I climbed a tree today. It was at the top of a hill in Shenley and it was a big tree. Since coming to High School I have had little opportunity to climb trees. You see, I went to a middle school with lots of trees and while there I learned the rules of tree climbing.
I had not properly thought of them in years, but as I reached for a branch (thicker than my waist) I remembered the rule born of stings and stickiness: 1) always pat the top of a branch for caterpillars and spikes. Cherry trees often have spikes, and at a certain time of year at my old school, fuzzy caterpillars could make ones life icky if one was not careful.
Having ascertained there were no caterpillars I felt the bark. And another rule came to me: 2) the best trees for climbing are those with rough varied bark. Smooth trees let you slips, but those with sturdy bark and texture will hold you when they shouldn’t.
I hoisted myself onto the first branch, remember another important rule: 3) never put your weight on a branch thinner than between you wrist and ankle. Now, weighing more than I did when I learned this in nursery school, I think I will aim for branches a little thicker, but only because my analytical mind won’t let me trust memory.
As I pulled myself up, I began to remember why I had climbed trees. It was fun to stretch my muscles, to hear my joints pop (They do that. They’re supposed to, really.) Feel myself lifting a weight for a reason. And then I looked out. I was on the edge of a great golf green, really hills which happened to have golfers on them. The difference in perspective of a few feet was awesome.
After sitting and watching for a while, I saw another branch I wanted to try for. The wind blew and a fat squirrel ambushed me out of nowhere. And faster than my muscles could react I remembered another rule: 4) don’t move fast in trees. And I held still. The squirrel ran off in a skitter of leaves and nuts.
Now I looked for that branch again. But as I reached for it, I found myself shaky and unsure. I had not climbed in years and the branch was out of my reach. I finally remembered the great rule of tree climbing: 5) if you’re scared, don’t do it.
The view was beautiful, the wind soothing and the run back down the hill (I had gone up there to find a path to run on and got sidetracked) peaceful. I hope everyone has a great day!
WHEN I see birches bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them 5
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells 10
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed 15
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. 20
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows— 25
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again 30
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away 35
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, 40
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches;
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood 45
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over. 50
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, 55
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. 60