Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park

Burgoyne Bay Yew Spiral

Follow Burgoyne Bay road until you reach the large old barn on the left hand side of the road, park here. You will find a wide marked pathway that leads you across the large fields. Maple and Hawthorne trees line the pathway which at one time was a road, or perhaps even a driveway. Eventually you will reach a fork in the road, turn left and follow this narrower pathway until you reach a large open field. Crossing this field the path slowly starts to go up a long low hill and again branches to the left and right. Taking the trail to the left begin to look for a very narrow trail heading up a small hill to your right, there may still be a white rock sitting on a log marking this trail.

One of my favourite rambles on Salt Spring Island is through the great open grasslands, divided by hedgerows, in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park at the base of Mount Maxwell. The park is new since 2004 and currently has a total of 524 hectares. The area was originally homesteaded by early settlers in the 1880s and remnants of their lives can be found throughout the park including the hedgerows, Hawthorn tree lined roads, tumbling down fences, old barns and piles of stones formed while clearing the fields.

When I first made my way up this narrow trail I was amazed to find myself in a small clearing surrounded by young Poplars that were sheltering a single Yew tree. Yews are a sacred and ancient tree associated with magic, connecting with ancestors and other-world journeys. Yews can assist us in understanding and receiving messages from our guides and from the spiritual realms. Yew trees are associated with the “evergreen” world tree, Yggdrasil and their wood has traditionally been used to make longbows. Druids planted groves of Yew trees.

Yews are a small, slow growing, rare, and very poisonous coniferous tree. I wondered was this a Pacific Yew indigenous to the area or had it been brought here from another country. Was it a tree marking a location, a life event? Yews are exceptionally long lived, a Yew tree in a church yard in Wales has been documented to be up to 5,000 years old. Imagine the memories it has stored in its long life!¬† Although they are highly toxic Pacific and Canada Yews are used to make Taxol a drug treatment for breast and lung cancer. Yew trees are one of 400 medicinal plants world wide that are at risk of extinction through over-collection. I was curious to the age of this tree and later read that a Yew with a 10 inch diameter could be about 200 years old….that would mean this tree could have been planted, or started growing, around 1815!

As I stood in the clearing filled with questions I began to notice many piles of rocks of all sizes scattered under the trees around the site. Perhaps they had been piled here while the fields were being plowed or perhaps they had been a part of some structure that had once stood in this place. I began to collect them into a pile in the clearing, unsure what I would do with them. While I collected the rocks I began to think about Yew trees and their magical meanings and connections to the spirit world. I intuitively began to create a spiral around the base of the tree. This spiral begins – or ends – with the Yew tree itself. Spirals are one of the most sacred symbols of death and rebirth. As the spiral moved outwards into the clearing it became a double spiral. Double spirals are associated with the yin-yang symbol and represent balance and the interweaving of the physical world and the spiritual realm.

This ephemeral work will eventually become integrated back into the site, joining our own ephemeral passage through this world, witnessed and supported by the natural and spiritual worlds we are so deeply interconnected with.

I invite you to become part of this story by adding your own photographs of your journey to the Burgoyne Bay Yew Spiral, on Instagram #ssiwayfindingproject

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