Posted in Elephants, Extinction, Nature

Mammoth Tree

“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.

Mammoth in Cedar

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.

Mammoth Cedar 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.

Author:

Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

14 thoughts on “Mammoth Tree

  1. Oh my ! I can only imagine what a magical experience it must have been, to “cross paths” with such a beautiful mammoth girl, standing silent witness to her long gone majestic ancestors. Fabulous shots ! Thanks once again, Cheryl. X

    1. I would have passed right by if it hadn’t been for my friend. I was looking out to the ocean for wave shots. The really fun part was “sexing” the tree, knowing I can usually tell the difference between elephant sexes, but not tree sexes!

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