My last tree. I made it! I never missed a day for 365 days in a row. It has been an incredible year with many accomplishments and memorable events.
As I stood in my tree today with the rain trickling down on me I thought of where I was one year ago. I left Portland on my birthday to start what I thought would be a temporary 6-month residency. I kissed Rachel goodbye at the airport fully expecting to marry her the following year. On the plane I drew up plans and designed the details to the very project I am completing with these words. Will picked me up from the airport in Louisville and I was so happy to have my good friends near me once again. The heavy weight of my stagnant melancholy that sat upon me during my time out west was lifting. I was so excited to get my chance to make art amongst artists in a tranquil setting of trees and nature. I stood up in this tree in Cherokee Park, wet, dirty, cold, and I did not want to get down.
The pictures I took did not seem to capture the importance of this climb.
I have changed and grown so much. My circumstances now, and the future goals I have set-the life I see myself leading-are vastly different than one year ago. I am an artist, I am alone, and I am happy. I made work, I had shows, I am a member of a gallery, and I have so much more I want to do.
I pulled off my last ribbon
and paused a second as I held it in my fist above my head.
It’s my gesture of triumph… I did it! The last few days my thoughts of falling out of a tree and dying have returned. Mostly as an ironic joke in my head. How tragic to fall to my death days shy from my one year goal? Today, in this tree, I thought if I fell and died that would be okay.
I finally decided it was time to climb down. The tree was incredibly slippery and at many points I was very scared.
This tall tree at the edge of the woods by Dog Hill was a challenge the first time when it was dry.
I had climbed it faster today because I knew my path, but at times on the way down I used some hand and foot holds that I did not fully trust. I made it to the low branch where I could sit back and relax with my feet up. I had planned on writing this journal entry right there to say I wrote one in a tree once. But the rain did not permit it. I sat less than a minute before growing tired of the hard seat and cold drops of water on my face. I hung from my hands and dropped to the dead leaves on the ground.
As I walked slowly back to Charlotte’s car up at the top of the Hill I felt a mix of relief and accomplishment, and sadness. My mind was focusing so much on the past, again looking to one year ago. I turn 27 today and who knows what this year will bring? But I will always look back to my 26th year as the year I climbed trees and found how I can be happy.
4-10-09: At last, the Daily Climb blog comes to an end. If you’ve been following these entries regularly you’ll have noticed my increasingly delayed posts and read of my procrastination. I may be able to climb a tree everyday for 730 days in a row, but I have no desire to continue to blog at the same rate. I am not quitting this blog, but when I post again you will see a change. No longer will I confuse you with past and present dates, endless paragraphs, and a deluge of pictures. I have come to appreciate brevity both in reading other blogs and in posting my own.
Each entry took me around an hour to an hour and a half to prep and post. As the year went on my writing increased as did the amount of images I used. I began to share more of my personal life, thoughts, and perceptions and I hope you enjoyed that widening window into my experience. I started this project asa way to regularly draw artistic inspiration from within the object and activity that draws me to create. My strength, flexibility, and agility have improved and I have come to appreciate all times of year and the weather that comes along with it. I have seen amazing views from many parks, towns, cities, and rural areas in many different states. But I think one of things I’ll hold most dear from this project are all the friends and family I shared my climbs with.
April 3rd 2009. Friday. For my last climb of my second year, I chose to share it with Josh.
You’ve seen him before on a few of my recent climbs. I met him through parkour and he is one of the nicest and most laid-back guys I have ever met. He is also a tree-climbing convert. He used to climb trees but it had been a while. When he came out with me for the first time I could tell I had brought him back to an activity that he loves. It is a connection with nature that, though you can get high up above the dirt and leaves, is a very grounding experience.
I picked him up and we drove down I-65 to Mitchell Hill in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. I had never been and I had heard the top of the hill provides quite the view of the city. I had a little trouble finding exactly where I wanted to stop, but ended up pulling over next to a small cemetery at the very top if the hill.
Josh and I got out and headed back toward the road.
I climbed over the guard rail and scanned the area for climbable trees. Many were tall but few had trunks I could climb or brancheslow enough to reach. I spotted one tree that had a spattering of tiny little limbs and a few bigger branches that could lead me to the top of the tree.
(look directly in the center of the image)
Josh followed behind me doing his own searching. At the base I chose my position on the trunk and readied myself for the jump.
Then up I went, slowly, using whatever little limb I could grip on to. Josh watched from below and I imagine he was figuring whether he would be able to follow my path. Once I got to some limbs that would hold my weight, I climbed up past the split in the trunk and looked down to see him attempting the climb.
I continued higher and got my first glimpse of the distant hazy cityscape.
I was so far from the city. I took pictures,
then climbed a little higher to see if I could get some of the nearby tree limbs out of my line of sight. When I looked back down Josh had given up and moved on to more searching.
I finished shooting and that is when I started to think about what this climb signified. 730 days in a row. The number is strange and takes a second to realize how long that really is. 2 years ,and not one day off. I am not sure if there is any tree so epic that could punctuate an end to a project like this. Which is why, in the top of this tree I decided I would not stop. I cannot stop. Why would or should I? As I wrote at the end of the entry above, I have found what truly makes me happy. There is no point in taking that away.
I climbed back down this tree satisfied that the journey will continue. I am 28 now and I could have never imagined I’d still be climbing trees or be where I am in life. I am a tree-climber and an artist. And there is so much more I want to do.
If there is just one thing I hope people take away from my effort, it’s that I want you to get out there and climb a tree. I don’t care if you only get on the lowest branch, or use a ladder to get there… just try it.
But if you still find no desire to find your inner monkey, then I just hope you find something you love, an activity that makes you happy that you can do everyday. And share that with someone because it makes it so much more when you do.