I was astounded with the number of hands that went up the first time I asked a class of students, “Who has climbed a tree before?” It was a mind-blowing zero. Not a single child in a class of seventeen students made a move to respond.
“Ok,” I thought. “It’s a group of ESL kids. They must have misunderstood my question.” So I drew a large tree on the whiteboard with an adorable stick figure in the branches and did my best to mime the actions of someone climbing a tree. I pointed to everyone in the class and said, “Who?” And still nothing. I was aghast. What?!? How could it be that not one of these children while walking through a park or forest had felt the urge, no the need, to grab onto a low hanging branch and scurry up to the crown?
Granted students in Taiwan aren’t really afforded a lot of time to just go out and play. They are in school before eight in the morning and sometimes stay until four or five in the afternoon. Then they have extra classes and homework to take up the remainder of their evenings and nights. But still, these were nine and ten year old children. Despite all of the time spent confined in a classroom, I know that they still experienced the outdoors from time to time. They had to have come across a climbable maple or pine tree somewhere. And yet not one of these kids felt the desire to climb. Craziness!
To me there has always been something inspiring about being in a tree. Maybe it’s the majesty of its stature; maybe it’s the adrenalin rush you get from staring at the world below as the wind rocks you back and forth; maybe it’s the freedom of being lost in its leaves; maybe it’s the beauty of being a part of nature; or maybe is simply a fun thing to do. For whatever reason, kids and adults should spend time clambering amongst branches, building tree forts or relaxing in the grooves of nature.
The rickety tree-house we helped build in the woods; slipping as I slowly nudged my way up the trunk of a huge tree and sliding bare-chested down its jagged bark; sitting high above the ground with my brother at our grandparents’ farm using twine to fish for old tractor parts; selling vine rides in the vacant lot behind our house to the younger kids in our neighborhood; standing terrified on the roof of a band-shell as my friends leapt fearlessly into the trees close by; and now hanging out with my daughter in the park. These are but a few of the many places I go every time I hear the first two lines of Ahead by a Century¸ by The Tragically Hip. The words seem to speak to my soul.
First thing we’d climb a tree, and maybe then we talk. Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts.
The next time you have the chance, take to the leaves! Life just seems less complicated when you are in a tree.
Ahead by a Century youtube link