There’s a tree that grows at the end of my grandmother’s garden. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, for as long as anyone can remember. When I was a young girl, I would spend entire summers hidden in the branches of that colossal ash, climbing from the earth to the heavens. Gran would scold me for ‘eavesdropping on the gods’ when I rushed into her cottage at the end of the day, knees and elbows scraped on the rough bark, and told her how high I’d climbed. She’d say it with a mischievous smile on her thin lips and I knew she was only teasing.
That tree was my whole world. It was a refuge from all the bullshit and tears my life brought me. I suppose it was inevitable that I’d end up back there after what happened.
Gran never questioned why she opened the door to find me standing on her porch, soaked through with the unrelenting rain. She never asked why I was crying, nor did she say a word when I passed through the mismatched rooms only to exit into the garden behind the cottage. I was in a daze that night. I can barely remember the climb up the knurled trunk, past that damned squirrel that was always upsetting the other animals. It gave me a disgusted look but I didn’t care, not that night. I settled myself into the boughs and wept. The hiss of the rain drowning out my wracking sobs.
I felt much better the next morning. Gran made me eggs and asked after mum. I lied and said she was fine, but I didn’t really know. It was hard to care about how she was these days. Gran never asked about the night before. Auntie V poked her head around the door and told me that, if I was staying, I would have to help around the house. Gran said I could start by watering the tree.
It was sort of a tradition. Every morning, either Gran or Auntie V would water it with water taken from the well. I’d been allowed to help on a few rare occasions, but now it was my job. I was practically whistling as I drew the icy-cold liquid up from the depths in that half-rotten bucket, sprinkling in a handful of sand from the base of the well just as Gran had shown me. I don’t know why we do it, just that we do.
I poured the water around the trunk and could swear I heard the ash sigh at the taste of it. I heard the hammer of what I thought was a woodpecker until I realised that the snake was back, nibbling at the roots. I shooed it away with my boot. It’d be back, it always was.
The squirrel chattered in the branches above my head.
‘I haven’t forgotten last night,’ I told it.
The tree drank.
The world turned.
Life went on.
Y is for Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil, also known as the World Ash, is said to support the entire universe. It had three main roots, one each sheltering the underworld (Nilfheim), the realm of the giants (Jotnor), and the last sheltering Asgard (the home of the gods).
The tree is watered and tended to, daily, by the Norns (Urd, Verdandi and Skuld) and is fed upon by all manner of animals namely Nidhoggr, a dragon that naws at its roots. An eagle sits atop the tree and Ratatoskr, the squirrel, delivers insults between it and the dragon.