Glastonbury Thorn World Tree Community Day and planting a Peace Pole.
Over the weekend, Joelle, one of the strongest winter storms ever recorded spent the weekend spinning through the North Atlantic Ocean creating waves over 15 metres high. The preceding week saw heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures. Friday appeared with knock-me-off-my-feet winds and bowed me down under torrential rain. It occurred on more than several occasions that it was a remarkably insane idea to be organising an outdoor event in January which including planting a peace pole into cement that needed above freezing temperatures and a tree into the sacred ground of Glastonbury. Not just any tree either, but a revered tree, a holy tree, a tree that meant much to people all over the world and as the storm raged outside, so too swirled the nagging internal voices of doubt, fear and panic. External contributions also assisted to the on-going dialogue and I would shush and soothe assuring that all would be well, in the hope that a positive focus and up-beat confidence belied and stilled the rampant squalls within. Awakening a few minutes after 2am on the day itself, Joelle battered and shook the windows whilst horizontal rain mockingly pounded against the glass. Waking again, just after 4am with the fear that the roof over my head would not be able to remain in its place, a very loud voice promptly announced that the tempest would drop. One minute later, literally, total stillness prevailed.
That was my first noteworthy happening on what was to become a day of memorable moments. I stood in awe as I watched the light breaking through the darkness revealing blue skies and soft fluffy white clouds in the eye of a storm. Within, a quiet stillness and prevailing calmness soothed the nervous twitches and the doubtful thoughts and created a tranquillity that remained with me throughout an extraordinary day. There was no need to stress, no need to panic, everything was exactly as it was meant to be. I didn’t need to over-produce or over-direct; something greater than I was running the show so I might as well simply relax and enjoy.
Glastonbury is a remarkable community filled with diverse people from all walks of life. Over the years, many have been drawn to live here for spiritual reasons and two communities are said to have developed; the Avalonian community who are the spiritual seekers and the Glastonbury community, whose members have been born here or have moved here for reasons other than the spiritual. Sometimes it would appear that ne’er the twain shall meet. Twain derives from the Old English twegen, meaning ‘two’ and over the last four decades, the twegen communities of Glastonbury have stood at opposite ends of the scale with members either unable or unwilling, or perhaps too scared, to find the time to reach across the fulcrum and get to know those on the other side of the town. Naturally, I hasten to add, there are the exceptions to this ‘cosmic judgement’; being people who are very comfortable in their own beliefs and feel adventurous enough to explore and understand the ways of others, even if the particular style is not to their taste. They can often be seen in places that out of their comfort zone, courageously forging new friendships and waving frantically across the divide.
Over the last few years, an integral part of my own work has been to create bridges, sometimes even having to lie down and become the bridge myself, over which the twain could meet, communicate and get to know one another. All with the aim of raising an awareness that facilitates movement towards a future that demonstrates how a mature and caring society can respect and support the world around it. Perhaps we can’t always agree though? Perhaps we don’t understand or feel a little uncomfortable in the ways of others? However, if we observe and experience an individual or organisation that is showing heartfelt desire, respect and action towards a greater good and demonstrating well-meaning and considerate intent and if we allow ourselves to open up, offering acceptance, loving support and encouragement, we are contributing towards strengthening the Whole, even if we don’t agree. After all, a rainbow is not a rainbow if it is all the same colour and without variety, a community is neither vibrant nor energetic. Nor is it able to grow, change and progress if all things remain the same and is liable to slip into the stasis of mundane dullness and which is tantamount to death.
Planting a Glastonbury Thorn World Tree and a Peace Pole was one such occasion where we could all speak a common language and share our hopes and lives in mutual bonding and collective growth. Like the branches of the tree, we are all linked to the same stem with our feet in the same earth whilst we stretch towards the same sky. 26th January was one such day when, just as the tree, we could all feel connected. “What an amazing day. SO important for the town, historically and spiritually”, RouX Renard commented.
A fabulous team swung into action on the morning and created a wonderful indoor space in the Town Hall where all could gather in the warmth. The stage was set with tables covered in subtle, silky colours, expansive floral displays and an arch covered in greenery framed the Peace Pole. On the tables the sacred flames in Glastonbury were gathered, the Glastonbury Unity Candle, the Hiroshima Peace Flame, the Glastonbury Peace Candle, the Flame of Avalon and the Perpetual Brighid Flame of Avalon. With them stood ‘Deliverance’, a Candle of Hope about to be lit by a child for the first time that day.
The timeless and enchanting sounds of the harp, played by John Dalton, greeted people as they began to fill the hall and took advantage of the cakes and hot refreshments on offer whilst a gentle energy swirled and mingled around the hall. At 2.30pm the Candle ceremony began. Each Flame has an inspirational story behind it and to stand on the stage with them was a powerful experience indeed. It had been suggested that we create a new flame, mixing and blending the six. However, the very fact that each stood in its own power, in its own light and in its own energy, yet at the same time in shared space, demonstrated how it is not necessary to meld into sameness and shows how we can each contribute towards creating a very special Oneness without loosing or sacrificing our own identity.
A young boy was invited to light the Hope Candle for the first time. When I asked him what he thought might be a good wish for hope, he replied after a moment’s thought, “That there is no more fighting.” I apologise most sincerely that his name, which he told us at the time now escapes me but I will endeavour to correct my failing memory.
