Week 2: The Way of the Birch

Week 2: The Way of the Birch

The soulcentric year begins with the onset of winter darkness. This is the beginning of an inward journey into the deep imagination. Just at the birch is a tree of new beginnings – being a ‘pioneer tree’ after the last Ice Age – so an inner ‘yes’ to an arising image (e.g., of a new creative project or ambition) allows it to become a fact in life if we also encourage its gestation and growth. We may think of this image as the expression of a soul-longing within us:

As the power of Samhain reverberates through the coming months with its introspective turn in the year, November already anticipates new beginnings which start life invisibly in darkness. Yielding to this inevitable winter darkness may enable gestation of a soul-longing within us that may begin to awaken with the return of the sun at midwinter.

We may even say that this is the start of the soulcentric year; that the soulcentric year mostly begins in darkness just as the Celtic day began at night.

Of course, doing this may put us out of step with the Gregorian year and a January beginning which is the status quo. The status quo is culturally driven rather than navigated by the seasons and by our uniqueness, and it is likely that living within the status quo was never our calling. Rather, to connect with nature’s rhythms and patterns, to gaze at the moon and celebrate her cycle which also begins in darkness, may more inspire our path.

This perspective coincides with a mythic view that the Celtic year began at Samhain, although this does not originate with the Celts. Just as festivals punctuate the journey through the seasons, so many nature path-walkers find meaning in symbolically placing native trees, shrubs and plants at intervals on the turning wheel of the year. This custom also assigns anthropomorphic meanings and qualities to these, like resilience to the birch or its cousin the alder, wisdom to the oak, and protection to the rowan.

From: Ventures into Deep Imagination

Thinking about resilience of the birch as this relates to our path:

The birch also offers us wise insights on resilience. Often standing alone without the protection of other trees, her white bark reflects the hot summer and low warm winter sun, to protect her from sunburn, due to betulin in its bark which provides her distinctive whiteness. Even these simple facts provide openings for further reflection.

Resilience is a core resource for wellbeing. We may even compare resilience to a tree swaying flexibly in the wind which returns to its upright posture. Resilience is nature’s most powerful resource to enable recovery from set-back by permitting us to find the positive in the negative, hold on to judicious optimism when the going gets tough, or to ride the wave in other ways.

From: Ventures into Deep Imagination

Our ability to develop and maintain resilience is a cornerstone on the path and includes how we sustain our sense of self and purpose through our beliefs and values and draw upon outer resources in the face of life difficulties.


Walk in nature or sit in quiet contemplation with the question ‘what is my soul-longing?’ and trust whatever comes without censoring anything. Later you may want to consider how to live this while remembering that ‘gestation’ is a long process.

Also, think about the factors which help you build and maintain resilience.

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