06 January 2008


Growing up I used to climb trees and sit in them enjoying the perspective of a bird looking out over my yard and feeling closer to the clouds and sky. My favorite was a linden tree in the side yard that was easy to climb and afforded comfortable places to sit to perceive the landscape. This reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, “The Swing,” in his A Child’s Garden of Verses:

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it is the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Instead of viewing cattle, I was observing neighborhood cats and dogs and the mailman and the grocery deliveryperson and mothers pushing baby buggies and the marble game up the street and my friends coming down the street wanting to start a game of baseball in my yard. They found me sitting in the "upper right-field bleachers."

At other times in my life, as an adult, I have sat in trees for the same reasons as when I was a child; that is, to enjoy the viewscape from a higher vantage. However, there was a time when it became a dangerous, money-making enterprise. After Peace Corps in Jamaica, one of my friends and I landed a contract with Northern-Pacific Railroad to collect pine and Douglas fir cones on their large tract of rugged land near Mt. Shasta, California. Their land rangers had previously marked the trees from which they wanted cones collected. Of course, these were the healthiest, tallest trees, usually over 100 feet in height. We collected cones from heights of up to 85 feet above ground where only the crows would fly. During midday, winds would pick up and cause the trees to sway considerably. Those were moments when I would reelingly hang on and gaze out to the peak of Mt. Shasta and think about the safety of the linden tree at home in Kentucky.

Once, when I lived in a farmhouse out from Lexington, Kentucky, in the Bluegrass region, I was sitting in a tree in my side yard near dusk minding my own business; and as it grew dark an owl landed with a jolt about seven feet away on the same limb on which I was sitting. It swiveled its head to stare at me when it must have heard me breathing or saw me make some small movement. There we were, claiming the same tree and limb, sharing a space-time moment-place. It continued for perhaps half an hour and as I felt we were growing accustomed to each other, the owl flew off as abruptly as it came, perhaps to find a tree with no human who thought it to be

The most pleasantest thing ever an adult can do

to sit in a tree with an owl
gazing at the moon
gaining a bird’s-eye view.

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