Updated: Oct 24, 2021
I have never been a tree climber. My daughter, Anika whom I often find high above the ground is awe inspiring to me. She is seven and her haven, her solace is on a tree limb.
When she was three, I would hold my breath and stand under her in case she fell. When she was four, she climbed out on a redwood limb too far and fell, breaking branches as she tumbled. When she was five, I’d yell that is high enough. When she was six, she’d tell me she was going to be a tree climber when she grew up. And now, at seven when I can’t find her, I first look in the redwood or the pear or the maple. Occasionally, she prefers the top of the chicken coup holding her chicken, Midnight.
My mother who grew up in the hills of Tennessee tells her that she loved to climb trees too when she was a girl. In summer, she’d sit and eat green apples until her belly hurt, not able to wait until they ripened. “You can see better from up in a tree? Isn’t that right, Anika?”
“I can see Mt. Shasta. And I can see if there are cats on top of the house. And I like the way the wind blows the branches and me when I am in a tree.”
Once when she was angry and didn’t want to attend her cross-country meet, she told me she was going to climb the tree and I wouldn’t be able to make her go. And she did, she ran out of the house, and scurried up the redwood. At first, I was angry at her defiance, at the fact that it was her idea to join the team. “Do you want me to call the fire department?” I threatened as I looked forty feet up. I took a deep breathe, knowing instilling fear was not a great way to parent. Instead, I reminded her of her commitment to her team and told her she didn’t have to run next year. I explained I didn’t give a hoot if she won a ribbon, but I asked her to do her best. She came down and she ran, while her brother and I cheered her on.
After school she runs to the backyard, singing, talking to herself, playing with her friends that come to life after the expectations of the day have been shed. Some days she is a bird, others a cheetah resting on a branch. There are blankets and a purse hanging from the branches of the redwood tree. She has water bottles under the tree, sometimes snack wrappers.
Her older brother tells her there is no such job as tree climber. I tell her there may be some day, or she may choose biology, or environmental science, or the arts. I do know that her time is well spent in trees, that maybe things do look differently way up in a tree or maybe the air a bit dreamier where little girls can dream of growing up and becoming tree climbers.