“Mama, why do grownups talk so much about money, and things like … Contaxsternation? I mean, they should be talking about important things, like … like, FROZEN YOGURT.”
She refused to come down from the yew tree.
We’d brought a bag of books and snacks to the lush park with a rolling lawn canopied by massive lodge pole pines and an old apple orchard. One of the many irrigation ditches that cross the city runs alongside the southern edge, through wild weedy patches, under flowering shrubs trailing thin branches in the eddies. There are no swings or slides or ultra-safe climbing structures here, no brightly colored gyms with foam blanketing the ground to cushion unlikely falls. It’s a dog park, a run-under-the-trees park, a weave-a-crown-of-clover-and-be-empress-of-the-land park. It’s not wild, but it’s not contrived. It’s green, with hiding places and swallowtail butterflies and mysterious, weathered outbuildings caving in around the beams. The rusted axles of old tractors rest in a bank of dried and tangled grasses, gravestone markers of this property’s long-ago identity as a farm.
We’d compromised on blanket placement–half in the sun, half “dappled” shade. (Dappled is her favored and most savored word of the moment. I want to remember that.) Flip flops flung off her feet, and she sailed away.
“Come run with me, mama! It feels like flying!”
I sent her back and forth between our nestled spot and a huge, clambering, wild rose bush, thick with fat, yellow blooms. She gathered petals in her basket, returned to weave them into my hair. And then she spied it–a tree with a low V in the trunk, strong branches arranged in a ladder shape that only she could see. It took two minutes for her to be 10 feet off the ground, tucked in among the soft and spiky green, singing her mysteries and asking me not to listen.
When it was time to go, I did my gathering up and strolled to stand beneath her.
“I will stay here forever.” [arms crossed] “You know mama, I won’t one day live in a greenhouse on the beach in Mexico. That was a silly plan. I’ll live in a tree. I’ll never come down. You can send me snacks in a bucket on a rope. I won’t need money or things.”
It took 10 minutes of coaxing. I remembered Julia Butterfly Hill, living in her redwood for 738 days.
That night, over a $10 martini, I thought about what comforts and sustains us.