and before i knew it i was climbing up a ladder of scattered limbs, all out-stretched and ready to accept me and cradle me as i climbed.
this pine tree is one of my favorite parts of my visits to ohio. climbing it has become a ritual. though, every time i climb i have a new experience. there's always a different combination of steps -- a different limb to limb tango -- that takes me to a different part of the tree for a different perspective and clarity over the life around me.
but normally, i ascend slowly, taking measures to choose my steps carefully at first because the limbs are more spread out at the base of the tree and can take me in very different directions.
then, once i'm more certain of my path and confident with my footwork, i climb with ease, as if there isn't 12 feet separating mine from the ground. because when i'm focusing solely on each step, the climb doesn't seem so daunting.
so i reach and i twist and i pull, looking up all the while. the limbs gradually grow closer together so i maneuver through, making sure not to hurt them. and before i know it, i'm eye to eye with the birds i envy, high in their home.
and when i look down, it's clear that there's now at least 35 feet beneath me. this realization initially stiffens me and reminds me of my fragility as a breathing, pumping, aging being that's not rooted to any foundation -- that a fall from such a height could be the end of me. but then i note all the steps it took to get me to that height and i figure if i ever fall, some of the platforms i climbed will surely be there to catch me -- or at least slow my decent considerably so that i might have a chance to catch myself.
and so that sight that initially stiffens me then becomes my comfort-- the sight of outstretched arms that once supported me.
and that's the moment when i like to turn and sit on the limb i'm on, with my legs outstretched on it, back against the base of the tree, and arms stretched out on the limbs on either side of me. like a 35 foot love seat. and i feel like a part of the tree, my limbs mimicking his.
there's my clarity. swaying in the wind.
i especially needed the clarity of this recent climb. lately, life has been scaring the shit out of me. because rather than taking it one step at a time, i've been standing at the base of the tree staring up at it, too intimidated by the great mass of the thing to really begin climbing. it's time to start taking steps.