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I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree. I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree looking up into its branches, craning my neck backwards to follow them as far as I could with my eyes without moving the rest of me. It was an old tree; you could tell that from the size alone, and it looked weathered, not beaten down or broken but as though it had survived many a storm. At first glance it might look like a climbing tree, and sure you could try, but upon closer inspection it would hopefully become clear to you that after scaling the thick branches near the bottom you would quickly find yourself at an impasse, at a section of tree with no offshoots, neither on the main trunk or on any of the sizable branches thereabouts that reached out and up in every direction. And no offshoots, of course, meant no footholds. If you wanted to, you could scrabble up as far as you could and probably find a perch where you could make yourself reasonably comfortable, but I had no intention of doing so. What would be the point if I couldn’t get to the top or at least to a height from which I could look down and see the world spread out below me, high enough that I could feel the branches rocking gently in the wind, and feel that same wind blowing through me? No, what I was after couldn’t be found in the lower branches of a tree, even a storytelling tree. Freedom. That’s a feeling that lives in the top branches, and a kind of wild exhilaration at being so high up, so precariously positioned, as close to flying as we humans get to reach. There too is the pride of bravery, that you brave such heights and perch so precariously and place such trust in the tree and in yourself. For it’s no easy feat to trust yourself—I rarely do—yet up in the tips of a crown I’ll balance without using my hands, trusting my legs and my own judgment and the tree. But I trust trees. There’s a steadiness to them. They seem somehow unshakable, even as you can feel the limbs being buffeted by the wind and you along with them. Perhaps it’s because they’ve been rooted in one place for such a long time. They’ve become well and truly grounded. I don’t really have any roots. Well, I suppose we all have roots, but mine have known many different soils. They’ve never been firmly anchored. Maybe that’s why I spend so much time far away from my body. But that high up you have to stay present or at least partly, so you don’t fall.
I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree. I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree, but my eyes were fixed on the ground in front of me. I watched the grass and the dirt. With my knees bent under me so my calves were splayed on either side of my body, my legs formed an M from my perspective. Upstroke, downstroke, upstroke, downstroke. Calf, thigh, thigh, calf. So a W from the point of view of someone facing me? No one was facing me, so I couldn’t verify that theory. Not that it mattered or was all that interesting really. It’s a position I believe I’ve been warned against. Someone somewhere at some time told me it’s bad for your hips. I don’t know if that’s true, but it was a stupid way to sit either way. I can’t think of a way I could have sat that could possibly have put more of my surface area in contact with the earth. I could feel the damp slowly creeping into the cloth of my pants. I should have chosen a smarter way to sit. I should have brought something to sit on, a towel, or I don’t know.
I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree. I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree but my head was far away. Well, actually my head was still firmly fixed to my neck, or as firmly as a human head can be fixed to a human neck, both so fragile in their own ways. But my mind was who knows where. Not under the Storytelling tree, I can tell you that. It missed my body. It missed resting in the relative safety of my skull, seeing the world through my eyes, sitting in their sockets the way things belonged. My green eyes mind you, not hazel or any other color than green. I can ask my mother to go digging for my certificate-of-birth if that’s what you need to be fully truly assured that you can fully trust me that my eyes are well and truly and fully green. Sorry, in the past certain individuals have had the audacity to challenge me over the color of my eyes. I guess I’m not over that yet.
I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree. I sat beneath the Storytelling Tree looking up into its branches. They twisted and turned in curious and unexpected ways. I wondered for the millionth time if I would ever be able to climb to the top. It didn’t seem likely. But maybe that was for the best. Even in other trees when you’re alone that high up it can feel as though time ceases to exist, but in the Storytelling Tree… who knows? I wouldn’t put it past it. I like to imagine that in that frozen image of time those branches would be as solid as if they were carved of stone. And yet the bark peels off more akin to shale, and it sticks to your clothing like sand.”
(An excerpt from the memory-keeping-book of a daughter of the Marxikstest family.)