Tree Climbing

Photo by David Herron on Unsplash

When I was a child, I spent whole days climbing trees. I wanted to reach the pinnacle, but the process was slow and progressive because I was afraid. Behind my house were some old oak trees, a row of seven of them side by side. They were about 15 meters tall on average. For the child that I was, that was almost like touching the sky with my bare hands. In front of that wall of trees was our house that crossed the property almost from end to end. The house did not let see the entrance gate that was on the other side. I wanted to see the entrance from the top of the trees, but for that I had to courageously overcome my fears.

After several failed attempts I climbed to the top of each oak tree. I looked from there at the houses, the world below and the people who entered and left through the gate. The perspective was new and enriching, but at the same time terrifying for my childish 4- or 5-year-old.

I climbed trees for the joy of climbing trees. My goal was to reach the highest point of the initial wide trunk that was tapering to almost a twig. Once up there I spent a long time contemplating the world below. I enjoyed the birds flying nearby, the wind caressing and rocking me, the tiny people in the distance. I used to yell at my parents from above, they came screaming worried for me to come down.

Once down I had to endure a long reprimand for my audacity, for not weighing the risk involved in climbing those ancient oaks. “You can fall!” “I know,” I repeated every time I climbed. The eleventh time they saw me at the height of the oaks they shook their heads discontentedly, but at the same time with a scowl of approval. I was a wild, indomitable and explorative. I found an unknown happiness up there in the height of the trees.

Climbing a tree in general (and those huge oak trees in particular) required at least:

  • Curiosity: I wanted to know what the world would be like from above. I longed for a new perspective.
  • Effort: it was not easy to climb. Scrapes, cuts, punctures, broken bones and burns were just some of the traces of the adventure.
  • Failures: I had to give up many times before starting, and even once the climb started. It was frustrating and sad at first.
  • Negotiation: when I didn’t give up, I had to negotiate with myself or with my friends to continue with the climb. Propose challenges, anticipate expectations, make bets and even tie pieces of wool to a branch that will mark the progress of the project.
  • Humility: nature was almost infinite, and those oaks were almost mythological creatures. Immense calm giants that supported my smallness. The slightest slip or missed foothold meant a few broken bones, several bruises, and even worse. I was nothing among that vastness of majesty.
  • Joy: each step gained was cause for celebration. Each meter climbed was a stage passed. Each broken branch without falling was a merit. Each new perspective was a novelty that gave me a smile. The crest, a hiding place to reflect and a reason to smile.
  • Resilience: ‘In the art of ascending, the important thing is not not to fall but not to remain fallen’. It took time, but those oak trees were conquered, one by one, step by step, day by day. Even today I see them old, but unharmed. Majestic and silent, moving, laughing with the boy I was and the man I am.

I haven’t climbed trees in a long time. Many years, I must confess. I miss it and I need it. But then why don’t I?

I don’t climb trees

  • Curiosity: Because I lost the childhood curiosity of the simple. I look ahead always looking for the next innovation and I miss the deep novelty of the previous simple.
  • Effort: Because my tired and heavy body would have to work much harder than the 4- or 5-year-old that went to climb those oak trees. In addition, my weight has multiplied several times and those generous branches with children will not be so with adults.
  • Failure: Because the failure would be exponential: how can the man that I am not surpass the boy that I was?
  • Negotiation: Because the negotiations would be much harder, with innumerable arguments for and against. Possibly with better arguments against climbing trees in the fourth decade of my life.
  • Humility: Because I became prouder. If I know that I am not going to be able to do something in advance, why am I going to do it? That practical, modern and comfortable behavior is the fuel of the engine of my pride.
  • Joy: Because what makes me happy is not the simple but the elaborate. Because childhood joy is, with my prejudices, a sign of immaturity.
  • Resilience: Because I prefer to have fun with alcohol instead of being happy with childish trifles. There I was overcoming every fence of fear, not with talent but with shamelessness.



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