Friday, November 30, 2012

Yew Tree, In Deep Woods

Maybe its not clear in this pictures, but in the center there is a frail tree, on the side of a hill, in the shade of cedars and alders, and Sword fern all around.

I went to Mercer Island today, where I rarely go, I went to measure a house (I work as an architect), and on the way back, I drove down into the long ravine i grew up in, and stopped my car, and walked into the woods to see if places that existing in my memory, places that are mythic and huge to me, and clear as any childhood memory of being in the woods can be, were still there, I took the risk, and went to see. Its all park now, so a lot is unchanged.

I went to look for a Yew tree that used to grow here, and a deep pond we floated rafts in, and of course, it was all much more compact than i recalled it, and there were hills and areas i have no memory of, and places I recall that i can find no place for- but the Yew tree- I knew it was here then, and I recall climbing into it, and it's berries, so odd, and drawing the berries, and looking it up in my Tree books, and knowing that Robin Hood made bows out of Yew, and wondering how I might do the same. I suppose I did, I can't recall.

It has been 4o years, and a tree in 40 years should get pretty big. There was no big tree. Over the years, I have thought about this tree, and I figured it had been found out when Taxus had become a hot commodity, in the 80's?, and the tree had met its fate.

So- at first, no tree. Though i found what i think was a shallow basin of Sword fern that was once a pond.  I wanted to bring my sister back here- what do you remember about this place? Do you remember us lined up on the bank, and someone on a rickety float? Was there a rope swing?

But then, walking back to my car, stopping here and there to stare at the shape of the land, to see if inspired a memory, i saw it, higher up on  hill then I recall. But the same as it ever was. Not like I thought it would be. Hard to see how I climbed into it. And,I saw it's dying. Thin, small, with only the wisp of leaves left, it never really flourished in the woods. But a beautiful quirk, an anomaly among alders and cedars.  Yew is a rarity. Have you seen one? Do you know it has red berries?

 No progeny, despite berries.  I know this is not My Grandfather's Clock, but there are more layers here that I am not sharing (how my father owned this land and developed it, and who lived here and what became of them), so its a poignant as a tree can be for me, and i spent a lot of childhood time in trees (as I am sure you did), and this was a unique one. Still, it could be that when the tree goes, I go. Same day. I suppose trees can go in a day. Total coincidence, we're not bonded in any way. But I seriously doubt that in these woods, in the damp and dark, that anyone else even knows it existed, and I would bet, that only one child has ever climbed it to look at the berries, and I am sure, that only one 52 year old balding fellow ever came back to find it.