It should be known that one of my favorite childhood past times was climbing trees. Something about getting further from the earth and exploring a rarely touched part of creation excited me and caused me to commit acts of daring that, in retrospect, were pretty dumb.
On my fourth birthday I threw my friend Lane’s shoe up on the roof. He was mad, and I didn’t want to bother my grandpa with it, so I just shimmied up the pine tree next to the house, jumped from a branch to the roof, and retrieved the shoe myself.
The best tree I ever climbed grew in the front yard of the house we lived in on 21st Ave. It was a big ancient maple. It grew not only terrifically tall, but also wide, stretching across and shading the whole width of the front yard. It was magnificent, with big broad leaves that turned into the greatest pile of crunchy-ness in autumn, the kind of pile you can hurl a little kid into with out worrying they might hit the ground.
In other words, it was a damn good tree.
The rule in our house was that, if you couldn’t get up the tree yourself, you weren’t allowed in the tree at all. No boosts. This great tree didn’t have any low hanging branches, so it took me a long time before I got the right technique for getting up. But once I did I found a play ground that no one else could reach. It was exclusively mine. Sometimes it was my spaceship, or my submarine, or sometimes an exotic African village.
Because it was hard to climb, it was a perfect escape from all the big mean boys that seemed to infest every street of our neighborhood. From up there I could get away from their taunts, and occasionally spit on them when I got really mad.
I very nearly died in that tree. While up in the very tip-top (probably thirty five feet) the branch I was on snapped, and I fell down about eight feet before a big limb stopped my fall. It scared the day-lights out of me, and I had a lot more respect for the tree and its dangers after that.
Well the other night I was in a pretty bad mood. I really just needed to get away from people and decompress, so I went for a late night walk (kind of a habit for me). Since I live in that same old neighborhood, I decided to walk past my childhood home. As I drew near, I was suddenly shocked to see that the old tree had been removed. A dirt patch and a sapling was all that remained.
I was angry. I stood staring at the spot for almost ten minutes. I don’t know why anyone would cut down that tree. Maybe it was sick and they put it out of its misery. Maybe they are just arrogant pricks who like the look of a dirt patch than one of God’s best creatures. Who knows.
I was tempted to band on the door and ask.
It’s strange, how emotional I feel when I think about that tree being cut down. It was like a piece of me. Like my roots were buried down in that yard. And cutting it down feels almost like a violation. Like they should have asked my permission. Because now that piece of me is gone. It will only be a memory.
And one day I will forget, and there will be nothing.