The last line has always stayed with me — “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
Although I don’t have a lot of tree climbing experience, I do have memories of playing with my brother in a magnolia tree in our grandparents’ front yard.
We weren’t allowed to ride the boughs up and down like the young boy in Frost’s poem. It was exhilarating enough to sit among those giant leaves and look at the world around us from a new perspective, even if it was only a few feet up.
That tree isn’t there anymore, but now Zac and I have a cedar at the end of our driveway that offers us some shade as well as something pretty to look at it when it snows.
A couple of months ago, Zac got the bright idea to climb it. The sight of his daddy hanging out in a tree made Wyatt crack up.
Last weekend, Wyatt and I were chasing each other from one end of the yard to the other when I decided that it was my turn to tackle the tree.
I put one foot on the trunk and reached for the limb closest to the ground.
I could grab hold of the limbs on my left and right but not well enough to feel comfortable pulling myself up and into the tree.
I feared losing either my footing or my grip and falling backward to the ground — hard.
Wyatt giggled at my half attempt.
“Girls don’t climb trees,” he said.
Dejected, I updated my Facebook status to reflect that I had either lost the flexibility or the nerve to properly climb a tree.
Then I got to thinking about some wisecracks I’ve gotten lately about my age.
Over the last few years, I have learned that many readers don’t care much for my mug shot that runs with this column.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “You don’t look anything like that picture of you they put in the paper. Why don’t you make them take a better one?”
No one has ever explained exactly what makes me look so bad in the current one.
The other day, a friend of mine finally hemmed and hawed around before finally coming out with it: “It makes you look like a little girl.”
I can understand that. The photo dates back to when I was still an intern here in 2007.
That was pre-husband, pre-child, pre-mortgage, pre-adulthood, really.
I’d love to believe that I haven’t aged that much in five years, but I’ll concede that I probably have.
I was also taken aback recently when I brought up the 30th birthday of someone who gets a hard time from me on a fairly frequent basis. Still, I didn’t expect him to come back with “Yeah...what’s it like?”
For the record, I have several more years to get there. He is very lucky that he was the one in the room carrying a firearm and not me.
These are the kind of remarks that floated through my mind as I stood there at the base of our cedar tree last Saturday.
Age is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve known enough people who haven’t made it to 30 to realize that it is a gift.
However, I am not old. I had just stopped believing that the rules of gravity were meant to be broken.
I was thinking about all the things that have changed since my days hanging out among the magnolia leaves.
What if I got hurt or somebody drove by while my big butt was squeezing into the middle of tree trunk?
I would look foolish, and responsible adults like myself ought never to look foolish.
Then something deep inside me started to fight back.
No, this is not the person I want to be.
I will not place limits on myself that should not exist.
I will not allow my child see me give up in the face of fear. He will know that girls do climb trees.
More importantly, he will know that I climb trees.
As soon as Zac got home to serve as a spotter, I took my rightful place in the cedar tree.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over...
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.