Climbing Trees

29 January 2018:

Several years ago now, a friend of mine from Colorado gave me a small palm-size pamphlet called Tree Climbing in Fort Collins: A Lyric Guide.

It is just what it sounds like: a seventy-page guide chock-full of technique—some borrowed, some original—for climbing trees. Yes. Climbing trees.

I couldn’t believe such a book existed.

Tree Climbing in Fort Collins gives me the best places to climb trees in Fort Collins, the best ways to climb them, and what I may find there. If I want an aerial view of the Colorado State campus, then I refer to the section titled “Old Town and Campus.”

The author, Charles J. Malone, offers the best ways to approach the assortment of trees in Fort Collins, such as the willows along the Poudre River.

The pines and firs, he says, are “interesting puzzles.”

It is a unique book, something a kid would dream of writing. Though I no longer climb trees like I used to,  I appreciate where the book takes me.

Flipping through Malone’s pamphlet I am reminded of my childhood in Virginia, down that little drive beside the Shenandoah River. I remember carving my name at the top of an old walnut tree. I remember the world from up there. I remember how different I felt, watching our dog, Bo, run around the yard. I remember opening my imagination to a life in trees, jumping tree to tree down the road to town. I remember the feeling, the shaky legs and breaking bark. The memories are specific and placed.

“It is easy to imagine one’s self stuck,” Malone says, “with a loosening grip on the thick, rough trunk of a cottonwood.”

Yes, and I’ll say too, it is easy to remember “one’s self stuck,” halfway up, committed.

Today, walking beneath the big ash trees around Bozeman, looking up, I imagine having Malone’s guide twenty years ago, living out his advice tree to tree across Appalachia. His little pamphlet could have made easier afternoons for my younger self, easier moves, maybe greater heights.

But I think the memories I made are enough for me. I made do with what I had, hands and feet and instinct.

Climbing trees, I had my simple accomplishments. Climbing trees, I had the near falls, the views. I had the old walnut tree where I carved my name. Climbing trees, yes, climbing trees.

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