WholeHearted: Mad Old Woman Climbs a Tree

We are delighted to welcome a new columnist to our blog, Ruth Everson. You may remember Ruth’s “I wish someone had told me” article last month (“You should never fight to be loved“) starring Ruth, Oprah and some boats on Zoo Lake. Ruth has agreed to write for us on an ad hoc basis under the banner “WholeHearted”.

Ruth is a poet, writer, keynote speaker and coach who strives to live On Purpose. We got to know her as a teacher at St Stithians, where Carel is chair of the governing council. Ruth taught English for 39 years and continues to follow her passions: poetry, speaking, facilitating and workshopping. Here is her latest contribution:

When was the last time you climbed a tree?

There’s something lovely about leaving the ground behind and ascending through the branches to an entirely different view of the world.

I remember as a child loving the Enid Blyton tales of The Enchanted Wood. In our back garden was a huge willow tree and despite being told not to climb the tree, the quiet, green sea of the willow proved irresistible and I would climb skywards as often as I could. The tree didn’t survive – its roots were declared a threat to the foundations of the house and so it was felled. I was grounded.

Still, I have always looked for trees to climb. Perhaps, for context, you need to have a better idea of this climber of trees. You are probably imagining a lithe, athletic body, scaling the branches with ease. Hmm, that would be nice, but reality finds a 63-year-old, accident prone, fuller figure adventurer. It’s not surprising then, that last year when a group of Grade 9s found me, (at that time their very dignified Grade Director), up a tree, that one was heard to mutter: ‘She’s a mad old woman.’ I wear that description with pride.

It’s not true that I got stuck in the tree. Being helped down by a group of politely straight-faced girls would be a serious threat to my great dignity. I leapt from the boughs in a single bound. There may have been some rebound but that’s not the point.

The point is, that sometimes, we need to escape our own gravity and gravitas. If we live at ground level, with our feet firmly set in the concrete of our own rules and importance, it’s hard to see the possibility of a new horizon.

If you’re grappling with a problem, or just feel stuck, climb a tree. Feel the texture of the bark, look at your feet balancing on the branch. We take ground for granted and unconsciously, repeatedly, walk the same rutted path. What would the path look like from a different angle? If you don’t have a tree to climb, lie on the grass. When we break the pattern of just one thought, we can find enchanted spaces.

Happy climbing, fellow adventurers and if you happen to see a mad old woman up a tree, join her and then quietly help her down, but only when she’s ready.

Me… up a tree

Mad Old Woman Climbs a Tree

Some trees call to be climbed.
Branches like arms reach, ready to lift
Your solid feet from the ground,
Away from the standing place
To sacred space between earth and sky.

On bending bough there is no sure step,
No dusty footprint to mark the journey –
But under your palm, sap rises,
Between the turning green of leaves
Sways a long curve of New World.

This is sanctuary but it is not home,
The tree is rooted but you are not.
Downdown, back to hard ground,
The rocks will not move but you must,
The path is the same but you are not –
Walk with high horizon eyes
Into a World suddenly New seen.

Ruth Everson