The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED NINETY THREE: THE WORLDS AMONG THE LIMBS
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
I’ve touched on this subject before but I think we all need a moment of simple joy. You may have never experienced this particular delight but I’m sure you can replace it with one of your own. Or use your imagination and experience mine in your way of thinking.
On a hot day, when the breeze found its way through my cocoon of green leaves, I would breathe it in and smile. I would settle myself a little closer to the limb I had become quite familiar with over the years. With my shoulder locked into one particular notch where a higher limb met the truck, I would feel secure and close my eyes. I would forget that I was twenty-five feet high in a tree and fly away in my mind to worlds far away.
That’s pretty much how it would go back then when my body was young and agile enough to climb a tree. Even now, I can still feel the anticipation of gripping the first limb and heaving myself upward, one limb to the other, until I found my spot in that particular maple tree. I’d feel the tree sway if it happened to be a breezy day and not once thought my tree would ever be uprooted or fall to my death.
I was safe.
There were other trees I climbed in the yard of my childhood house. There was a tree that was rooted right in front. It was the largest of all the trees and the closest to the front door. But the bottom limbs were almost out of reach making it more difficult to get started on my quest upward and there were places where it was bare in spots and made it easy for someone to spot me. I liked my seclusion.
Plus, it was the only tree I ever fell out of. So, there’s that.
There was the peach tree on the other side of the house but it wasn’t big enough to climb too high and during certain times of the year, the limbs were sticky with sap caused by some sort of disease or infestation.
It was gross.
And the rest of the trees were too small or narrow.
That left one other.
This tree was one of four that ran by the side street (our house was on a corner lot) between the fence and the road. But unlike the other three, this one was actually in our yard and not near the fence. And, for some reason, it grew taller and wider than its siblings.
I can still remember climbing it for the first time. There were smaller limbs (no longer than three feet with a branch no thicker than half-inch. I maneuvered between these and found a spot where I could sit and lean back, my shoulder had a natural place to wedge myself into without fear of falling.
Over time, I got the courage to take a small saw with me and clear these few annoying limbs away, leaving a clear path to my sitting spot. I would carefully carry these cut limbs and dispose of them without my dad knowing. I wasn’t sure how he would react and I didn’t want to be barred from my new hideout, my new base, my new fort.
It wasn’t long before I had cleared my space and though it was spacious, the leaves of the outer limbs blocked anyone from looking up and seeing me. It was pretty perfect.
I can’t count the times I had found myself up there reading comic books or novels, playing with G.I. Joe’s, or just daydreaming (a few times, actual dreaming) and lost all track of time. Before I knew it, I could hear my name being called by my mom (We’um!!!) for dinner. Or hearing my father calling (Junior!!!) to do a chore. Or either/or just to find out where the hell I was.
I’d come climbing down, hoping they didn’t see me so I could keep my spot a secret.
In the fall, I’d climb up there and see my spot’s natural camouflage disappearing and falling to the ground below (a future chore to rake them up). Winter would come and I would stare at the naked tree and how open my secret hideout had become. I would occasionally climb up there anyway just to see what it looked like without the leaves in my way. It was interesting not the view I liked. I preferred the green, moving veil keeping me safe from the world below and beyond.
Then the day came and we moved. I left the world I had created and had to start over again. I gave my tree one final look and saw it no more.
We moved out to the country where we had hundreds of trees. And to be honest and though I must have, I can’t remember climbing any of them.
That brings me to now. I’m no longer a kid. I have responsibilities and the kids are grown. My wife and I moved from a condo to a house. In our yard, we have two trees. Both are big. But the one in the back yard, a large oak tree, is about forty-five to fifty feet tall. Being a responsible adult with adult responsibilities, I have to notice things that need to be done around our new (new to us) home. Cutting the yard, trimming bushes, pulling weeds.
And then there are the trees. The one in the front, side yard, had to have some limbs trimmed away from the power lines coming from our house. I got out my large ladder and went to work. I sawed away the limbs in question and did what I needed to do. But as I moved from one limb to another, sawing and making sawdust float to the ground below, I started to look into the tree. And an old feeling started to raise its head from an almost forgotten place in my brain.
I wondered what it would be like to stand on a limb above the ground. Maybe even feel the breeze (if I was lucky) blow through the green leaves and cool the sweat from my brow like it once did so long ago.
But, after I finished cutting the last limb that needed it, I slowly walked back down the ladder, folded it up, put it back in the garage, and cleaned up my mess… and went back inside. In shame.
I wanted to climb that tree. Maybe, just maybe, that old feeling I once had, the joy and anticipation of moving up from limb to the other would come back like it once did and for a second or two, I could feel young again.
I looked at that tree days afterword and wished I had.
A couple of days ago, I was mowing the grass in the back yard (chores galore when you own a home) and I found myself under the big oak tree in the back yard. I had been stopping and starting the push mower to move small fallen limbs from my cutting path. I looked up into this humungous wooden creature above me and noticed a few dead limbs that needed some trimming.
Somewhere deep inside me, that head raised its head…
-Loyd Elmore Jr
February 26th, 2021
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.