Silverdale is one of my all time favourite places in Lancashire. This verdant, woodland clothed corner of our land holds many secrets which have come to be more meaningful as I’ve grown older. I particularly honour the yew woods that can be discovered by those who walk off the well trodden pathways.
It took me several years to craft what was for me a telling portrait of these ancient ones and even longer to capture the fruits of new life that drip from them each autumn. Of course I now know that I wasn’t to be gifted the images until I was well and truly ready to receive and understand. This week I was granted my pictures which I share with you here.
The Samhain Death Tree
As you probably know yew trees have a particular relevance to this time of autumn which is seen by many as the ending of the year. The time of death and rebirth when the veil between the realms is at it’s most transient. I’ve had accidental hallucinogenic experiences with yew, just by being deeply in their presence and this led me to understand the probable purpose of yew circles. Perhaps they’re journey spaces where their leaf borne toxic gasses gather around the old boles and facilitate more connected journeys for those who sit in their breath.
Getting back to my visit, I’m now ever more keenly aware of the need to mark this time of rebirth in our lives if we are to proceed smoothly on Earth’s next turning of the wheel and I held this in mind as I approached the dangle of berries that teased me in the sunshine. Try as I might I couldn’t see their depth until I stepped under the canopy and immersed myself in the foliage.
As I explored the night realm amongst the dark emerald needles I ate a few of the berries, which are actually a kind of tiny fir-cone with a fleshy exterior. The sickly sweet yet sharp and pungent taste kissed my tongue and greased my lips as I spat out the highly toxic seeds. ( Note – swallowing just a few seeds WILL kill, so if you are tempted to taste the flesh of the death tree be warned and always, always spit out the seed ).
After a while I began to see the sparkle of the berries in the light of the late morning sun and finally, she gave me some photos. Holding onto and meditating on the message of yew was the key that unlocked the connection with the yew muse for me.
Yew and Ivy
From this point on, throughout my day I was acutely aware of the process of death and rebirth. Yew time was sticking around.
For me there’s a darkness in the world today as climate change spreads it’s iron grip around our planet. It’s not a consuming dread though, more a ripe awareness of the state of things which inspires a desire to be of service.
Here, with the red berries of the death tree I saw new life emerging despite all. My eyes climbed into a huge scramble of wasp-covered ivy that clambered over a nearby bank and I took photos of a few inhabitants.
I sensed the circling of things, the cycles. And there in the recesses of the evergreen leaves and spiky flowers was a new interloper. An ivy bee busy collecting pollen and drinking the heady nectar that filled the air with ivy’s very odd scent.
Two years ago there were no records of ivy bees in the British Isles. This year there’s been 600! This individual was the northernmost record for 2016. The darkness that is global warming has brought this welcome new being to our shores.
Moments later as I cast my eyes over the mudflats a pale ghost figure touched down. More at home in the African waterholes the little egret has too adopted our shores as home now that the climate is warmer. Another gift that visits us from the heaviness that is climate change.
Two true beauties that have risen and come to stay. Mulling over these connections I thought long and hard about this coming Samhain as the time of death and rebirth. Maybe this is not the time to merely put sticking plasters on our wounds. Perhaps this year we can do more than try to repair that which is broken in us. Maybe we can be rebirthed as new beings. Could the ivy bee and little egret in our souls get a chance to fly free?
I stayed with the ebb and flow of the estuary until well after darkfall. The moon rose high and lit the blackened landscape with a silver gleam. Yes, I can be made new. I’m sure you can too should you choose the adventure that awaits.