A tree is a fantasy world. Climbing up is escaping reality; head is a cloud of needles and leaves? From here in the branches, we observe the other fantasies; the numbers and heartaches and wonders. We acknowledge our complicity and throw sticks at the problems, while the trees hold it all together with their roots and breathe it in. I’m not the only dreamer, but I am a very lucky boy – afforded time to follow a kooky whim: To get up a tree every day for 365 days.
Climbing trees is big fun and challenging and exhilarating and I recommend it, but Art of Climbing Trees isn’t really all about climbing trees. The trees and climbing them gave me a journey and without them there would be none of this; playing and thinking and experiencing trees gave me a reason to learn and pay closer attention. This book is based on my walk-about-diary, and the additional research and reflection is my offering; my gentle activism. That is to say, a jumble of ‘positioning statements’, you’ll have to unravel yourself as you delve.
It began with the seed of an idea to climb something I once poked into the soil; to climb a seed when it eventually bloomed to its potential: to climb a tree that I once planted would be my metaphor-action for hope; that we’ll both survive the future; we’ll both weather the pestilences and changes in climate and unravelling of society, if…
The pace of change seems so fast now, and my adventure in trees already feels as if it is from a more innocent time. We’ve since graduated to the sixth mass extinction and likely collapse of civilization from the simple threat of climate change; a rocky few centuries seems inevitable. I feel the fear sometimes, and resignation, but my hope is also given breath.
Draft number 6 and nearly done…
In 2013 I launched a crowd fund to enable time for weaving together the various texts and photographs into a book worthy of the trees it would be printed on. This would mean condensing 1400 pages of my diaries and transcribed conversations with 80 co-climbers, while adding my reflections and additional research and making selections from thousands of photographs I took in of ‘my’ trees. By drawing these layers together I would present you with one version of a strange and exciting year in my life, while hoping the piece could be a part of ‘the solution’. I was naive enough to believe this could all be done in a few months.
One hundred and forty pre-ordered books are a special kind of weight to carry. I gain joy and meaning from making and writing and have a personal dedication to holding this piece of work completed, and yet the weight of my promise to crowd funders has also served to goad me on. I thank you all.
I’ve received utterly invaluable help from editors Charlotte DuCann and Cate Chapman. I grow more confident and excited, as the book begins to take its final shape in both text and design. Now draft number six – the final draft – is coming together.
It was and remains a surreal and enriching adventure.
I worry about the future, while trying to hold it loosely to avoid going crazy. Above all, I am saddened and angered by the sixth mass extinction and dominant theatre of economics. I hope we can realise our potential. Peaceful rebellion is becoming a major source of my hopes.
Sometimes I create two and Three-D visual art, direct theatre and film, build wooden things and of course, I stare at my screen too much, writing. I juggle a bank of projects, fiddle with ideas, tinker with scripts and poems. Stop to takes note/s. Occasionally, I struggle to get out of bed and do all the other good and bad things we do in our complex society. I’ve been pulling, drawing and imagining the cart with and without a horse since leaving school at 16. My dreams to take over the world is fading with my withering hormones and shrinking ego.
Primal activities with the future in mind
Heart gives blood laced with adrenaline out to the inner rivers, pulsing to feed and connect a hand with attention, primed; nerves peaked, high.
Shared eye contact with another, also filled with juices and double primed to ascend.
Encircle the trunk together – the bridge to a world.
Imagine and decode a route in.
Begin. Branch takes fingers furled, knot takes boot,
Muscles tense, tendons load hooked limbs, skin bears the rub,
Dig fingernails in, a hand of wood and a hand of flesh,
Bone meets bone and hearts gives – accelerates.
Chest pumps breath direct from the source, and sweat comes,
Writhe at first like grubs, rising into, up closer to the chaotic fractals splayed out to chase the light; an exploding bubble; a nest of quivering lungs; each one a fingerprint against the sun; brief, extravagant ingenuity; all mirror.
We find ourselves here, inside this body of channels and capillaries: vital, springy, brittle, dead, smooth, folded over like ripples of melting rock, gnarled and cracked apart, ancient, weathered, slimy, dry, spongy, peeling, patterned with lichens and mosses, trailed with bugs.
Now a greenhouse of stained glass; pink, red, yellow, orange, brown and gone with the winds.
Now a standing skeleton; a cage of static weave; frosty twigs in stasis; naked in the pad of falling snow.
It’s pissing with rain and a gail plays the structure, swaying like seaweed.
A sharp crystal blue sky and sunlight scatters into the prism as we climb to perch, think, talk, while tiny leaves blossom from the bark again and nervous birds wait for us to return them peace.
There’s danger up here.
We feel safe above the ground when we forget ourselves in each other; when we’ve found a mutual embrace with the arms of the tree, drinking the sky, grounded by roots that hold the Earth.
Three hearts pulsing quietly, in rhythm.