Friday, November 22, 2013

171. Climbing Trees

One of my first memories is seeing the underside of avocados. When I was in preschool living on Key West, we had an avocado tree in the backyard. At the time I didn't know how to appreciate the fact that we were living in proximity to a wizard tree that took energy from the sun and made food. I don't know if you've spent much time thinking about that recently, but now that I am a grown adult who has to spend money on produce, the idea of having a tree that just makes food for free seems frankly magical.

My sister was very good at climbing the tree. I was learning. I think that my first memory is mid-fall from one of the low branches. I can see my hands stretched out in front of me, grasping at the air, silhouetted against a backdrop of green leaves and plump avocados. I think perhaps it was the impact of hitting the ground that joggled that memory from the short term of childhood to the long term of now.

Throughout the rest of my childhood, I have countless memories of standing at the bases of trees, looking up through the web of interlaced branches to see the patchwork sky above. I remember the moment of decision making: were the inevitable sticky sap fingers worth the climb? Usually the answer was yes. But then there as always then regret later on, as I would spend hours trying in vain to pry sap (now matted with lint and cat hair) off of my skin.

As we grow up, we have less opportunity for tree climbing. We have a lot of things working against us. We have to wear professional clothes that we spent our own money on, we have nice shoes, we have schedules, we have nice sapless hands that need to look like regular hands when we're doing our jobs. We're a lot taller than we used to be, so it's harder to find a tree that's big enough to support our weight as we climb. We have places to be, and people who might be taken aback to suddenly see a grown adult drop her briefcase and shimmy up a pine.

But when I had no schedule and there were trees everywhere to choose from, my vantage point of the world began to stretch upward. No longer was my line of sight restricted to 5'7" off the ground. Now it was as high as I could scramble up a trunk, my calloused hands wrapping around the rough bark without trouble. I wasn't the only hiker who saw our trees as mini fortresses. The entire landscape had the potential to be a city of tree dwellers, all popping their bearded faces above the tree-line like some army of absurdly hairy groundhogs.

We could climb. So we did.

Clever Girl on Mt. Springer

Dumptruck somewhere down South

Catch 22

Clever Girl

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