TREE CLIMBING: A LOST ART

small live oak tree

April 22, 2013 – New Orleans has the most wonderful Quercus Virginiana, commonly called, live oak trees! Some of them are hundreds of years old with large, swooping branches bigger around then the body of a grown man, with dips and curves large enough to hold a person so that they can curl up and read a book. I know, I did this many times as a child.

About six years ago while visiting with my daughter and her children, we had the opportunity to visit a ranch in southern Texas which was a peaceful place that was also a haven for rescued animals. Some of the inhabitants (besides foster children) were pot belly pigs, blind horses, a rambunctious female boxer and a vast variety of trees. In a moment of child-like enthusiasm, I suggested that my grandchildren climb trees. Imagine my chagrin to find out that they didn’t know how to climb trees! Of course, even though in my late 50’s at the time, I had to teach them to climb trees! This was not only fun, but hilarious as I am very much overweight! I eventually had to give up my position as leader of the pack to my daughter who then proceeded to teach them how to reach the higher branches.

As a child in New Orleans, I often liked being by myself and had many places to hide in order to do so. I have always been a prolific reader as well and in those times of seeking quietude, often had a book with me, as well as my loyal and trusty dog, Neil, a brown merle mutt of unclear origin. Neil and I were tightly bound psychically, but that’s for another story. One of our favorite places was AudubonPark in New Orleans as we lived only four or five blocks from it. This was the perfect place for many of my childhood adventures and I spent many wonderful hours here.

Audubon Park has a vast variety of foliage, including many of the giant live oaks that I mentioned. These were some of my places of hiding while reading my books. I would swing myself up onto the lower sweeping branches with their huge curves, make myself comfortable there, and spend a late morning reading into the afternoon or evening. Such a joyous and wondrous time for a young girl of a vast and insatiable curiosity that could only be satisfied within a book! As a matter of fact, I do believe that books are the parent of this curiosity and the succor for it; this is probably the reason for dragging my grand-kids to the library as their first duty when they come to visit, I want to awaken the joy of books in them as it has been in me for all of my life. I digress again.

As I think of books and trees, forever part of my life, I am realizing the parallel of books and the trees that they come from and find it awe inspiring that I have a connection to both the living and dead aspect of trees as their pulp is used to manufacture the paper which books are printed upon. Nonetheless, in this moment, we are celebrating the live tree, as harbingers of magical and wonderful moments when they become a child’s hammock for reading, a mast of an ocean going vessel, a place to hide from wild animals or a tower to scout for the enemy. Trees have long been magical in spiritualism, religion, folklore and both adult and children’s imaginations. Needless to say, it behooves me to know why a child does not know how to climb a tree!

Granted a tree is a rare for a child in a city as more and more of them are cut down to make room for our ever growing population and industry. When parks are available, tree climbing is not one of the reasons they are utilized. The children of today are missing out on the powerful healing energy of tree climbing and are cut off from an opportunity to bond with trees and nature. I ask; is there any wonder they have no respect for nature?

In my opinion, as trees are living things with their own unique energy, and since energies are constantly combining, sharing and becoming part of each other, a symbiosis is formed in doing so. This, I believe, lends to a feeling of connectivity among different organisms which in turn, opens our feelings of love and compassion for other entities. If this bonding doesn’t take place, then those key connections are not open and empathy is at a minimum or nonexistent. This is a theory that I hold regarding our inability to take care of our own species, let alone any other. The fact that we no longer climb trees as a natural art form is evident of something of great importance being lost.

The thing about climbing trees is that it instills confidence, lessens fears and gives us a sense of personal pride in accomplishment as well as the aforementioned opening of the imagination and wonder, creating a sense of connection to other species and sharing of energies. In fact, many caretakers inspire fear and other negatives by preventing tree climbing. The caretakers’ fear of the child being harmed is passed on to the child. If the child is attempting to climb a tree and the effort is aborted by the caretaker, the child is then left with unfulfilled desires, a feeling that in climbing the tree they had somehow done something wrong and other unhealthy feelings and attitudes.

Perhaps at this point you’re thinking I’m out of my mind; yet, when we take into consideration how the tiniest thing can build or tear down the character of a developing child, who is to say that the probability of developing strong positive character through tree climbing is not a worthwhile theory to pursue? Indeed, it may be a cure for some of the broken characters of a few adults! It is definitely my goal to climb a few trees, and in lieu of that, hug a few trees before the day is over!

 

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