The Climbing Tree
The day is warm, but not hot. A beautiful mix of wispy and fluffy clouds hang in the sky as the wind takes the fluffier ones over the sun at irregular intervals. My hair flies around my face as the gold truck I am sitting in the back of bounces down the carved dirt path to the climbing tree. My middle sister and my mom sit with me as we dangle our legs off the edge of the truck, trying to drag our feet along the overgrown grass as we move. A particularly large bump sends me careening into my mom’s arm, laughing, as she steadies my sister on her other side. I look around again as the truck dips signaling we are at the little ditch that makes this path completely unpassable when wet. We are almost to the tree.
Granddad drives the truck in closer and the three of us sitting on the back scoot towards the front to avoid getting thrown off as the vehicle kerthumps over the bumpy terrain. The vehicle stops and I can’t help but wonder if this is the time we will get stuck as Granddad always jokes. I don’t think on it too long, however, because my sister and I have a mission; to see who can get to the tallest point of the tree first.
Dubbed “The Climbing Tree” for a good reason, the long thick tangle of branches stretches wildly up and out in all directions; it is easily the tallest thing for what must be miles around as there are no buildings or other trees anywhere nearby. The closest thing in height being the tangle of berry bushes that grow along the outside of the tree to the southwest, skirting around the marshy area the tree protects. There are four thick limbs that make up the base, connected near the ground at approximate shin height. The long expanses of wood spread up slightly before two of them stretch out over the marsh while the other two reach skywards, in competition to see which could catch the sun first. Smaller limbs and branches weave in eccentric patterns providing perfect foot and hand holds. Most of the branches are sturdy enough to hold our weight as my sister and I race to the top, supported by the rough bark that grips the soles of our shoes, and it seems the tree plays with us as we duck to avoid its clumsy efforts to grasp at our hair.
I am at the top now, and the sun has decided to show itself once more-it feels warm against my skin. I look over at my sister then, she is also at the top and standing on the same branch I am perched on. I won I think, but so does she, so we stare at each other in a silent standoff for a few moments before I roll my eyes. She smirks at me, thinking she has won- she hasn’t- and I let her. I had more important things to explore up here. The birds circle above our heads, chirping and squawking indignantly at having been startled away. Below, the gently rolling hills of the Saskatchewan prairies sweep out in all directions in a patchwork of yellows, golds, greens, green-blues, and browns. Small splotches of darker greens are the only indications of the surrounding farmhouses. I can see the farmhouse where my grandparents live, and from out here, it looks as though it would be suitable for a small family of ants. I close my eyes and take in a breath, the faint musty smell of the wood I am trusting with my life and the deep earthy smells from the marsh just blow me reaches my nose.
I feel a sense of pride up here. Not because I made the climb or because I was so high up, but because, here, I am part of a larger picture. One that does not end beyond my immediate contact. I came with my family today with the intent to play, to climb, to observe, but not necessarily to understand. Up here, I feel like I can go anywhere, accomplish anything, and suddenly, the Climbing Tree is more than just a great place to play. It is more than building cattail bouquets and picking Saskatoon berries and watching frogs and birds jump around. This feeling is not understood very deeply in my young mind, but it is peaceful, and I feel ready to tackle the world again.
Jumping back into the truck, I glance back at the tree. The birds are settling back into its branches. I find it a fitting end to our adventures out here for the day. Perhaps I can convince my grandparents to let us hide in the bales later…