In the early 60’s, our yard was a magnet for kids from around the neighborhood. We had a big back yard where kickball and baseball games took place all summer long. In winter, the snowplows tended to pile the snow high right where we lived, and forts were built regularly. But the big attractions were truly that – big. We had twin sugar maple trees, one in the front year and one in the back. Both trees towered over our 2-story house, so they were at least 50 feet tall. I never took the time to measure them. They were in the prime of life, so majestic and strong. It was partly because of these trees that the Goodale Street Tree Climbing Club was formed.
There were six of us in the club. My brother was the president, and I was vice president. Believe that is because we were the best tree climbers of the bunch. Living in Massachusetts, we were surrounded by woods, and trees were prevalent. It was not unusual for us to get together and make it a mission to climb trees throughout the woods on a Saturday afternoon. We loved to climb. It didn’t matter what kind of tree, or how big, we were up to the challenge. If the bottom branches were too high to reach, we would shiny up he tree to get to them.
But the silver maple in our back yard was our favorite. It was built perfectly for climbing. The branches were layered in such a way that you could easily climb it any way you wanted to. And you could come down and out of the tree in a variety of ways. My favorite was to walk right out of the tree. Yes, you read that right – walk out of the tree. Two of the big bottom branches ran parallel to each other, and you could walk on the bottom branch while holding the top branch until the branch bowed far enough for you to hit the ground. Of course, you had to be fast in getting off the branch, because once your weight was off of it, it would spring suddenly back up to position. If you weren’t careful, you could get a nasty whipping from that branch.
One of my fondest memories was the day I told my friend David I could climb all the way to the top and stick my hand out. If you have ever been to the top of a silver maple, you know that the branches get pretty flimsy up there. He didn’t think I could do it. Well, for a tree climber, that’s a challenge you can’t let go by the wayside. David headed over to the back side of the yard so he could see me, and I proceeded up the tree. The first 2/3 or he tree were easy, but as I got to the top portion, the branches were less sturdy, and I had to carefully maneuver my steps. But I was able to get closer and closer to the top. Finally, just barely able to keep myself from swaying down, I reached for the opening in the top of the tree and stuck my hand out.
“Can you see it” I shouted.
Ya, I can. Wow.” was David’s response.
I slowly started back down that tree, proud of my accomplishment. No one else had ever dared try that kind of a stunt. David rushed over to me and just looked at me with amazement.
“Man, you did it! I can’t believe it”.
“I can’t either. It was a bit scary up there, and I won’t do it again.” I said, a broad smile lighting up my face.
And I never did do it again. And nobody else ever did it either. I was the tree climbing king in that moment. I had done something that no one else even dared to try. And it felt good.
Youth is a wonderful thing. We were pretty carefree, and a challenge was rarely left on the table for long. It seems as I grow older, I take less risk. I am more cautious with my decisions. In a way that is a good thing because I have more responsibility and a family that depends on me. But in a way, it’s a bad thing. I am reluctant at times to step out in faith and share the gospel with people I come in contact with. I have ample opportunities since I am in the insurance business, but rarely take those risks. I sometimes wish I would be more outgoing with my faith.
Now that I am housebound with cancer, I have this platform to share my faith. It has been such a blessing to me these past 9 months to share my poetry and thoughts with all of you. So many times, I have received comments of how someone was touched by the words God gave me. What a blessing to know God can use me to minister from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy chair. I may never stick my hand out the top of a tree again, but I will lift my hand to God and worship Him with the utmost abandon. There is no risk in that!