When Heights are Like Depths

After work I take Emme swimming at the Town Pond, where she runs into close friends, and they have a blast horsing around on a huge inner tube–through which we all take turns diving, like tigers through a giant vertical hoop, off the end of the dock, before we leave.  When we get home I climb the tree right out of the car, still dripping with water.  The whole world is being baked in some celestial oven, it feels like, and the air in the tree is as dense and hot as everywhere else, but it is still somehow cooling to be up there.  The draping greenery of the leaves on every side, even hanging heavy and still in the hot air, is refreshing.  Like a pond for the spirit.

It often feels watery to me, being up in the tree.  The leaves appear to cascade down the length of their branches.  The air washes over one like waves or a river.  It streams through the tree.  The green-gold light reminds me of the light striking down through mountain streams, onto the stones of their beds.

And above all, being in the middle of the tree, with depths below one and heights above one–rather than standing on the surface of something–feels like being under water.  I think of teaching the girls to swim at Walden Pond when they were little, and then when they were older of swimming out over our heads to chase things dropping down through the water–of being down there and seeing shafts of sunlight come down through the hazy depths, of twisting and turning and looking up, down, in every direction.  Everywhere a uniformity of substance and light.  Suspended in the midst of it all.  The liquid joy of swimming beneath the surface like an otter or an eel.

There is at least an echo of that of clambering around in the midst of a tree.  How often do we really occupy a three-dimensional space, in which we can move 360 degrees, in any direction, as opposed to moving along a surface of some kind, whether flat or steep, level or variegated?  In this way being in a tree is more like swimming under water than climbing a mountain.

But as I think all this I remember the brilliant sprays of water through the air as the girls played on the inner tube, of water splashing up into the sunlight against the dark background of the opposite, shadowed bank and its trees, and I think: 

Like but not that like!