I went on Tuesday and Wednesday to help an elderly professor and his wife in their garden (I’m using the term elderly here reservedly. They are both springing up and down ladders renovating a derelict part of their home in an old stable). Their garden has the richest soil I think I’ve ever seen; they’ve carefully tended it for years and it is a deep cool black colour—one can feel the life in it. I spent most of the time shifting compost and turning the piles from last year. The kitchen compost was especially lovely; it was packed with earthworms (so many that, when I turned it over, I could clearly hear them working through the soil).
I slept Tuesday night under their ancient yew tree (at least 700 years old, but possibly much older; yew trees are difficult to date properly; they regenerate themselves in a way by shooting under the soil and bringing up new trunks nearby. So, in a sense, they could hypothetically live forever. They are among the oldest living beings on the planet). Yews are eerily beautiful; mature trees spread out into a cluster and form an “outdoor room”; one walks in under a canopy into a densely covered cove. Yews are also highly toxic; nothing grows underneath them. This is partially because the light is cut off, but they give off a potent toxin as well. Apparently the only part of the tree that is not poisonous is the outer fleshy part of their berries (the inner seed is deadly though). Whilst I was obviously not munching down on the leaves, I did accidently step in a pool of sap in the middle of the night…which then stuck to my foot for the rest of the night. I came back Wednesday afternoon and felt strangely tired so I took a nap…which ended up lasting three hours; I woke up from that rather disoriented. Last night, I had fantastic vivid dreams; this morning and most of the day, I’ve just been really lethargic (like the flu with no other symptoms). I’m finally, this evening, clearing up a bit and am able to focus on doing anything (after several litres of water and tea through the day).
Not entirely sure that it was the yew sap; however, it seems a likely explanation (as shamans will sit under the tree and meditate in hot weather to have visions from the tree’s vapours, it would seem possible that direct dermal contact with the sap might have similar effects). Will be more careful on future midnight pee breaks round the yew.