I get home from work late in the evening and by the time I have a quick bite of dinner it is close to nine. Emme, who is in high spirits, asks if we could go climb the tree, and Claire jumps at the chance too. We go out into the late twilight and head for the tree.
I have already climbed it today, only about half an hour ago, when I arrived home. It always feels slightly incongruous to be climbing a tree in dress shirt, nice pants, and black leather shoes. I feel like a nineteenth-century hiker climbing a mountain in a tweed jacket. Something about the experience is kind of fun–whimsical and slightly surreal, to be wearing such clothes in the branches of a tree. Maybe I’ll add a jacket and tie sometime. A tuxedo?
But it feels good to be out here again in more comfortable clothes.
I warn the girls to be careful. It is dusk and the world is dim and begins to blend together. It is easy to feel more comfortable in a tree than is safe. Emme goes up first, followed by Claire. We make our way in stages up the tree, enjoying the sensation, unlike any other, of being up among the branches when the light is soft and everything is turning gray. We assemble up near my perch. Claire has made a seat of a branch where it meets the trunk, Emme is standing out a ways on another branch and stretching one leg agilely above her head like a ballet dancer. I am nearby. We are like three koala bears, just hanging out forty feet in the air, talking a little and looking around the interior of the tree in the dusk. Although not, it is true, feasting on eucalyptus leaves.
After a while we make our way down, first Claire, then Emme, and then me. Claire swings down with alacrity and is in the tree house quickly; some of the branches are further apart, relative to her body size, for Emme, but she climbs down nimbly; and I follow after, thinking about how differently I negotiate the branches than they do–how body size dictates the kind of movements required to lower oneself from one branch to the next, or how one must turn and duck beneath another branch to reach the one that will allow one further progress. Each of the three of us would look like a different kind of animal if one analyzed our paths down the tree.
We reach the ground and walk through the twilight toward the house, Emme cartwheeling across the lawn.