There were several trees in our yard that I more or less lived in when I was a child. First there was a low, wide red maple with several trunks and many convenient branches. Even a very young child could climb it, if by “climb” you mean settle comfortably into the shelter of its trunks. I don’t remember ever not being able to climb it. I tied myself to it once when I was six or seven–one end of a string around my wrist, the other end around a middling-sized branch. I don’t know if I wanted to be part of it or what. It felt like family, in a weird Druidic way.

Then there was a Norway maple, situated farther from the house, down closer to the road, and with a lower branch unattainably high for small children, but still temptingly low. I aspired to it for several years. When I finally managed to make it up there, I transferred most of my affection to it from the red maple. When you climbed up and sat with legs dangling in that green crown, you were mostly invisible–it was a very different experience from crouching in the red maple in a direct line of sight from our kitchen window. I took books up there, naturally. That was mostly what I did as a child, read books and climbed trees. I was aware of and embraced the stereotype of the tree-climbing bookish child.

In the far back of our yard, which was large, there was a small apple orchard. The people who lived in our house before us had been agrarian–they had kept chickens, cultivated fruit, pruned things. Under our tenure the henhouse was converted to a playhouse and the apples all fell, stunted and wormy, to the ground and rotted. I was a little skittish about the apple trees because the ground beneath them was soft and slimy for a few months a year, but they were also irresistible, with their crooked, elaborate forms–impossible not to stare at. I spent a lot of time edging around them and looking for a way in, but they were really too crooked to climb; there was no room in them, even for a child.

I made the mistake of choosing, when it came time to choose a house to raise my own child in, a house with a yard with no climbable trees. The neighborhood is full of huge oaks, impressive but unapproachable. No one’s getting up them without ropes and harnesses. My son and his best friend next door were earthbound throughout their childhoods, a thing I mourned intermittently but they apparently didn’t, never having known another state. They did form a bond with the two large trees that stood between our properties, though. In the shelter of these trees was a rock that was good for sitting, and there they frequently sat; there they frequently spent hours; it was by way of a clubhouse, and they named this place, when they were still very small, the Nest. I could look out the kitchen window and see them there, being raised in part by trees. I think it was a good childhood.

xylem and phloem out of excuses

9 thoughts on “High

  1. Priceless! And ohhh the memories you stirred of a special chinaberry tree where I, too, read comic books and other books and learned to stay in the uppermost branches when mother’s moods were dark. Lovely writing, Melissa.


  2. aloha Red Dragonfly. you have great childhood doings. I like that.

    Symptoms of Spring

    now that I think about it, yeah. of course I climbed trees as a kid. lots of trees. and in high school. and college. and after college too. in fact I’ve climbed trees all my life. in just about every place I’ve lived. at least in the USA. and in some other countries too. sometimes daily. of course it’s a little more challenging without a tail. still quite fun though. and heck my tail may come back. someday. I don’t think I read books in trees. I missed something there. hiding out in trees is still a lot of fun. although now more often than not I climb to prune.

    the purple sound
    of maple trees at dusk
    the birds

      • yeah. I can understand that annoyance. a tail now would come in way handy. erm. . . . oh heck puns are okay, yes? it’s the security of a tail I’d like at times now. I might be tempted to climb a little more.

        p.s. the banana trees are loaded. so you can see how a tail might be useful. the avocado tree too.

        the color today will be wheat stalk golden in late afternoon light.

        fun to read you red dragonfly. aloha.

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