The local author of the illustrated book, “The Large Rock and the Little Yew,” continues to donate all the proceeds from book sales to the Jasper Mountain treatment facility for emotionally troubled children in the Springfield and Jasper areas.
It was December of 2007 when Eugene resident Greg Ahlijian attended a Christmas party sponsored by the Eugene Chamber of Commerce Greeters at the Jasper Mountain facility.
The atmosphere was festive as toys were donated and Santa Claus appeared for some 20 children attending Jasper Mountain, Ahlijian said. However, he felt a turn in his stomach as he thought of what the children were going through despite their well-dressed and calm demeanor. He knew then that he had to get involved in a bigger way.
In 2008, Ahlijian said he turned in an application to volunteer with Jasper Mountain. Since then, he’s taught students in topics of art, nature and character development in poetry.
“These children are an inspiration to me,” Ahlijian said. “People say, it must be difficult dealing with children (who) have emotional problems and are suffering the effects of abuse. But I don’t find it to be a difficult situation. I have a lot of empathy for those children.”
It wasn’t until 2010 when Ahlijian found himself inspired to write a children’s book. One morning before Thanksgiving, Ahlijian said he was volunteering in a class when he brought up the subject of an ancient tree growing up in one place for hundreds of years.
Wouldn’t it be interesting, Ahlijian said, if someone wrote a story about that tree and what people, activities and historical moments that tree would witness over many decades of life. He looked up at one student while he said this, and her eyes lit up with imagination.
“The inspiration bounced off from me, to her, and back to me,” Ahlijian said. “The next day on Thanksgiving, that idea percolated in my mind for 24 hours…on Friday morning I got up and wrote this story.”
Ahlijian’s book, “The Large Rock and the Little Yew,” isn’t about an ancient tree, but of a yew that starts as a tiny seedling in a harsh outdoor environment. The yew’s germination awakens a nearby boulder, which becomes angry at the nerve of the yew seeking its potential despite the obstacles. From there, the yew encounters struggle and learns courage, perseverance, self-respect and hope, Ahlijian said.
The book is intended for children and adults of all ages; Ahlijian said he self-published the book and employed the help of Oregon residents for illustrations and design: Randy Sprick, Janna Roselund, Lynda and the late Brian Lanker. Ahlijian also thanked the owners of Eugene Social, an online social media outlet, for helping promote the book.
Ahlijian says his book has received testimonials from adults as well as children who could relate to the struggle and also the hope for self-discovery in the story. In an update from last year, Ahlijian said the book has now raised $40,000 total in sales at Hirons’ drug stores, the Book Nest on Mohawk Boulevard and Imagine Gallery in Eugene. The book can also be purchased online at www.littleyewtree.com.
“I’m not reimbursing one cent for any production costs,” Ahlijian said. “I’m not in it for the money…my goal publishing is twofold: one is to raise money for Jasper Mountain, and the other is to get a book with timeless life lessons into the hands of children.”