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The first vivid memory I have of climbing a tree, I was in Estonia. Aged maybe five or six, with my grandpa hoisting me up a perfectly wonderful pine growing out of the sandy soil on the shores of the Gulf of Finland. “You got it? You’re holding on? Good.”

Then he would step back and I would continue climbing, aiming to reach the very tip and look out, over the branches below and across the waters.

Pine trees are perfect for climbing, because typically the trunk is very straight and has a great texture for griping. Also, the limbs branch out concentrically in all directions. So, once you’ve gotten into the tree, it’s quite easy and relaxing to climb up. You get a nice rhythm going, moving like this: arm, arm, leg, leg. Arm, arm, leg, leg. There are other great climbing trees: aspen, ash, torrey pine, live oak. You have to be more careful with the trees whose architecture looks inviting but who lack the texture to support a good grip. Slipper bark = bad news.

I learned that the hard way when, as a kid in Russia, I jumped off a picnic table towards a branch of a near-by tree, hoping to catch hold of it and hoist myself up. Well I did catch it, but it was so slippery that I proceeded to slide down it all the way to the trunk, where, having gained sufficient momentum, I collided with it and spent the next two weeks in the hospital with a concussion.

There is a sort of primal delight in climbing things, especially trees. When I climb, I feel confident that I can rely on my hands and legs to support me fully. When you walk, or drive, you don’t have that same assurance. You can trip, or lose your balance, or have some…body crash into you. But in a tree, your position in space is entirely controlled by your strength and choice of branches. In this regards it is even better than rock climbing: you know the branch won’t give under you the way a small ledge on a cliff wall may.

In San Diego I can allow myself more freedom to climb around, whereas in Houston, I have to take on the more parently role….And do the hoisting and explaining of tree climbing tactics and strategy.

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