by Megan Presland
I have only ever loved one tree in my life: the big, beautiful, gnarled apple tree that used to stand in my parents' backyard. While we never actually ate the fruit of this tree, it provided a spot for our childhood imaginations to flourish.
When I was younger, my father worked in forestry for the county and my brothers and I quickly grew an affinity for tree climbing. It was on the apple tree that I first learned to climb, using its thick, sturdy branches to propel myself upwards towards excitement and adventure. As an avid reader, I loved to grab a book and climb just high enough that I was concealed and read for hours.
One of our most memorable tree adventures was the day my brother and I decided that we needed to get our youngest brother (at the ripe old age of 4!) into the tree. My parents were working inside and we thought it would be an opportune time to put our nascent forestry skills to the test. We first asked my brother if he wanted to be raised up into the tree, and he confidently said yes.
I now know that this was one of our dumber, more dangerous ideas, but at the time, we thought we were practicing the epitome of safety. We outfitted my brother in a life vest, bike helmet, garden gloves and cowboy boots. We grabbed one of my dad’s old harnesses from his forestry days that we used to play dress up and added bungee cords to fit it to my brother’s body. We then found various ropes to attach to him before we hoisted him into the tree.
Just as we started to pull, my mom rushed out in a panic, frantically trying to stop us from hoisting my brother up the tree. I distinctly remember my response to my mother was “but we asked, and he said he wanted to go up the tree!”. After he was safely on the ground, but before the lecture about how older sisters need to be more responsible, my mom had the foresight to snap a photo, forever immortalizing one of our most dangerous and audacious (to our childhood selves) tree adventures. Looking at the picture, I can see in my face the attempt to look ashamed, but it doesn't hide the pride for what we almost accomplished. And there's my youngest brother, the intrepid explorer, ready to ascend to heights unknown.
In high school, a freak wind storm took down that beautiful old apple tree along with 15 other trees in our backyard. While I still miss that tree, it was then that our forestry skills came full circle, when we learned how to cut and chip all of the fallen trees in our backyard. A different tree stands in its place now, and I can only hope that one day it grows to be big enough for my children to have adventures of their own.
Looking back, I still think to myself: gosh, I loved that tree.
Megan Presland is an academic advisor in the Biology Department at the University of Michigan-Flint. She is having fun getting her garden set up in her new home and loves embroidery and all things Harry Potter.