T – Climbing Trees


I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
-Wendell Berry-

My two favourite places to study at university were a small alcove up the full stairway to the front doors of our main building and about halfway up the tree on the far edge of our campus block.

study treeYes, you heard right. In my early twenties it was not unusual for me to be tucked up in my perch alternately studying and viewing the life around me from my hidden aerie. There is something about the world from up high. You can see forever.

Growing up, I can’t number the times in my life a tree was sanctuary to me.  Just the thought of a tree gives a sense of peaceful memory to my heart.

But the trees that drew me the most were the ones I could climb. Always a bit of a closet scrapper, I loved the tussle with hand and footholds to get to that intersection of branches right — up —- there. Sometimes I took an actual book but more often I took their images in my imagination. Tucked in the groove between branches I was the queen of my own castle, the little girl tucked in her secret velvet room or playing in that private garden that nobody knew but me. The birds and squirrels would leave me to my perch while they chittered and twittered their own journeys through those moments of living.

Linda pics (52)When the closeness of dorm life would leave me needing an energizing break, it was not strange to think I would turn to a tree for peace whenever the weather and the amount of books I needed allowed. Trees have a way of quieting all the noises in my brain so that I can concentrate on what I need to do.

My body is older now and those foot and hand holds often seem made for tinier fingers and toes than mine. The gifts trees give are no less though. The rough texture of the bark, the scampering of busy squirrels, the first defiant signs of spring in the tight leaf buds along the branches, a soft rustling music when breezes caress their leaves, cooling shade and protection from rain, soaring majesty when I am feeling too tied to the ground, songs of birds — the gifts of a tree are endless.

P1060498cRecently, in one of those gentler days in the long seemingly unending winter just past, I stood near a vine cloaked wall and listened to the birds twittering among the protecting tangle. By watching close I could just catch sight of their flitting bodies. “How I would love to see the birds,” I wished into the air. Suddenly several of the birds flew out and landed on the branches of  a nearby small tree letting me approach close enough to really see them. By giving them a perch the growing tree met the needs of both the birds and my hungry soul.

Maybe that is what makes trees so special. They are a community of belonging simply asking us to let them be.


The poem the quote comes from:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.
-Wendell Berry


8 thoughts on “T – Climbing Trees

  1. Shelley

    We are truly kindred spirits. The cherry tree in our backyard was my playground. Over the years, I climbed whenever I had the chance. Now, I’m limited to a ladder in a fruit tree. I miss the woods of childhood. This is so beautifully written. It just makes my soul smile.


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