My cousin Paul and I hiked to the far edge of our grandparents’ farm. We carried boards and tools. As we approached the fence line, we marveled at how tall and old the trees were. They must have been here for a hundred years or more. They had grown over the barbed wire that was probably put up when the trees were young.
I began to climb on top of the wire and then to the first large branch I could reach. That branch was at least the size of my waist. Soon, I was climbing higher and higher up the branches. I had climbed so high I thought I could almost touch the sky. The weather was crisp and the sky as blue as I’ve ever seen it. I had a rope coiled around my body that I now fed down to my cousin below.
Paul, being six months older than I, probably was that much wiser in that he allowed me to test the branches first. I had selected a horizontal limb that had a nice fork of branches to build a platform on. Paul attached a bucket to the rope holding a hammer and nails, which I pulled up; then I pulled up a board, which I nailed into place, and then each succeeding board, until there was room enough for the both of us. I wasn’t sure if the smaller branches would actually hold our combined weight.
As my cousin finally made the climb to the top, the wind began to blow hard and the leaves displayed their silver bottoms. We held on while we swayed violently back and forth, like being on a carnival ride without seatbelts. After we realized the branches were actually going to hold us up, our fears left us. This was the first touch of fall on that late summer day, and we knew the season was changing. Soon, the trees would be bare, and ice and snow would collect on the limbs.
Despite the passing of many seasons, I still reflect on the exuberance of such youthful daring.
Sadly, my cousin died over 25 years ago, and now I only have the reflections of his friendship and the adventures we shared. However, as the years pass, it becomes all too easy to rest upon old memories instead of creating new ones. Participating actively in life is finding life. Oh, yes, I can reason that I’m too old or I haven’t the time, or that living with childlike daring is too risky or foolish to engage in. But to lose that childlike innocence and spend my days seeking the illusions of security, adorning myself with the toys born of a materialistic culture, seeking status, importance, or 10,000 other attractions, is just too stale to bear.
I’m ready for the next great adventure. To feel the breeze on my face and see far beyond the treetops, to trek through the snow with my beloved, to dance, to swim, to cast my past to the wind: this is what it means to me to live! The time is going to pass anyway, so why squander a life that was made for the joyous adventure of really living? Climb higher and higher and never get so old that you fear falling! Build your tree house in the clouds and you will remain forever youthful!
Reflections from Turtle Lake,