Climbing Trees

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to climb trees.

Photo by Sugar Frizz via Flickr (Creative Commons)

From first grade to sixth grade the most consistent place you’d find me (When I disappeared, which was all the time!) would likely be up in a tree. Until fourth grade it was all about hanging out with friends (literally) and seeing how high we could climb or if we could be quiet enough that adults would walk by and not notice us. When we got a bit older we got more brave and would try to jump from tree to tree. It was a place where I learned how far I could push myself as well as if I could trust myself as I explored various trees.

But in my later elementary years I discovered the trees could be a wonderful place to be alone. They became a place to perch and listen to birds, watch squirrels, and one of my favorites… read books. I remember reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Shel Siverstein poems and everything by Jules Verne in trees. It was high in a pine tree in my back yard that I discovered that a book could take me somewhere far from home in the space between my ears.

My childhood wasn’t filled with horror but it wasn’t a parade of awesome either. Like a lot of families today– we had our messes. And for whatever reasons hanging out in trees and loosing myself in a book (or later, in a video game, or at the golf course) was a form of respite or escapism from the hard realities of my situation. While escapism is probably not the best way to deal with everything, disappearing from a place of disorder to one of order was healthy.

As I work with emerging adults who have lives strikingly similar to my own experience I wonder what their places of respite are. I’d like to think its our youth group or times when we’re together doing something fun. But more likely, they are off to their own set of trees, wherever that may be, to find sanity in chaos.

What was your place of respite as a kid?

How would you discover the place of respite for the students in your ministry?

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

6 comments

  1. Into the woods near my house. I grew up in a “development” but at the outer edge of civilization. So strip malls on one side, fields, trees and dairy farms on the other.

    1. Kind of like me, Jay. In 5th grade I moved to a neighborhood that had 50 acres of woods behind it and some trees bordering a farm. The pine trees right behind my house were the place I was referring to. But I climbed a lot of the older oak trees back in the woods too.

  2. For me it was in my boat. I grew up on an island and from 4-8th grade lived right on Puget Sound with a dock in my backyard. I used to take the boat out with a book and literally just float away. It was pretty rural there too so beaching the boat somewhere there was always a pretty cool beach or forest to explore. The key component was the reading piece though. I could be completely alone in the middle of a big group if I had a book. I’m so thankful for the bookmobile which came every 2 weeks.

  3. I grew up on a farm. There was an old red barn with a loft down the lane about a 1/4 mile from the house. I would sit up there for HOURS. Reading, listening to music, drawing, etc. I still go there when I visit home just to see it.

    Funny thing, my son spent the summer working on the farm and I recently saw pictures he took of himself out there in the barn just getting away from it all. That was kind of cool to see.

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