All day I could have climbed. But where? I wanted someplace new. And I knew that in the late afternoon I’d be driving up to Cincinnati for my cousin Andy’s engagement party. So I waited. My mom went to the airport and picked up my Aunt Peggy who flew in just from Maryland just for the event. We visited and I looked out the window of my parents’ house and heard the trees calling me. They don’t like when I wait and neither do I. But I stayed firm to my plan to climb later. On the car ride we had a discussion about sharing life stories and lessons. Something that I feel I do a lot with my friends but that my parents rarely do, if ever. So I asked. What I got was a memory about playing in the woods when my mom was a child and it veered off into a tangential conversation between my mom and her sister that had nothing of interest for me. My dad drove quietly. So much for that hope of hearing about who they were when they were young and how it formed their views and personalities.
We made good time to the house and the sun was just about to set. I decided to take a walk. Two blocks to the right and a little searching and I came to a huge hackberry in an empty corner lot across from the Fire and Rescue station.
I thought, good, if I have a problem my rescue is just across the street. I was drawn to this tree because of its size and the infrequent limbs that are close enough to see a possible path but not so close that it looks in any way easy. The bark of this hackberry was very bumpy and hard with thick, sharp, rectangular pieces that jutted out. It made for great grip with my feet. I grabbed a spindly little limb that hung down and I pulled myself up as if on a rope. I climbed onto a more substantial branch growing right above it and then climbed on. The steps up were slow and I considered each grip carefully and made steady progress. I got to use some of my best tricks. It was really starting to get dark. Once I got up to where the main trunk split into two limbs I noticed something interesting. When I put my right hand around one to get a hold my fingers went far into a chasm.
This limb was rotted out and hollow. I made a mental note to be careful. But really, it did not stop my upward momentum. Only I didn’t get much higher. One path had no limbs, the other just looked extremely dead.
So I stopped and pulled my ribbon out. In doing so I pulled out another and it twirled its way down and got stuck out on a limb. Oh well, I thought. I went to my business of tying and taking pictures.
I could see a few of the rides at the nearby King’s Island amusement park. That was pretty neat. Mostly I enjoyed this tree, it’s challenging climb, and my foreign view.
I spent some time just relaxing but then I figured I should get to the party. So I climbed down. I stopped at three different points to shake the ribbon out and it finally tumbled to the ground on the third try. It was fun to chase after something in the tree. It forced me to go a slightly different path. Then I finished my descent, picked up my fallen ribbon, and happily walked back to the event. I felt like a kid, happy as I walked balancing on the curb and feeling as if I did something a little unnerving.
My parents told some guests where I had been so I got a lot of questions when I returned. They don’t understand it, they think it’s dangerous, but they support me. That’s fine. I love it.
1-6-09: I guess my parents are just not into telling stories. I am not really sure where I got my urge to share and tell stories. I am trying to think back to my childhood and find an adult figure that shared stories with me and made an impression but I am drawing a blank. Maybe I just found the sharing with friends my age was the way to get to know someone, to understand them, to become friends and I put a high value on that. There is always that moment with someone, that night you stay up late talking, or the road trip, or some long, focused period of time where there is nothing to do but talk. Things come up from our past, funny things, serious lessons, all kinds of topics that create a long conversation, and when the night is over or the trip is done, you feel closer to that person. I think the Story Corp Project is a very awesome collection of sharing. Broadcast on NPR, these stories are collected all over the country by family and friends interviewing one another and then stored in the Library of Congress. Check it out here.
So now I will tell you my story of my tree climb from December 28th 2008. It was a Sunday and Rachel’s last day in Louisville for the holiday break. She wanted to see Norman’s house out in Lanesville, Indiana and asked me to take her. We drove out in the late afternoon and as Norman began to give her the tour I grabbed my camera and headed out to the woods to find a tree. Usually, when at Norman’s place, I look for trees near the house, the road, or the reservoir for the view. I also thought most of the trees in the woods were mostly evergreens with too high limbs and lots of sap. But as I walked deeper I got past the area of evergreens and into a whole area of deciduous woods. Though they also had very long trunks with no low limbs I knew they would be easier and cleaner to shimmy up. I came to a couple of maples that looked perfect.
One was short with a nice collection of small branches going up right next to the much larger tree right next to it. I saw the ability to transfer and knew these were my trees. I started to climbed up the small maple like a large rope. Every so often there was a bump, knot, or tiny limb that helped m grip to the first limbs. Once there, the climb became easier and I went up till I thought I could move into the larger tree. I took pictures all while I climbed to document the whole climb.
I tried transferring over and realized I need to go one branch higher in the small tree to make it work. Up and over, the move was successful and I looked up the large tree to plan my path. The branches were strong and well spaced out for a good challenging climb. This tree, though large, was mostly tall and skinny. As I went higher the branches split off but still grew vertically up. The higher I got the more small movements made me sway. When that first movement happens it is quite disconcerting. I usually take a close look at the bark and branches I am on to make sure there are no signs of breaks, rot, or weakness. It was good and continued up a little more to a very high perch in the tree.
The view was great. I couldn’t see any houses or buildings but the trees in the woods,
the rusty brown forest floor,
and distant fields seen between the trees,
everything seemed beautiful. The sun was setting in the distance and though the colors in the sky weren’t spectacular I still appreciated the sight.
I sat just a moment with out shooting pictures, swayed slightly without pushing my luck, then started to climb back down. Taking more pictures as I went, I reached the point where I was going to transfer back to the small tree. But then I looked down the large trunk. It was a good size for shimmying and looked to be a straight, clear shot to the ground. I could do it, and I did. I lowered myself, wrapped my legs around the trunk, squeezed, and started my slide down.
I am not sure how high I was, but the slide down went quick and easy. It was a great way to get down. I really enjoy that technique.
I took a few more shots of the tree from the bottom then walked back through the woods as the light faded to rejoin my friends.