2013.04.10 I'm out of my tree

Written by David Green.


What my yard lacks is a good climbing tree. It's never had one since I've lived here. There's no way up and into that old maple by the driveway. I don't think I ever entered the middle-aged maple in back. The spruce, the Siberian elm and the enormous red maple—all three that fell in the big storm of 2000—were unapproachable. Everything else is too young. I'm grounded here.

I don't recall when I was last in a tree, but I was reminded of climbing when I recently saw a mention of International Tree Climbing Day. And I just missed it. It's the last day of March and it's now on my calendar for 2014. Now there's a little extra incentive to stay limber and to look around for a suitable subject.

Here's the motto of the tree climbing event: "Liberate the Horizontal, Integrate the Vertical Super Surface." Along with this: "Til death do us part."

Some people celebrate the day alone; others plan meet-ups such as this one: "We will be at Jahanpanah City Forest, Delhi, meeting at the entrance of Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg at 16.30 pm, or just see you up in the branches."

Apparently the event was started by the Irational artist group in Bristol, United Kingdom, in 2003. A year later there were 10 events planned in six countries. In 2009, the group was looking for reports of "sublime interspecies playing." The following year there were planned events in 20 countries.

There's serious tree climbing and then there's just fooling around climbing. The latter is what this event is about, based on the photos I've seen.

Here's a report from a climber: " i love climbing trees! i recently fell 40-50ft and landed about a foot away from a metal bench. i didnt break a bone. i was sitting on a branch and it snapped so i grabbed my backup branch... it broke too. on my fall down, i caught a branch in mid-air. it broke too."

Forty to 50 feet is serious business. You wouldn't see me that high in a tree, not even when I was 16 years old.

When I think of tree climbing for fun, I think of Rick Ford. Wasn't it Rick who used to climb the tall cottonwoods along Bean Creek and watch football games from on high, back when the football field was at Wakefield Park? Someone used to join him up there. Lenny Dietrich, maybe. Crazy stuff. Those guys were really up there. I remember one night they were spotted by "the authorities" and ordered to come down. I don't recall the outcome.

Here's another climber report: "i love tree climbing, at the top of a tree is the only place i feel truly safe and relaxed! i been climbin trees since i was little, fell out of a few but they just made me better at climbin trees."

Young bodies are more resilient. I don't recall ever falling from a tree, but when I was growing up, our yard at the big house on Cawley Road was an excellent tree yard. My favorite was the multi-trunked maple in the front. You needed to wedge yourself betwixt two trunks to work your way up before grabbing a branch. I tried to get into a hackberry with a ladder. I often visited the sugar maple by the road and once or twice made it into the Norway maple. The enormous horse chestnut in back wasn't very approachable, but I tried.

Going back to that second quote—about feeling safe and relaxed in trees—that's what amateur, low-level tree-climbing is all about for me. It's been 40 years, I suppose, but I can still remember a day at the gravel pit on Mulberry Road. There was a collection of young cottonwoods growing along the top of what at that time was a large rise and a sand cliff below. Probably the edge of the ancient lake before Lake Erie. 

There was a strong wind and I climbed into one of those trees. It wasn't just climbing, it was riding. The trees were in such movement at the edge of the cliff, slowly moving back and forth toward the edge of the drop-off. Such exhilaration. Maybe that's the chief thrill and pleasure right there: Moving slowly in the wind as the tree is blown about.

My calendar is marked for next year, but I think it's time to be on the lookout for a good, safe climb, just to feel that magical movement again.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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