Soon it was Jack’s turn. Jack and his family live in London and feel very connected to Glastonbury and I first met him more than two years ago when this bright, courageous and extremely intelligent soul came into the PRC with his mum and dad intending to get a Glastonbury Candle to take home with them. Jack was born with cerebral palsy, unable to walk and in severe pain; however, a massive fundraising drive raised enough to be able to send him for pioneering surgery in the USA that has now allowed Jack to walk, thus beginning a long journey towards independence. Melisa, his mum had brought him here for the weekend and they arrived JUST in the nick of time for Jack’s big day. Though Jack can now walk and take steps, the hope and aim is that he become independent of any aids, but at the moment he needs his sticks to help him. These were still pimped out with his sparkly Christmas tinsel and, as he made his way up the steps and towards the Glastonbury Candle, there were not many that did not have a lump in their throat. Despite his nervousness, Jack did an incredible job and his courageous and determined motivation will stay with me and inspire for many years to come.
Caroline Uchima, Director (UK) of the World Prayer Peace Society was up next. She had travelled down from Scotland the day before in an easy and smooth journey whilst the snows and storms followed hot (cold?) on her heels, another remarkable blessing that had contributed to the day. Despite her concerns that Jack was a very hard act to follow, she did a remarkable job of raising our awareness of the Peace Pole Project and since Saturday, several people have been in touch with me from around the country, inspired to plant one in their own home towns. I hope I get an invite!
And now it was time to focus the event with the lasting symbols that would sit right in the heart of the town and call out to anyone who passed by and who would choose to listen. Everyone was invited to leave the warmth of the hall and gather at the planting site. The air was calm, the skies blue and the temperature, unlike the preceding weeks and days was tolerable. It truly was a miraculous blessing. As both the pole and the tree were placed into the earth we all share, there was such a great sense of community and, as I looked around watching everyone own it for themselves, I was deeply moved by the mosaic of people that had gathered there. Lynne Sedgemore, our Sacred Space Director summed it up beautifully;
“I feel that the deep power of the day lay in a number of elements; the holiness of the thorn with its long spiritual heritage, the pole shared with so many other intentions of peace all over the world, the beauty of the six fire and candle flames – all mingling with the loving people and the community spirit of Glastonbury. Children, priestesses, bards, people from a wide range of faith paths, harpist, choir, bards, mayor, town council, world peace group, good weather, the PRC, and supporters. A recipe for exactly what we all experienced – a magnificent heartfelt day of beauty, deep emotion, gratitude, spirits flying, and our deepest desire for world peace.”
The community linking and networking continued indoors with music from the talented Avalonian Free State Choir and Tim Hall and the Archetypes. Nearly everyone who had helped had freely given their time and shared their skills and support in order to create a remarkable event in which everyone was filled with laughter, smiles, tears and joy. Without every single person that attended that day, it could not have been what it was. In Bry Fox’s words, another visitor who had travelled many miles for the occasion said;
“[There was] much hugging and smiles from all walks of life and new friendships were formed. Everyone on stage had something personal to add or to do, which made us all a little emotional. The planting of both the Peace Pole and the Thorn was done without a hitch or drop of rain, where everyone felt involved and connected – an incredible day for all to share and to feel part of.”
In these difficult times, when we fear for the future of our earth whilst wars, fighting, arguments, economic struggle, fear, emotional pain, unhappiness, dis-ease, trauma and so much more present themselves as constant storms that rage around our lives, it is hard to find the quiet stillness of the peace-full place in the eye of the storm. It is perhaps even harder to stay calm whilst the people of the world bluster around us and harder still to refrain from ‘taking up arms’ so we might add our own contribution to the arguing, to the battles, to fighting injustices and greed; to the things we do not see as fitting our own acceptable realities. It is oh-so-much easier to throw insults, to attack, to criticise perceived faults and to squabble like children over toys, rather than offering peaceful and calming energies with mature perspectives that offer diplomatic solutions. I hold my own hand up and admit that my own scorpion nature has seen me pick up those very arms, stand on the picket lines and the barricades, fight injustices and I have no doubt that I still will, even though I am now the other side of fifty and a lessening physical ability has slowed me down somewhat. I like to think though that perhaps it might be that I am learning a third and alternative way of approaching things.
On the evening of the Glastonbury Thorn World Tree Community day, the respite of the calm and peaceful weather broke; Joelle again frenzied all around us and the eye of the storm had passed. Several days on, the winds and the rains still beat about us carrying the reminder of how rages the world but in it all, a quiet peace and stillness envelops me, connecting me to all those children and adults who created a wonderful event. Especially though, I shall remember the honour of being in the gentle presence of those two little boys who lit the Flames of Hope and Unity. This is THEIR world we are building; THEIR world we are creating. If together we can once again find ‘the eye in the storm’ and share in mutual love and respect whilst discovering the message of peace, cooperation and the desire for community that is in our hearts, perhaps, like the ripples of a pebble thrown into water, so too might our actions spread out into the wider world and create a wave of peace that can reach out and touch all life?
The questions I find I am asking of myself in the days that have followed are:
Can I do this every single day? Can I keep a peaceful heart? Can I continue to join with the Whole to help make a little difference whilst the storms rage? Can I keep a positive focus whilst battered down by the stresses of life?
The questions I ask those reading this:
Will you continue to do the valuable work you already do? Will you stand by the side of all those who work towards a better world? Will you also stand by me and help make my tiny pebble into a huge boulder? I hope so; I really do, because without a shadow of doubt, I NEED YOU.
May Peace Prevail in our Hearts
May Peace Prevail in Glastonbury
May Peace Prevail on Earth
I make no apologies for the long post and hope you got this far! I have needed to miss out much but have to trust that it might still capture the essence of the day and my own journey with it. I know my experience is different to others but it’s the only place I know to write from. Other people’s understandings and encounters are warmly welcomed.
To fully experience the day, you can enjoy more photos here…
Blogger: Morgana West.
(Readers are asked to understand that individual bloggers that post here are writing from their own personal perspective and may not necesarily represent the views of Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre.)