Sunday, November 16, 2008

Earthbound monkeys

Years ago, in Idaho Falls, I owned a big beautiful birch tree, bequeathed to me by a very nice attorney who used to let me climb it whenever I wanted. He'd often sit on the ground below the tree and chat. He was a neighbor and a friend and he made me, as a 10-year-old, believe that I had thoughts that counted and were worth sharing. Today, an older man paying that much attention to a little girl would be discouraged. It was an innocent and nurturing relationship. He got me interested in debate, was probably why I went to nationals in extemporaneous speaking the only time I ever tried it (I was an impromptu speaker but that wasn't a category). When he died, he left stern written instructions that I would never need permission to climb the huge birch in his yard on 11th Street, not far from where I grew up.
That was the start of my love affair with tree climbing, and when I came to Salt Lake to school, I regularly climbed the trees in Memory Grove, shinnying up them to sit quietly and read the texts I'd lugged in my knapsack, while life went on below me.
Today, I had this urge to climb a tree again. The girls were struggling to get up a tree near the little Presbyterian Church in Malad, Idaho, where we'd driven because it was lovely outside and our souls these days are restless. After church, we dragged Beaux out, although he's feeling lousy more and more, and hit the road.
He stayed in the car, but the lure of the tree was simply too strong for me.
There must be earthbound monkeys somewhere, because we're definitely simian, but we are now awkward tree climbers. It took Jenifer and Alyson a half hour and the most amazing propping each other and pushing and poking to finally get there.
I made only one attempt and it was a really good one. I almost made it. Until I wedged my big toe, which has a massive and miserable bunion, into a crease in the tree and was suddenly paralyzed, terrified I'd twist it and break off my big toe. I mean, it was seriously wedged. So with great care and more than a little assistance, I returned to planet earth sure of one great truth.
What once went up today came down. And will stay there. We are, seriously, the crappiest tree climbers ever, although we are without question goofy little monkeys.