Orlagh Estate where the Solstice event will take place in June
Horses on the Orlagh Estate where the Solstice event will take place in June

Macy captures the possibility of our times in her film: “We can come home again and participate in our world in a richer, more responsible and poignantly beautiful way than before”. Recently I found myself wondering what this kind of homecoming would look like.

It might also be time be to take a leaf from our own late mystic John Moriarty, who said “I baptised myself out of culture in Connemara and started to remake my mind again with new sensations, the colour of red stragnum and the sound of the stream, the calling of a fox, the smell of heather. I had been to the galleries, to the concert halls and I was glutted with culture. I had to come out and put my head in a stream in a bog in Connemara and let it all wash out and start again.”

Rewilding is a phrase commonly used to describe the restoration of land to it’s uncultivated state. But what about human rewilding as a route home to our untamed selves?

I have been feeling a pull to do something different – to create an immersive experience that invites us to rekindle our relationship to our wild nature. On a recent expedition in the Dublin Mountains I found a sanctuary, the Orlagh Estate, that feels like the perfect setting for a rewilding experiment.

Rewilding adventure

Solstice is a one-day immersive experience from The Trailblazery. We are the people behind Moon Medicine, Wonderlust, Census of the Heart, We Need to Talk about Ireland, Rites of Passage and the ireland : iceland project. We will be hosting this rewilding adventure in June in the same tradition as our ancestors who celebrated the longest day of the year with fecundity, sensuality and pleasure.

Solstice is an experience for men and women set on a country estate with panoramic views across the Dublin Mountains, Dublin City and the Irish Sea. Amidst acres of wilderness, woodland and fields we hope to slow down, recalibrate and attune to the rhythms of the natural world.

Kathy Scott of The Trailblazery, organisers of the Solstice event on June 22nd in the Dublin Mountains
Kathy Scott of The Trailblazery, organisers of the Solstice event on June 22nd in the Dublin Mountains

Our hope is to weave human connection with nature, conversation, movement, music, crafting, food, meditation, ritual, ceremony and other creative experiences.

The best description is that the day will exist somewhere between a holistic retreat in the great outdoors and an uncivilised summer school.

Our intention is to invite people together to share a sense of belonging and participation with our wild selves and the wild world that nourishes us. We have gathered some of Ireland’s leading blazers of trails to guide us and to honour some of the ancient practices in our Celtic tradition. We will learn from the land through hedge schools, foraging and wildcrafting.

There will be live music performance from Margie Jean Lewis who is known for her ethereal soundscapes. We will meet some of our own wisdom keepers like Diarmuid Lyng, founder of Wild Irish Retreats.

“The time has come to change or be changed, “ says Lyng. “The potential of the Irish spirit is to re-root ourselves in the riches of our cultural heritage. Not in regression to a bygone era, but in moving forward harmoniously with nature, by drawing on the wisdom of our past, by rediscovering the power inherent in our native language, and by setting ourselves free of the systems that no longer serve us”

Conscious evolution

We will have talks that explore the next stage of our conscious evolution, including recent cutting-edge developments in the fields of epigenetics, quantum physics and neuroscience.

Other adventures in store include experiential practices like yoga and movement sessions, meditation, sound baths, labyrinth walks, fire ceremony, ritual and a communal sit-down supper with delicious food from our friends at The Fumbally Café.

Other participants include Mari Kennedy, yoga teacher, leadership coach; Michael Ryan, yoga, wellness and meditation teacher; Carol McInerney, movement therapist and dance teacher; Susie Q, meditation teacher, singer/songwriter and social entrepreneur; and Siobhan de Paor, poet, activist and performance artist.

If you are longing for a call to adventure to celebrate the summer solstice and reclaim your wild soul then this might be the day for you.

Solstice will take place at Orlagh Estate in the Dublin Mountains from 12pm to 10pm on Saturday, June 22nd. Tickets for the day cost €140, including a sit-down dinner catered by The Fumbally Cafe. Reduced rates for children. Visit thetrailblazery.com for more details

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