DAY 321

DAY 321
TREE 157

Finally a sunny day.  It’s a day I’ve been waiting for to climb a certain tree.  It is the tulip poplar in EP Tom Sawyer Park that I first climbed the day after Thanksgiving while Aaryn Munson ran the trails.  With all this cold winter weather I was nervous to attempt the climb because of the challenge and the height.

After work I went home and got on the computer.  I passed the time waiting for the sunset.  Then at about 5:30 I ran out the door and raced to the park.  When I got out of the truck, the cold wind hit me so I decided to run in a straight line towards the tree.  I wanted to get there and not miss the colors of the sunset.  I ran across the soccer fields and approached the little wooded area with the tree.  In my lack of endurance I stopped running and began to walk when I reach the tree line.  I was looking down at the leaves and a spot of neon orange among the dull brown caught my eye.  Immediately I recognized it, my ribbon from the top of the tree… it couldn’t be, I thought.  Almost 200 feet away or more embedded in the fallen leaves.  What are the chances that I would walk directly over this tiny piece of ribbon?  I picked it up and put it in my pocket.  I was skeptical but I knew I’d find out the truth if and when I found the remaining ribbon in the tree.

At the base I knew what to do.  On a tree of this difficulty I have no problem following the exact same path as the first climb.  I walked out under a limb, grabbed the end and walked in till my feet were off the ground.  Hand over hand, then up onto the branch.  I moved quickly in to the trunk then went in an erratic spiral up the tree.  I was definitely more comfortable and efficient this time.  I got to one tricky part and remembered how I had solved it last time and repeated the moves.  It seemed so easy compared to before when I was so scared. 

I climbed and climbed and finally reached the top where the ribbon remained but without its two tails from the knot. 

In this freezing weather I guess it became brittle and blew away in the strong winds. 

I took out my camera and began to take pictures of my incredible view. 

The bright orange sun was close to the horizon and I could see a silhouetted downtown skyline. 

It looked incredible.  And on the opposite side was the most clear and amazing full moon. 

Similar to how it looked the last time I climbed this tree. 

I shot and shot and waited for the sun to go down a little more,

then shot some more. 

I was up there quite a while, longer than usual when it’s this cold and the wind is blowing.  But this tree, this climb was just so incredible.  These few adjectives I use over and over to describe my experiences are starting to lose their power to me.  Today’s climb was just so memorable with its sensory splendor.  It becomes extremely difficult for me to describe in words. 

The sun finally set, shooting colors through the low clouds and the moon seemed to get closer, bigger, and more magnificent.  I was just in awe of the whole thing.  I’m glad I had waited for this time of day.  My camera battery died so I was close to being done.  I paused, took it all in once more then began my descent. 

A man walking the trail under me actually saw me at the top. 

He asked how the weather was up there.  I told him it was cold and windy.  Then he asked how I got up there and I explained my method.  He told me he hoped I don’t fall and I told him, "me too," and he walked on.  That was a pleasant interaction.  Those are the kind I like. 

Then I came down, fast and with ease skipping steps with my squeeze and slide technique.  I crawled out the bottom limb, hung, dropped, and stared at the big bright moon as I walked back to the truck just feeling in awe of everything. 

3-5-09:  That tree above is definitely one of the most memorable from the entire project.  And I never really concluded in the entry whether I thought I had actually found one of the two tails of my ribbon.  I believe I did.  It was buried in the leaves a few hundred feet from the tree and I just don’t know how I saw it or happened towalk right there.  I think I would have been in true disbelief if I had found the other tail as well.  But I did not.  Either way, what a coincidence. 

Also, I have struggled with a  limited vocabulary.  How many times have I used beautiful, amazing, or incredibleI have never felt that I was much of a writer and this being one of biggest weaknesses.  Thankfully I did take pictures and you don’t have to rely solely on my words to comprehend my experiences. 

When I visited New York in the summer of 2006 for 2 months my main purpose was to visit schools.  I am interested still in getting my MFA and when I was there I saw Pratt, Parsons, Hunter, Columbia, the School for Visual Arts, I traveled to Richmond, VA to see #1 ranked sculpture program at the Virginia Commonwealth University, and finally to New Haven, CT to visit Yale.  I loved Yale then for it’s awesome facilities, access to visiting artists, and proximity to New York City.  But the key for me was that it was not IN the city.  With my addiction to tree climbing I just couldn’t see myself being happy there.  And judging from my most recent trip that stance was only reinforced. 

So in my trip this last month I wanted to visit Yale again to be sure.  They had built a new sculpture building and I wanted to see it and get another tour.  On Wednesday, February 18th 2009, I took the train to New Haven and met up with Shanna Engel.  She is a friend from high school who went to Yale undergrad and now works there as Assistant Director of Athletic Compliance.  She is a fellow and lives in the freshmen quad and was gracious enough to let me stay in her guest bedroom.  So we went to lunch, caught up, and when she returned to her office I set out to check out the campus and possibly meet up with Noel Anderson, another high school friend who I just found out was in the exact program I was interested in as a first year. 

Unfortunately it was the first cold rainy day of my entire trip out east.  I checked out the Yale art gallery for a while and waited to hear from Noel.  I kept thinking about climbing but I had only brought one pair of pants and they were light colored.  I knew if I climbed a tree in this wetness they would get all nasty and I didn’t want to be dirty when I met people.  So I put it off and went down to the art building.  Noel couldn’t meet up with me that day so I ended up just meeting back up with Shanna when she got off work.  She wanted to take me out to get some good New Haven pizza and before we did I told her I just had to climb a tree. 

It was dark at this point, still wet but not raining.  We walked out of the freshmen quad towards Chapel Street and I saw my tree. 

It is a sweetgum with good, strong, and numerous branches.  Shanna hesitated and warned me that maybe I should skip that tree.  I asked why and she explained that it was right in front of the building used for the meetings of Skull and Bones.  That immediately made the tree more interesting to me and I got right to it.  Shanna watched from below as I made my way up the tree to top. 

There I had an decent view of a few of the gorgeous Gothic architecture of Yale. 

Specifically this one tall spire that contains the bells. 

As I shot my views around me and below me I was lucky that no one seemed to notice me. 

When I was done I climbed down doing my best to keep my pants somewhat clean (but I failed) and then I reached the ground once again.  I took a couple shots from below and one came out particularly interesting since I had a group a guys walk in front of the camera during the exposure leaving wisps of light across the image. 

Unfortunately there was no cool story that I can tell about the roof of the Skull and Bones building or anything else about the climb. 

I was just happy I got it over and that it actually turned out to be a pretty good tree.