I miss the days when I was young and thought nothing of climbing a tall tree and reclining in the fork of two branches. I remember one tree that was strong and sturdy enough to hold me while I read a book. The sensation of happiness and oneness with nature was so exhilarating that I can literally feel the rustling of the leaves and the smoothness of the branches. All I have to do is close my eyes and that glorious memory comes flooding back into my mind with a clarity that makes me feel nine or ten years old once again.
I recall scurrying up the trunk of a tree and finding a low hanging branch that I might reach. Then I would pull my body up into the shade and work my way as high as I was able to get. I had so much strength then and absolutely no fear fo falling. I never thought that one day I would have bones that break easily or that I would need a ladder to get into a tree, if I even dared to risk such a challenge. Back then climbing a tree was as natural as running or jumping rope.
I always thought that it would be wonderful to have a real tree house. Of course none of the trees that I found were large enough to hold a structure like that much less the people inside. Nonetheless, I suppose I was fascinated with the idea of having a clubhouse of my own that gave me a bird’s eye view of the world. Forget dollhouses. I wanted a house in the sky like the ones in books and movies.
The closest I ever came to fulfilling my dream was when someone built a rope swing platform in a big tree that grew along the bayou. There was a ladder made from boards nailed to the trunk because the tree was so massive that nobody would have otherwise been able to scale it. There was a big board attached to a confluence of huge limbs. It was so high up that a fall would have been lethal, but it never occurred to me back then that I might be harmed as I moved up the trunk holding on to the swing. Once I got to the top I positioned myself on the board fastened to a long rope that comprised the swing. Then I pushed off and sailed back and forth over the bayou. It was heavenly!
Unlike Peter Pan I grew up and over time got older and so much more cautious. My doctors tell me not to ski or skate or ride a bicycle lest I break a bone. I worry just climbing on a stool inside my home. I can’t imagine being daring enough to conquer a tree anymore, and even if I had the nerve I no longer have the strength. My arms and legs and knees would fail me.
Sometimes I dream of being able to do such things again. The joy and contentment that I felt every single time I climbed a tree was just so remarkable. I suppose that much of that was mostly about feeling so free. I was at the top of my world and somehow life was so joyful. The innocence of childhood can be that way as long as nobody is being abusive or hateful. In that regard I know just how fortunate I was.
I knew tragedy of course. My father had died and I often felt the sting of sorrow and loss, but otherwise I had the comfort of loving people around me. When I was in one of those trees I also felt confident and accomplished and worry free. It was just me in those branches viewing the blue sky above and feeling the wind caressing my face. I thought of myself as an adventurer and imagined that one day i would do great things, which I suppose that I did, at least by my estimation.
I’m not even sure that I am able to run anymore. My knees are so in need of partial replacement that I don’t dare even try to move too quickly. I sometimes imagine myself as a kid running like a gazelle and climbing into wonderful trees but those days are now behind me. What nobody can take away are my memories and those are so delicious. For now I’ll stick to walking under the canopy of trees in a forest and maybe build a dollhouse instead of a tree house. Sometimes keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground is not a bad idea at all. There is a wisdom to it that feels just right.