The Reason Kids Climb Trees

On a beautiful tree-lined street in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, there is one tree that is not like the others.

The street, named for the lush meadow that lives at its end, features trees that look like mini broccolis. Dark green topping a stout greyish brown trunk, clusters of leaves gathered at the bases before sprouting out in curlicues that look just like the eponymous tree. Broccoli trees.

I’ve spent hours walking down this street, looking at the broccoli trees, and wondering about life. Often, it’s a question about whether or not I’m happy right now. Perhaps my schoolbooks are weighing down my back; or my high school friends left me to walk home alone, and happiness feels far away. Maybe my boss gave me a tough time at work today; or I couldn’t catch a ride which is why I’m walking home from the tram stop, but still, looking at these broccoli trees, I’m happy today. Maybe it’s been two years since I last walked down this street, and as I notice the facades that have been newly painted and the fences since mended and the other ways everything has remained the same as I lived my life three continents away, I gaze at my broccoli trees and thank them for the happiness, the groundedness they’ve given me.

And it’s on those visits that I come across – no, I think it’s more like seek out – the one tree that stands out among the rest, one that reminds me of how happy I am and always will be, simply for the sake of this tree.

It’s a big tree, large roots exposed through the pavement, trunk wedged between a fence that popped up long after this being sunk her majestic origins into the ground. She spreads her arms wide, encompassing not just the house who is lucky to possess her, but branches spread across the street with leafy shade.

And her trunk, the trunk that I have hugged and stroked and stared into her smooth abyss, filled with mysterious etchings that appear like hieroglyphs of wisdom, is special.

She is pink.

A pale, smooth, darkish pink, the color you would expect to see underneath bark that’s been peeled away, not as the primary color of this magical queen of nature. Like the dusty rose of a bridesmaid dress or the deep blush of a makeup palette, she’s a color that reminds you that every color in the pantone wheel comes from nature, and isn’t she glorious?

When I was a little girl, I used to run to this tree. Walking home, no matter what time of day – 12 PM from a day in preschool or 2 AM from the Passover seder, I would run to the tree and embrace it, running my small arms across her bare chest and feeling into those ancient grooves. When the house that owns the tree was being renovated and a tall fence went up to separate street from tree, I was sad and missed it every day.

One day, we were on a picnic and my father pointed to a tree.

“Rish that’s a tree that you would love,” he suggested. “It’s your kind of tree. It’s a big tree.”

I didn’t understand the words he was saying. A big tree? What? So what?

Everyone knew. The tree I loved was a pink tree.

Had I not been expressing those words out loud?

Had I always said big tree, not pink tree?

Was my tree so unremarkable in her uniqueness, so invisible as the pink tree on the street – or was she so unique simply for her size, towering above the broccoli trees, that her pinkness was simply a characteristic, not a main feature?

I explained then, that I loved my pink tree for her color, but it made me think about her size, too. And how despite the large willows that towered over my school playground, and the enormous palms in the park down the street from my house, and the eucalyptus trees we found on visits to the country, this was my big tree. The big tree that let me hug her, and whisper into her ears, and find solace in her embrace.

It’s been twenty five years, but I haven’t really changed. I still like to sit under trees to learn from their wisdom. I hug them and press my ear to their trunks to discover the secrets, the ones my favorite book “The Enchanted Wood” told me the trees whisper, “wisha wish wisha”.

And recently, on my street in Brooklyn, I found another tree. It’s not unlike the other trees of Brooklyn, big and tall and leaning towards the street, but this one has something strange hanging from its side. A large, knot-like attachment hangs from its branches, like a dying appendage. I can’t quite figure out what it is – it seems like an exposed root, but it hangs from above, so I call it an inside out branch. Perhaps someone more well-versed in nature might know what it truly is, but to me, like the broccoli trees and the pink tree, it reminds me of the secret of life. Of the power to regenerate, to grow, to spread like a tree.

“For man is like the tree in the field,” it says in Proverbs, and every time I walk past and press my ear to hear her secrets, without a care to the quizzical looks of hipsters passing by, I hear my own voice of the little girl who loved the pink tree, rushing to greet it with a big hug and wondering whether the broccoli trees will tell her that she’s happy today.

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