Retreat to a Magic Garden

Guestblog by Alienora Taylor

Weeping willowBattle-weary, the warriors retreat – torn and bloodied, those still alive; they leave behind them the mournful skirling of the war-pipes, the ravens circling and dipping and the tragic heaps of human flesh.

And so, in a more metaphorical sense, we all, at some point, feel the need to beat a strategic retreat from the battlefields of our own lives: from the harsh ‘music’ of warring voices that causes us to weep; from the symbolic Birds of Death awaiting their chance to tear out the soft organs; from the annihilation of our hopes and dreams, relationships and work placements; from spiritual uncertainty or psychological crisis.

And this moves – so softly and poetically – onto the second meaning of the word ‘retreat’: withdrawing into privacy or security; (place of) shelter or seclusion; (Eccl) temporary retirement for religious exercises.

In this sense, retreats have been used by many of the major religions throughout the ages – and they continue to be used, often, these days, by less Patriarchal groups of truth-seekers, Pagans and Multi-Faith organisations and, of course, lone hermits.

From the moment, back in August, we drove down the long, wide gracious Zeist street, we sensed that we were entering a special and rarefied world: a world where the need for a drawing in from the hectic, materialistic and frantic was gently acknowledged and peacefully catered for.

As the car glided along the lines of tall trees – that elegance and majesty so different to British grey neatness – we felt exalted.

And then we turned, up a verdant and secretive drive, and saw the Magic Garden for the first time. Tears came to my eyes. Dappled with sun, it was, a garden of many parts: wild, yet loved, encouraged, tended, organic in the true sense of the word.

The garden’s owners and protectors, Debora and Michiel, showed us around: the vegetable patch, abundant and fertile; chickens, rabbits, goldfish lazing contentedly amidst green algae in the swimming pond – a pool used regularly by hosts and visitors alike.

The vast willow, so tall, a canopy of magic! How lovely to pitch tent and curl up, underneath its living parasol of branches, to sleep and dream!

maanbloemenThe wooden temple in the corner by the chickens, such a wonderful space: Arianrhod’s stars above; Banners of two Mythic Drama groups, united for the journey, waiting like frozen magic, for the opening times; Full Moon, whilst we were there, trancing through leaves as we processed for the Opening Improvisation – white robes, coloured cords, rings flickering in candle-flame.

Fellowship: The Table Round in mystical Logres, we the Knights of Spiritual Chivalry, the mysteries behind Camelot, the Celtic creatures, blended, harmonious, knit by love. Working with the stories handed down through the centuries; we were rooted in the earth that is mythology, and the Oral Tradition which links us to our far-distant past.

We were there to work, and play, a meeting of minds and spirits and myth-based re-enactment. But we entered a retreat too, though perhaps we did not fully know it at the time. We entered a plane of existence held apart from the frenetic, the goal-oriented, money-driven round.

For four magical days, in this hidden Avalon, we found tears and laughter, anger and solace, friendship and music, ritual and good food – and all of this in a setting of quiet magnificence, of deep greens interwoven with pinks and purples, bright oranges and sun-flare yellows settling flame-like upon house and temple, stones and plants.

Since those balmy and spiritually bracing days, Debora and Michiel have decided to open their corner of Paradise as a retreat. I fully intend to return, as soon as I can. If you get the opportunity to withdraw for a few days, hours even, to visit De Magische Bongerd, make sure you take it. You will emerge, as I did, a different person.

An English teacher for thirty years, Alienora Taylor is now writing full time: journal, novels, a blog, play reviews for the local community and, occasionally, poetry. Follow her on Twitter:@AlienoraTaylor and read her work:

If you want to come to Zeist, Netherlands for an afternoon mini- retreat, or make a personal Journey to your Source, contact Debora at info [at] demagischebongerd [dot] nl