Special Book Spotlight-The Story of Yew by Guido Mina di Sospiro
by Marilyn Cameron
“How often do you encounter a tale told by a tree? A tree that had seen a thousand winters before the Vikings came to America. She is a female tree.” With these words the inside cover of this remarkable book entices us to read on, and I did, and couldn’t stop…”
The Story of Yew is an autobiographical eco fable. The ancient yew tree, through Guido’s writing, tells her story in a way we can understand, and, mindful of our story telling traditions, she begins with the line, “Twenty four thousand, seven hundred and forty moons ago today…….”, and in an imaginary instant, we are at the beginning. Her beginning, which began far and away before ours. As she, a newly sprung seedling travels up and over with the sun, we accompany her through her fabled life’s journey in and out of the many seasons until we reach today.
Her words paint the picture of her natural world, her family, friends and teachers, who are the trees, plants, animals, birds and insects, and as she grows and develops in her younger years, we do too, in our understanding of that world.
She describes to us her early encounters with human beings, her observations of the over time, such as her unwitting involvement with the Druids, for example. She tells us of the time when the old Celts became Christians and of her realisation that she is still held in high esteem by man, whom to her, at a particular stage in her life, were a lowly species whom she began to hate.
But, like every other living thing on the planet, she is changed by the individual lessons of experience. After suffering the heartbreak of her mother’s death, she emerges from grief’s dimension an adult, ready to meet life’s larger responsibilities.
A chemical war, deliberated by her against the oaks, ensures her own survival and that of her species, however the cutting down by man of many species, including her own, leaves her somewhat lonely. Where once she stood in a wooded grove, she now stands a far distance from her neighbours.
Disaster strikes, and once more she is threatened with death, when a monk fells her. Again, she fights back and puts forth twelve shoots that, to the monks, represented Christ’s twelve disciples. Once again, she displays the wonder of re-birth and is protected and cared for by the monks. She outlives both the monks and their monastery, which lies in ruins around her, and she learns love and understanding. She is still there, for she is a real yew tree and the author is her medium. You will find out which tree, where, and some great old legends when you read the book, I don’t want to give too much away!