Earthing our way through the lockdown days.
August, Lughnasa has traditionally been the month to be out on the fields, parks, mountains, celebrating with Lugh, that multi-skilled Celtic God of harvest, of light and infinite possibility. Such a figure whether in myth or reality must have enjoyed what we now call “optimal health” and so remains a creative force throughout history.
This outline of activities described here for autumn is intended to bring us joy, balance, companionship and connection, as well to boost our immunity as we face the darker days ahead. The five main elements featured are earthing, morning orientation, selecting special plants for autumn, foraging and replacing sugar with a diverse diet and visiting special places.
This discovery has been described as the medical breakthrough of the century, right up there with the finding of penicillin and it’s available to everyone, free. It involves direct contact by the body, preferably the feet with the earth and the release of static electrical imbalance we have built up, especially by our contact with artificially charged synthetic materials. The simplest way to earth is by taking off the shoes and walking outside barefooted, ideally on soft grassy surface. If you are in a city and have to be inside, a tilled floor can also help, but the outside air and the stimulus of trees and birdsong is the added bonus.
This practice was explored recently in the Netflix documentary “Down to Earth” with Zac Efron, where after a long flight to France team showed the effect of resetting our own internal clock by running in the grass and the health benefits that followed.
This practice is very well documented in that excellent book “Grow A New Body” which is included in a few recommendations at the end. If you’re lucky enough to be outside these mornings doing the earthing described here, it can be combined with some conscious breathing. Firstly face south or where you have seen the midday sun. With a straightened up body and looking towards the sky or the ceiling, reflect on the illusions we so often carry. These will reduce as deep breathing continues.
Next turn ninety degrees towards the west, or setting sun position. Here reflect on the fears inside, they are mostly of things that will never happen, but we still hold them and we can with practice let them go.
Now turn clockwise this time to the north. Here we look upwards again and connect directly with the best of the ancestors, the loved ones gone, some too soon, but are still a guiding force for us and part of our greater spirit.
Finally we turn east. With a bit of luck there may be a rising sun or at least brightness in the sky and this is our reminder of a new dawn, a new day with so many more possibilities.
Selecting special plants as companions.
As many of our readers have limited growing space and we are approaching the end of the growing season, here we are suggesting you to get familiar with some perennial herbs to start with. Garden centers, especially Garden World in Ellen St have a full range of potted herbs. Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Mint, Fennel, Sage, Lemon balm and Lemon verbena all have individual properties, aromas and nutrition.
Buy some of these in small pots; they’re much better value that way. Then get some larger containers and a bag of non-peat multi-purpose compost. When your plant is well watered and the bigger container is one third full of compost, turn this plant upside down and remove the smaller pot. You now can see the roots and gently ease these into their new bed, adding more compost at the sides. The act of handling this plant, compost or soil is further earthing ourselves and allows us to absorb the aroma, essence and spirit of the plant.
If you have enough garden space, beginning a small bed close to the house will give further variety to your diet. Autumn onion sets will shortly be available as will winter lettuce and oriental greens.
Irish Seed Savers have a great variety of seeds all of which are open pollinated and better for the environment. For the more adventurous planting seed by the position of the moon can be really interesting. Several good apps are available to guide one and there’s the joy is experimenting at home by planting on different days and noticing the results.
Later on in September and October, Broad Beans, Peas and Garlic are all options for planting and will have a head start in spring if well rooted before the frosty winter days. Keep in mind though Birds, Cats and Dogs may also be curious about your new adventure so netting cover is essential for protection. Smaller creatures like slugs are always nearby so you will need a barrier to protect especially soft young plants.
Seaweed with its salty edges may just do the trick for small beds, but make sure to cut rather than pull it off the rocks or collect some already loose and washed up on the shore.
Foraging and replacing sugar in the diet.
Our evolution through thousands of years involved eating from a great variety of over 20,000 different edible plants, but us twenty first century people, confine ourselves to about twenty. While the variety of pasta and cheese seems to increase yearly, especially in the frozen section of shops, their principal ingredients remain confined to a few with sugar in many forms as a dominant additive.
The major diseases of the Western world including cancer, coronary illness, diabetes, dementia, obesity and a weakened immune system, are in no way as common in indigenous communities. Why is this the case we may well ask?
Increasing diet diversity involves breaking existing habits and resisting a subtle advertising industry as we form new ones. Who doesn’t love a custard pie, or a desert treat at the end of the main course, but travel across most China and desert is not a menu option. Our sophisticated digestive system involves several layers of micro-organisms, to break down complex foods and make their nutrients and energy available were they are needed. Microbes are continually reproducing and sugar laden foods stimulate the reproduction of these dedicated organisms, which in turn demand more sugar, hence the craving for an immediate hit of energy, which is short lived.
Replacing that sugar tingle with savory, plant based flavors takes time, but the reward is a more balanced diet, better energy and much better long term health.
Foraging is the practice of searching out seasonal and unprocessed foods, from the wild ideally, but as we become more urban it may well be from farmers markets, local shops or friends who are gardeners. As we approach September the blackberry season is coming into its own. These berries are packed full of flavor, vitamins and antibiotics. Try to avoid picking them by the roadside due to traffic emissions, but in the hedges of the bigger parks they are in abundance. There’s every chance you’ll find wild rose hips close by, all packed with vitamin C and a range of other nutrients, particularly proven to aid in preventing arthritis.
