I stood gazing skyward as the sun pattered down between the leaves of the giant magnolia. The scent of blooming flowers danced across my nose as if choreographed with the swaying tree.
It was a fairly windy day, but not particularly cold. This was early summer in northern Mississippi, and the golden age of my youth. The limbs felt earthy and gave little as I tested their strength. I paid special attention not to disturb the small ants that scuttled busily along their way. This was their home after all.
The limbs of the great magnolia formed a canopy that extended maybe thirty feet across. The larger lower limbs hung very close to the ground, and once you passed the outer foliage you found yourself enveloped in another world. It was the perfect place to play as a child, but today I had greater ambitions.
The wind started to kick up as I started my ascent, but I wasn't deterred. Maybe it was childhood ignorance or the brash courage only found in my youth, but I was compelled to move upward. I ascended slowly, meticulously selecting each new limb to ensure my footing. I clung closely to the trunk of the tree, and I could feel it bending as it swayed in the wind. This was the first time I recall feeling as though plants were living things.
As I reached the top of the tree, I emerged from the outer layer of foliage. I lodged myself perfectly in a fork between two limbs, and there I stayed swaying in the afternoon breeze. This was one of my first tastes of freedom, and still a very vivid memory today. It was as if by climbing into that tree, I had climbed out of the turmoil of my life.
As the sun melted into the horizon I began my descent, back into the drudgery of human existence. I've never forgotten what it felt like, sitting atop that magnolia searching the skyline while swaying in the warm summer breeze, and I hope I never do.