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Safe Place

October 15, 2018

I’ve been a climbing-tree connoisseur my entire life; I’ve sampled short, tall, gnarled, smooth, deciduous, coniferous, a whole variety really, but the most significant tree in my life has always been the massive pine tree in my grandma’s backyard. When I was about 10, she moved into a small house next to our elementary school, and as soon as my eyes set on the backyard, I was in love. To call it a yard doesn’t give it justice; that word implies that it only had sunbleached grass and maybe a couple of short plants. What she has is a cathedral; a lush hill surrounded on all ends by a dense forest of towering conifers and smaller brush, with purple flowers and unused garden beds on the inside. It was heaven for an adventurer like me.

Once she moved in, my sister and I finally had the clear to go exploring, and we surveyed our new realm. While there were many parts to explore, like an ancient-looking wooden sandbox and something resembling a cave under the deck, the tree quickly grabbed my attention; a colossal pine with branches in perfect reach of my small hands. I pulled myself up, a little hesitant at first, but once I reached the third branch I found I could sit on it pretty comfortably. Since we visit our grandma very frequently, then, I kept going up in the tree to the point where the motion of my hands grabbing the branches became a rhythm, but the view from the third branch wasn’t much to look at; just the fence. Eventually, I started getting bolder and tried to climb higher, and I’m relieved to say that I never fell. The world from the highest point in that tree was something entirely new to me, and while the climb was thrilling, sitting was extremely peaceful. There was less noise, refreshing wind, colorful birds, a couple annoyed squirrels, but the most valuable thing was that there was tranquility. I kept going up, not even just to climb anymore, but to sit in my spot and just be.

Since our family did a number of gatherings at my grandma’s house, my cousins, my sister, and I went to play outside, and since they noticed how I was spending so much time in the tree, they decided they wanted to share the fun. I somewhat reluctantly took them there, but the branches couldn’t support their weight, and one broke. Honestly, I was secretly happy that they couldn’t climb it. It was my meditation spot, a safe place just for my use. Though most of the time up there was spent in quiet thought, since it overlooked the school parking lot, I did call out to many of my teachers passing by and had conversations with them from my tree. That’s definitely a little weird, but to me, that was the funniest thing possible. I’ve spent so many hours up there, in every season, (though snow and ice undoubtedly make the climb a bit more difficult,) and it constantly remained a place of solace for elementary school me, an escape after class, a breather from when visiting company got too overwhelming.

It’s been years since I’ve been up in its embrace, for fear of breaking branches, or worse, limbs, but it still stands tall and we still visit. In retrospect, it’s done a lot for me actually, giving me a place where I felt safe and peaceful, and I wish I could still climb it today now that life has gotten so stressful. The pine still serves as a symbol of peace in my life.

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