Mushrooms are another treat of the autumn that have plenty of B vitamins, protein and selenium to help the immune system. A word of caution is needed here though, as quite a few are be poisonous, so make sure you have identified yours well and have no doubt about what you plan to eat. A few good books are available on identification and are listed below; these used together with an experienced guide, or by joining a foraging walk will give much needed confidence to any beginner.
Visiting Special Places
Staycation Ireland has brought us many new possibilities to get to know the essence and spirit of places in our own area and all of this without baggage restrictions, security checks or air miles with exhaust emissions.
Before suggesting a list of places well worth a visit in the months ahead, let us first consider our own immediate needs, our aura and how our current landscape is serving us. Outside of our immediate flesh and bones lie the layers of air that surround us and filter the light and energy we use all the time. These layers, which are sometimes called our aura, need care and nourishment just as we do in selecting the food we eat. Then there’s our working landscape too. If we are in a place with headphones and screens around us most of the day, a special effort must be made to counter this by reducing clutter, bringing plants, images, light and nature within our reach. Daily breaks, exercise and escape strategies here are more important than ever.
A plan for special places as a weekly treat, sometimes called and artist’s date, is most worthwhile for everyone. Most of the best kept secrets of the Midwest area are now open again and a few are listed here.
Currachase Forest Park Kilcornan, Knockfierna Hill Ballingarry, Clare Glens Newport, Glenstal Monastery Murroe, Castleconnel river walk, The Demesne Newcastle west, Abbeyfeale Riverside Park, The Native Arboretum Broadford, The Great Southern Greenway from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale. In addition several local holy wells can be special places of connection and renewal. The draw of the seaside with its special air, wave rhythms, salty spray and tingle on the skin is particularly felt by Aquarians, who long for its earthing effect and balance it brings. Limerick has the estuary, Clare and Kerry within an hour’s drive and all open again for business.
As the days darken further the Celtic Calendar holds several gentle reminders of the Circle of life all within the year. Equinox on September 21st falls on a Monday this year. For West Limerick people, a lovely way to celebrate this is by a visit to the Broadford Arboretum and the O Bruadair monument. Do this in advance, on Friday the 18th and round off the evening with walk up the Lime tree avenue to Springfield castle and have a tasty, locally sourced, evening meal there.
Winter Solstice on December 21st is also on a Monday this year. Get to the Grange Stone Circle near Lough Gur at 8.45 A.M. and watch the magical sunrise above the Ballyhoura mountains and light up the whole circle. Follow this with a walk around the lake, a climb on the hill and feel the real meaning of Grianstad. Stad! Meaning stop to reflect and look forward to the longer days.
Bringing it all together
Doing some or all of the activities listed here will depend on our present lifestyle and the changes we are ready to make. Sometimes it may take a crisis, the loss of a loved one, a mirror moment of silent reflection to trigger a new set of options. Then there are seasonal and weather factors which make the outdoors more challenging.
So positive, optimal health has to do with many different elements, some of which come to us naturally. Good posture and breathing exercises may be covered elsewhere in this publication, but let us not forget the whole project of our health is connected to our surroundings, from the kitchen table to the greater planet and universe itself.
Engaging in activism with others towards building awareness and care of our surroundings can give renewed vision, purpose and meaning to our lives. This can be done at a family, village, city or national level. In itself this is a win for our health and will leave our place in a better state for the future.
Returning to the Celtic God Lug, who was the ultimate multi-tasker and harvester; this is the time to celebrate the bounty of nature. The scent of wild woodbine, privet and meadow sweet is filling the evening air this year with special potency.
There’s a kind of wake-up call from birds along small roads and hillsides, Knockfierna and other wild places. Visiting these will reward any visitor with fresh air, spectacular sunsets, a drop of soft rain and the gravitational lift of the moon.
Nourishing a new vision of ourselves and how we may play a valuable role in all of this can be the spark towards taking control of our own health. That vision needs regular renewal in our own pecial places. The new dawn comes sometimes with misty clouds, but we have the capacity look beyond today’s showers that fill the streams, to flow like our precious Shannon, all the way to the great Atlantic Ocean.
This truly is the time to be outside, to celebrate with Lug, our progress in guarding our health over the past six months. As we walk lightly in these places, or by the sea, we may reflect on those we have crossed that thin layer, or scim, between our world and theirs. Their spirit may just momentarily return to guide us in protecting and sharing these places with our fellow creatures. This will be our best protection for the future.
Let us leave no trace and light that locally made candle on our return.
Books that get used over again and worth owning
Earthing Clinton Ober
Wild and Free Cyril & Kit O Ceirin.
Easy Edible Mushrooms Guide David Pegler
Mushrooms Rodger Phillips
Grow A New Body Dr Alberto Villoldo
Wild Food and Plants of Ireland Tom Curtis & Paul Whelan
Wild Kitchen Oonagh O’Dwyer
The Wildflowers of Ireland Zoe Devlin
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