“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not teach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient laws of life.”

Hermann Hesse

One of the central visions of Veriditas Hibernica is to help people to reconnect with the natural world and to step into care-taking our plant kin and ecosystems so that we can co-create a healthier future with them. As people engage with this work they reconnect with themselves and discover who they actually are.

As people start to sense how far we have moved away from our rightful place in the web of nature there is a desire to seek the way back to the place where we feel at home and feel understood. People sense that it is time for us to step back into community with the other species on the planet; it is time to find ways to reclaim our true role, to help in the restoration of this land and her inhabitants of all species.

It is not sufficient to say that ecosystems will heal themselves if left alone; we are at the point where people need to start being proactive in the process; the earth will heal itself in its own time span, but it is necessary for us to wake up in order to ensure that we survive.

Active engagement in this work helps us to reclaim our place, our cultural heritage, look at old crafts and skills with fresh eyes and see how to incorporate these into 21st century living. We are not talking about a return to the Middle Ages, rather of how to bring about a new Golden Age where the knowledge and wisdom garnered over millennia is resurrected. We are talking about learning to place proper value in recent innovation, but not at the expense of our heritage; how to create a new epistemology /cosmology which sees how to incorporate the new sciences with the old crafts to the benefit of all species. Each region needs to build its own methods and culture for what is appropriate for the species and habitats in that location; we can look at what is happening in other regions but we also need to listen to our own.

In Ireland we are fortunate to have:

  • An abundance of water; although we have polluted much of it there are still some areas where it is possible to drink ‘wild water’.
  • A relatively deep fertile soil, although we have broken down the mycrorrhiza, diminished the soil flora and fauna and reduced the soil structure and micronutrients by modern farming techniques in many areas.
  • An ideal climate for plants to grow and a rich natural web to thrive.
  • A diversity of indigenous and naturalized plants that can sustain a rich range of animal, insect and other species.
  • The ability to how to build a relationship with the natural world which will ensure social, economic and environmental sustainability for all species.

We need to honour those who have been carrying on this work already, often with little recognition, and see how we can support the whole process of recreating the true Veriditas Hibernica.

Planting, restoring, and preserving sanctuaries for plants is a way of bringing ourselves back into a healthy relationship with our allies, the plants. By co-creating habitats with them we start to reclaim the knowledge of our proper place.

A sanctuary is a place of safety and refuge, a place for contemplation and nourishing the spirit. A plant sanctuary is a place that provides a haven for plants to live and establish a healthy community with other species. It is a habitat where plants can restore or preserve their biodiversity and build a web with the rest of nature.

Although the primary focus is on providing a sanctuary for our indigenous and naturalized plants they do not live in isolation. Thus, a sanctuary will also become a place of refuge for bees, butterflies and other insects, for worms and other soil living species and larger wildlife such as birds and mammals. It also becomes a place that feeds the human soul; when we are in a sanctuary our gut instinct tells us that this is a place where we can feel at home.

Size is not important; a sanctuary can be small (a few square metres) or vast (thousands of acres). The ethos is to work with nature, feel what the plants and the land are saying, welcome native species and fall into the rhythms of the plant world. It takes care + time and the willingness to sit and observe, to listen as well as put in the physical work; it is a process of co-creating with the earth and the plants. This sort of feeling and sensing, of listening and observing has nothing to do with sentimentality. This sort of feeling means that we do not project our own issues onto the landscape; rather we engage all our senses, our knowledge, our instinct, our whole being to perceive how does it feel? Stewardship of a sanctuary requires that one works with the rest of the web of nature, rather than imposing one’s own ideas. Remember that the natural world will balance itself given time; planting sanctuary is about humans reconnecting into that web.

LAST WORDS: THE WAY IT IS by WILLIAM STAFFORd

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.