Silliness, Koalas, and Wood Spirits
Claire’s birthday. I work in the morning and am back by mid-afternoon. We have a few hours before we meet Kim to drive up to Montpelier to go out to dinner to celebrate. Claire suggests we go outside to roam around for a bit, and inevitably we drift toward the tree. We make our way upwards in a kind of vertical caravan. Emme and Claire end up on the trunk I usually climb, where the high prayer flags are, and I settle myself in the other trunk, across from and a bit below them.
It is a ravishingly beautiful afternoon, sunlight and deep blue sky and an intermittent breeze. The leaves are emerald and washed with light. Patches of sky between them are like the Mediterranean. Every once in a while a stronger wind comes up and pushes through the tree, and the branches bend and leaves foam and the trunks rock back and forth, and we laugh and hang on more tightly. I have my phone and take a lot of pictures, and they do, of ourselves and one another, and of our green cavern.
Mostly we just laze and talk and hang around. Again the image of koala bears comes to mind. Spending time in a tree does with the girls exactly what it does with me alone: it shifts one into a different state of being, one that is more free and more open, the world turns to us a fresh face once again, and we do the same to it. Talking is different, somehow; being thirty-five feet above the ground predisposes one to bat ideas and reflections around more playfully.
So more silly pictures, and more talking, and a high wind, and laughter. When I embarked on my summer of tree climbing–that turned into a year, and more–I didn’t foresee that it would also turn out to be one of the most pleasant ways to spend time with my daughters.
They are comfortable enough in the tree now that I remind them that this is when it becomes most dangerous, when you feel as safe as if you are sitting in a chair in your living room.
After maybe an hour in the tree we climb down and roam through the meadow, and eventually find ourselves in the strip of trees along the stone wall at the back of our property line. There is a marvelous, ancient beech tree there, hollow and bent-trunked, and I have been wanting to play around with taking black and white photographs of the girls curled up in the hollow tree, or emerging from it, or sitting on it. So we spend another 45 minutes or so playing around with pictures, and having a blast. Eventually we turn towards the house to transfer the pictures to a computer to examine the results of our photographic play.
On the screen: marvelous images of spirits emerge from gnarled and knotted wood. Youth curled up in an ancient tree. Primitive masks of stone. The woodland broken up into mottled patches of light and dark behind.