Up in the Tree


When I was a kid, we had a treehouse in the big oak outside my parent's bedroom. Well, not a treehouse exactly. More like a tree platform with a wooden fence around the sides so we wouldn't fall out.

I used to climb up there with my books and sweat while I read under the arms of the oak tree. I liked the spot because it was a treehouse - at least of sorts - and treehouses were the kinds of things that people had in stories.

When I'd look up across the yard, if I peered through the cedars at the far end of our yard, I could see the hills rolling down toward the river. I especially liked to sit out there at sunset, when the orange light played the hills like a guitar, lighting each one alive. I used to make up works to the songs the hills hummed, wrote them down in little notebooks. When the wind was right, I'd rip the pages out of the notebooks and make them into paper birds and watch them fly high, high over the tree tops. If I stood up after I launched them, I could hear them singing the little songs I'd written.

That house swallowed up and lost many of those notebooks years ago.

Up above in the trees, birds would jump from branch to branch. Wiry, gray ball moss clung to the tree like nests. I used to think about scraping the ball moss off the tree, of reaching up with a spatula and shoving off the tangled balls like you'd scrape dried egg off the bottom of a pan. But one of them blinked at me one day so I gave up that idea. Then all the other little moss balls opened their tiny eyes and looked all around at the world they'd clung to. I tried to ask them what they were doing on the tree but they couldn't speak. I think they talked to each other through some kind of code, with their blinking. Maybe Morse code? My brother had a spy book with a Morse decoder chart in it, but when I brought it up to the tree platform, it didn't help me learn what the ball moss was saying.

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