The Art of Tree Climbing

photo credit - Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley we did a lot of tree climbing. Alongside our driveway was a hearty Maple tree that held my brother and I safely as we ascended to its top.  Using the sturdy thick branches as stepping stones and the willowy thinner ones to stop us from falling we'd navigate to the highest views. 

At night in the summertime, our gang played a game called ditch, a tag contest where one child was "it" and the others hid in bushes, behind fences or under cars until captured.  If swift enough, we'd escape by dashing towards a designated "safe" Jacaranda, one of the many purple flowering trees on our tree-lined cul-de-sac. The braver of us also climbed those Jacarandas. Their trunks were thicker and taller with fewer low hanging branches so you had to be strong enough to shimmy-up first, like a phone-company pole climber, before grabbing an accommodating branch to help you along.   Hiding in a Jacaranda at night was only for the lean and lithe, pressing your body against a branch and melding into the tree.

Across the street from our house on a strip of grass dividing two homes was an 80 foot California Pine. One warm summer night when I was about nine, I went outside alone and ended up climbing that tree. There was a slight breeze as I worked my way up the branches and needles with the wind circling around.  You could smell the pine's sweet, sticky scent.  Winding my way up one branch at a time, the rooftops of surrounding houses began to appear and then climbing higher I could see across the Valley's basin.  What a view.  Twinkling lights on slowly fading street grids.  Just the two of us, the tree and I, swaying back and forth under the stars. 

A smile and a memory came back yesterday when I read Debra Prinzing's Los Angeles Times article, "An Ally with Deep Roots" about Venice architect Carlos Zubieta and designer Tatiana Barhar who decided to build around an established ficus tree smack-dab in the middle of their residential lot, instead of demolishing it. 

You can read about that ficus and the redesigned family home by clicking here.

 photo credit - Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times


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