By Simon Melrose
A gentle breeze stirred through the canyon and Mayu awoke. It was growing steadily more difficult to wake in the morning, what with the shortage of water and all. Since the great falls had dried and the long absence of rain, she knew it would not be long now.
“Ho hum”, she thought to herself as she reached deep for a taste of loam. Finding nothing, she decided not to bother and instead stretched her gnarled trunk, her magnificent limbs shuttering with the effort. You see, Mayu was an ancient Sequoia tree living high on a cliff above what the humans today call “Kennedy Canyon”. In a time long forgotten, before names like John Muir and J. Edgar Hoover were ever conceived, Mayu’s seed was miraculously deposited in a tiny crevasse of granite above the timberline over the canyon. Her seed took purchase and there she thrived for years uncounted. Mayu gazed longingly out across the expanse. From her perch she could see the valleys below and beyond and it made her spirit stir. Oh how she wished she could swim with the fish in the distant rivers and run with the deer in the cool green meadows.
Just as her discontent became unbearable, she heard a small voice, “Good morning Mayu.”
It was Fruitvale the squirrel. He and his family lived under the base of her trunk in the root stock.
“Ho hum”, drolled Mayu. “I suppose it is”, she said, not entirely convinced.
“Say”, continued Fruitvale. “Do you mind if I take the last couple of your seed cones for our storehouse? They have become scarce up on the ridge, and we could sure use the extra food come winter”.
“Ho hum, I suppose that would be alright. I’m well beyond my seeding years anyhow.”
“But please tell me of the tunnels beneath my roots. Where do they lead to? What can you see?”
“Oh?” Said Fruitvale. “Well it’s quite dark. And the tunnels lead back down deep into the crevasse, and out into the valley bellow.”
“Oh, the valley…you must tell me of the valley!” cried Mayu. “I would so love to see it.”
“Yes, such a beautiful place. The Lilies grow rich on the hillsides, and springs flow from the mountains into deep pools”.
Mayu let out a great “Ho hum!” at this, and Fruitvale quickly scampered behind a rock.
She then frowned and grew silent as if in deep thought, so Fruitvale decided that it was a good time to gather the seed cones and head back into the tunnels.
Mayu watched the star grow high in the blue sky and basked in the mid day heat that it brought. She liked to watch as it cast shadows about the valley, though it did make her thirst terribly. As her thoughts turned to rivers and waterfalls, she felt a rustle in her highest bows. It was Gaylwynd, a Golden Condor who had sought refuge with Mayu while fleeing the great fires many years back. She had found a mate and they saw fit to raise their young in Mayu’s sturdy branches.
“Hello Mayu”, chirped Gaylwynd.
“Ho hum, Gaylwynd”, came the reply. “How are the little ones?”
“Oh, just marvelous! You know..? Sometimes I think I was just hatched to be a mother”, Gaylwynd beamed.
“Ho hum, I wish I could be a mother. I mean…maybe I am. How would I know, being stuck up here in this crevasse and all?”
“Well it certainly comes with it’s challenges.” Replied Gaylwynd. “Why, just this last week I had to fly many miles over the mountains to the sea in search of materials for the nest.”
“Ho hum!”, bellowed Mayu. “Please, you must tell me of the sea!”
“Yes, well the air is different. It is very cool, and has a funny taste. The birds are strange there. They fly in circles and screech a lot. And…well, the sea itself is as a great blanket and the water comes in endless waves from who knows where, just to crash on the shore. Quite a peculiar place really.”
“Ho hum, how I long to know what the sea is like”, sighed Mayu. “But I never will.”
Gaylwynd cocked her head to the side as if concerned, but Mayu had gone silent and appeared to be off in a dream. She had much to do so the majestic bird took flight.
Mayu was lost in her thoughts. As she pondered the many things of the wide world that she would never see, she barely noticed the peculiar creatures that had taken up next to her massive trunk. They had small branches and smooth bark. They were certainly not from the ridge, nor could they possibly be from the valley.
“Ho hum!”, she greeted the new arrivals. “I am Mayu, and this is my perch. Are you lost then?”
There was no reply.
The creatures were humans of course, and only heard the groan of a tree swaying in the breeze. For humans don’t speak the language of the forest, and are primarily only concerned with their own affairs. What Mayu would have heard, had she too been able to understand human, would have been something like this:
“Oh my what a hot one! Another mile up here without any shade and I would be done for!”
“Yes, and what luck to find water back at that spring! And such an amazing view! I’m not in any hurry to leave.”
And so the creatures took shade under Mayu’s bows until the star was deep into its western swing. Eventually they moved on, but all the while she marveled at them. Where did they come from? And what freedom they must possess to venture so far up to the perch.
No sooner had they left, that Mayu felt a familiar sensation against her bark. It was a great big black bear named Willhart rubbing his backside on the lower part of her trunk. Willhart had been orphaned as a cub and had wandered onto Mayu’s perch. He was mischievous and a prankster, but mostly sought Mayu out for company and advice.
“Ho hum, Willhart, must you scratch your behind on MY trunk?!”
“Oh Mayu, it’s just so itchy”, he said with a toothy grin. “Did you smell those strange creatures? They had food. And not the usual nuts and berries. It smelled gooood! I think I may go and take it from them.”
“Ho hum! Leave the poor creatures be! Besides, they may be dangerous.”
She did not know how correct she was.
“Oh, I suppose you’re right. But I am hungry.”
“You’re always hungry Willhart.”
Willhart moseyed off in search of food and mischief, leaving Mayu alone to her thoughts once again. Finally the star had set behind the mountains and the evening cool settled in. Mayu was sad and sleepy and knew the time had come. She peered deep and long into the valley. Then she drew in a few last draughts of breath, and went to sleep.
In the morning, as the star began to peak over the eastern crest of the hills, the forest stirred in greeting of the new day. Mayu did not, for her spirit had gone back into the earth. As the day drew on into afternoon, the forest creatures began to notice that something had changed. Something was missing. It was Mayu. She was gone.
There was a great loss felt among the creatures. Each and every one came to Mayu and in their own fashion paid their respect and said their farewell. Soon the creatures who had inhabited the great Sequoia were force to seek dwelling elsewhere. The crevasse became barren, and the face of the ridge changed forever.
You see, each and every one of us has a place in the world, and though she never realized the importance of hers, Mayu was of great value to the forest. Isn’t it comforting to know that your value in life is not determined by what you do or have, but who you are?
One day many years later, a human wondered onto the ridge, and there found the remains of Mayu’s weathered trunk. Something about the grain of her wood caught his fancy and he had her cut down. Today, Mayu can be found near a trailhead in a popular destination known to the humans as ‘Yosemite National Park’. Her timber has been cut and shaped into a park bench, and there is a copper plaque on her that reads: “John Muir – Naturalist, Author, Father of the high Sierra”.
It would seem that Mayu found her way to the valley after all.
Simon Melrose resides in the San Francisco Bay Area where he is a musician, author, and adventurer. His passions include motorcycle touring and fly fishing, and in 2015 Simon completed a 2,650 mile backpacking trek border to border from Mexico to Canada along the infamous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. His writings include the books Sleight of Hand (An Illustrated Guide to Sonoma County Guitar Heroes) and Trout Fishing the Pacific Crest Trail. He also maintains an ongoing adventure blog motonorth.wordpress.com, which contains many essays, short stories, and general musings from adventures near and far including the featured short, Mayu’s Last Day.
Sleight of Hand – http://www.blurb.com/b/5131731-sleight-of-hand
Blog – www.motonorth.wordpress.com
Social – www.facebook.com/simon.melrose