“Look,” my friend says, “it’s an elephant.” I turn around. We’re walking along a path above the tide pools at Salt Creek, on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It’s a cold, foggy morning, summer slipping into fall. She points to a western red cedar on a curve of the path. “I see an elephant,” she says.
She’s right. But where she sees a generic elephant I see a mammoth, a young Columbian mammoth, with a shaggy curl of moss on its domed forehead and layered fur all the way down its trunk. Its small ear flaps forward and a rounded burl eye stares sightlessly out over the straits. His trunk (by now I’ve already decided his gender) reaches down into salal and young firs, as if he is browsing while standing on the edge of a cliff where land meets sea.
I reach out and touch this frozen young giant – about seven feet tall to the top of his dome. He’ll be ten feet tall when fully grown. Of course he’s impassive, wooden to my touch, but the swirl of his bark/fur makes him seem as if he just stopped as we rounded his corner, hoping to blend in before deciding on our intent.
I retrace my steps to the other side of the tree and discover that my gender assignment is completely wrong. On the exact opposite side of the mammoth’s head is its unmistakably female rear end, two legs solidly planted on the ground, a hanging vulva in between them. Even though shaggy fur covers her rump, anus and legs, her triangular shaped vulva can clearly be seen. Male elephants have internal scrotum and their small hanging folds are tucked up and under. This mammoth is definitely female.
The western red cedar grows straight and tall from the middle of her back. I assume she grew around a nurse log, forming her shape during a hundred years or more. Cedars like this one will grow to 180 feet and live for a thousand years. Mammoths disappeared ten thousand years ago. But I wonder if giants remember giants and try to resurrect them however they can.