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Thu, Feb. 21
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Column: Spring is calling, celebrate by climbing a tree

I love spring; always have. Especially when I was a kid, growing up in Kansas City.

The warmer weather invited us to resume our love affair with the outdoors.

The robins seemed to be the first to call us to attention, their cheeps so vigorous and sassy. Then the squirrels reappeared and regained their turf in the park. Overnight dandelions brightened the fast-greening ball field. Lavender, purple and pink lilac bushes transformed gray neighborhood streets, providing hiding spots from which to spy on unsuspecting neighbors as they reclaimed yards and renewed friendships.

But for me, it was the trees that truly heralded the miracle of spring.

Beckoning to be climbed again.

I couldn’t do that during the winter. It was too cold. Even worse, I could be seen. “What are you doing up in that tree, Ronnie?”

Wintering trees are to look at, not climb. Not until they are ready, which they signal by covering themselves with beautiful green leaves. It’s like they are saying, “I’ve dressed up for you again. climb me, find peace among my branches, tell me your troubles, and when you climb down, leave your worries here with me.”

Every April I climbed my favorite trees. Often I would take a book with me, examine each familiar limb on my way up and then rediscover my favorite resting place high in the branches where I could sit, listen, think, watch and read.

Sometimes I’d just listen to the tree as the wind encouraged the leaves to sing their songs. Other times I’d listen to my friends, the birds, who would observe but not bother me. I loved just sitting there. The branches protected me when I needed them. They were a sanctuary when being alone was what a shy, insecure boy needed.

Certainly nowhere else could I enjoy my imagination more than when sitting high up among my tree’s branches. It was as if the distance from the ground gave my mind the impetus to soar. I dreamed great dreams in my trees. I imaged myself winning Wimbledon, finding a cure for tuberculosis, and saving my family and schoolmates from an enemy attack by hiding them in a cave only I knew about.

But now, I don’t climb trees anymore. The deck at our condo is “my tree.”

I suspect those of us who climbed trees when we were young will never outgrow our love for them or our need to “find special trees” when we are no longer able to trust our bodies to climb real ones. I doubt “tree-climbers” ever really forget how important trees are in their lives. Particularly each spring when the wind through the leaves calls us to them and the birds invite us to join them high in the branches.

But I resist the temptation. So, I sit on my deck, sometimes on a bench on the courthouse plaza, and admire them from a safer distance. Then I wonder if there are youngsters out there relishing their beauty, climbing them, and maybe taking a book with them, sitting high among the branches and dreaming great dreams.

Joyce Kilmer got it right. “I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.”

Spring! Another season of hope. Trees! Another season of memories.


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