My favorite childhood climbing tree grew in a thistle-heavy vacant lot on the hill just above our home. It was an older, unkempt and unclaimed Gravenstein apple tree. Years of growth without pruning or human attentions annually yielded a tangled mass of twiggy branches that would reach eagerly upward with flowers each springtime; only to then bend — in weary curves under the weight of its crop every autumn. Between a bloom of poison oak at the trunk, and visible spots of apple scab on the annual crop, no one else in the neighborhood gave it the slightest quarter.
So, it was “My Tree.” Mine — in the way that many discarded and unloved objects are sweetly claimed by children who want to believe that their love alone will give the lost or abandoned inanimate object a sense of joy. It was mine to disappear into, to bounce up and down on the rubbery branches, and to daringly ascend as far as possible so that I might see further and father from its heights and dream of the world beyond.
It offered adventure, privacy, mischief and vantage. Additionally, it provided sustenance and entertainment, primarily: as I’d position my wiry kid body as comfortably as possible into the tangled and supple branches where I could both sit and easily nibble the tartly sweet fruit, as well as throw the wormy ones down the adjacent street and hillside.
Picture it: the arching, spinning toss of a bright green apple against a pale blue afternoon sky. A pair of dangling sun-browned skinny legs with pavement-blackened bare feet neatly camouflaged among dark green leaves. Hear the laughter and cry of delight at the Pop! of firm orbs striking the ground; their skin bursting and iridescent pearly flecks flying, white flesh and black seeds scattering across the dark asphalt.
Breathe in the dank sweet fermenting perfume of the wind-fallen apples — wedged around the base of the tree — composting slowly in the mulch of grey leaves and wet dirt, and feel pure delight at the mischief and poetry of this simple pastime:
sitting in an apple tree.