I’ve been on a bit of a bad schedule, doing things I don’t even like to do. I have been staying up till 3am watching television. Then I get up late, eat breakfast and go directly to the computer. I understand the importance and possibility of the internet and don’t want to give that up, but it also can waste time. Solitaire games will destroy me, but not if stupid television does first. I am happier without it, but I’ve been watching so much. Here is my opportunity to reflect, decide, and declare in writing that I will stop. I could read, write, draw, think, play music, talk on the phone, go for a walk, do a project, fucking anything but sitting mindlessly in front of the TV while I chew ice. Where is this going in relation to a tree climb? Well…
After my slow morning routine I did manage to type up a few journal entries for my blog. Then I made plans to meet up with Norman at the Mount and then go to dinner. I left the house just after 3:30 and drove to Tinseltown movie theaters. My tree, a ginkgo I believe, is there right out in the open by the busy road. Last time I climbed it in the dark. As I drove I was apprehensive about the climb in day light.
I figured I could just climb and if anyone told me to get down I’d shoot pictures and get my ribbon first. I was nervous but determined.
I pulled into the side parking lot by the theaters and saw two semi’s parked right in front of my tree,
plus a peppering of other cars… employee parking perhaps?
I parked and put my camera in my pocket and thought, what the hell, here it goes.
I went between the two trucks, around the bushes, and over to my tree. Cars were going by every second like the beginnings of rush hour.
I got close in to the trunk and started to climb the low limbs. So many of them were small and brittle. I did my best to find the strong ones and maneuver around to avoid breaking off any weak branches. I stayed focused on the trunk and the limbs and climbed fast. I did not want to look out and see anyone walking my way.
As I got higher into the tree the limbs thinned out and got stronger.
I moved quickly up to my ribbon and ripped it off.
I hastily took out and my camera and snapped shots all around me.
In doing this I saw that no one was really paying attention to me. Cars were coming and going but not even slowing down. I began to relax a little and take my time. I finished shooting and then grabbed a new growth bud from the end of a branch. I looked for a way to get higher but, still a little nervous, I decided I should climb down. I stuck the twig in my mouth and scurried down the tree and was on the ground in no time. I felt like I got away with something. And that feels really good. I don’t think that climbing trees should be against the rules. I know that it isn’t against the law, but people are so scared of lawsuits. If I fell and got seriously injured or died, what would be the case? You don’t keep up with pruning your trees so it’s your fault I fell? What if I just slipped out of a perfectly healthy and recently pruned tree? You didn’t tell me to get down, it’s your fault? You didn’t post your rules about not climbing? I don’t understand, the judicial system is integral to our freedoms but it gets so abused. Can’t I sign something, or better yet, get a legal document tattooed on my body that states I climb at my own risk. Neither I nor anyone I know can sue if I am hurt or killed climbing. I guess that still doesn’t exempt me from the rules. Can’t climb trees… ridiculous! Rant over.
4-9-09: Speaking of bad habits and routines… I have been awful lately. My whole plan was to finish this blog on time and here it is almost a week later and I have 3 entries left. Part of me thinks I don’t want this project to end. Another part of me knows that when a thing of importance in my life ends I have a period of readjustment. After my first show, after my residency, after my trip to NY, I have a few days where all I want to do is waste time, watch TV, browse the web, read, go for walks… anything other than what I am supposed to do. My two years of climbing ended on my 28th birthday. I had a great party and ever since I have just been doing nothing. It’s like my sense of purpose disappears and I have nothing immediate to look forward to to drive me. Which isn’t even the case right now. I have projects I am currently working on that I am excited about and need to keep up on. What I really need to do is finish this blog, refocus and plan, then execute. It’s all so easy to talk about and a little bit harder to do.
April 1st 2009. Wednesday. I had to work my shift at Zephyr Gallery from 2:30 – 6pm, then after was a meeting that usually goes till after dark. It was such a beautiful, sunny day that I really wanted to get out and climb. It being the last few days of my two years Iwanted a good tree. I had spotted a tall and challenging tree over my the intersection of Grinstead and Cherokee Roads.
It towers next to a small cliff and rises up over the edge of Cave Hill Cemetery. The first time I saw it I didn’t climb because I felt to exposed to the traffic whizzing by.
Well, on that day I felt emboldened and ready. It was late morning and though there were still plenty of cars going by I felt no threat or paranoia. I locked my bike on a small tree nearby and then carefully examined and planned my entry. The bottom of the trunk was a little wide for shimmying but there were two limbs growing out that looked close enough to grab if I had a good run up the trunk.
I cleared the twigs from the ground to make a nice running path and then started my attempts. The first one is often a failure but gives me a sense of my footing and the exertion needed to succeed. I readjust, back up and try again. On the fourth try I was able to grab the left branch which started to bend severely low with all my weight. I reached for the other branch quickly and avoided breaking the left limb. I climbed up onto the two limbs to my feet then knew my biggest challenge of the climb was just ahead of me. The next branch was well out of my reach and I had no other option than shimmying. The trunk was only slightly small than near the ground but I wouldn’t have tried climbing this tree had I not thought I could do it. I took a few deep breathes and readied my fingers for the grip. I figured it would take me two or three movements to reach and I went for it. Hands up, knees up, straighten, and three was it. I reached the next branch, walked my hands out a few inches and then lifted my foot, rotated and climbed up to my feet.
From there the climb became considerably easier. There was one step where I broke off a dead limb that shook me a little. It was the only limb I had to get to the next branch and for a second I worried that it would affect my climb down. But then I remembered that I could just slide down the trunk and skip that spot all together. Soon I was to the split in the trunk. Two major leaders continued up much higher. I went up one then transferred over to the next since it had better limbs to a furtherheight. I went as far as I could and had that moment when the intense concentration of the climb is over and I open my eyes to my incredible view.
I was high. Unfortunately I did not bring my new measuring tool with me to check but as I looked down I knew it would have been quite difficult to not get it tangled. I took out my camera and started to shot lots of pictures. I kept taking shots of my view straight down the tree.
I towered over the cemetery and other trees near me that grew on the top of the cliff.
That meant that I was 25 to 30 even higher yet then where my bike sat
and the cars on the road drove below.
I knew I was hidden from sight. No one would ever think to look that high and see me. It felt so good and I was very glad I chose this tree on this day. It was as if it was meant to be.
Golfers were playing in the green across the road
and the sun beat down.
Even after finishing with the camera I didn’t want to leave my perch. It’s climbs like these that really make me happy and help me to decide to not stop climbing everyday. I pretty much knew at that point, I couldn’t stop. But I did have to climb down.
Slowly I went down reversing my steps and slid down the trunk past the place of the broken limb. Then I was back down to the large branch just above the two first limbs.
I took a couple more pictures as I went down the tree then put the camera away for my last shimmy to the bottom two limbs. Then I hung from my hands and dropped to the ground. What an accomplishment! What a fine tree!