As often happens only when I reach the top of a twenty-foot ladder or the upper-limbs of a cherry tree, I was reminded of my fear of falling this weekend as I pruned the bejesus out of the tree seen here. (It was much higher than it appears, I swear.) It’s actually not so much the fear of heights that bothers me, it’s the fact that while doing things like painting or pruning, there is less of an opportunity to stabilize yourself when having to reach for things, or maneuver a long pair of pruning shears. That stability, or lack-there-of, is what sets my mind into overdrive imagining scenarios of losing my footing and falling, of a ladder buckling or a branch breaking beneath my feet. At that point, my legs start shaking, a panic sets in, and I cling to whatever is closest on hand for some grip on anything that won’t topple to the ground with me.
I haven’t climbed a tree like this in about two decades, and aside from the onerous sawing and pruning involved, it was actually pretty fun. While I don’t see myself climbing trees again anytime soon, it was nice to remember how to place my feet, navigate the climb upward, all with an eye on the journey back down. I used to climb the maple trees in front of our home when I was little, as soon as I was tall enough to jump into their lower boughs, as well as a sky-high evergreen that had perfectly-placed limbs like a magical spiral staircase, waiting to bring me heavenward. The bird’s eye view was exhilarating, and I don’t remember the fear that so quickly gripped me this time around. Like so many things, that fear is one of the atrocities of growing old, but I’ll fight against it in ways that don’t involve the possibility of a thirty foot plunge to earth.
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