I loved climbing. I think it was about seeing if I could do it, feeling strong and coordinated and then having the reward of being up high and looking around, all by myself.
THERE was a beautiful pine tree down in the park near where we lived in Eaglehawk. Although the lower branches had been lopped off, there was a long one which drooped down over the embankment of the lake. We could jump and bounce on it, like a horse or a seesaw. It was also possible to climb up it to the trunk.
After that, it was just a matter of climbing up, twisting and stepping and pulling my way up through the branches to the very top. Here, the branches opened and spread to make a sort of sitting platform. Once up there, I could change focus from the trunk and branches to look out over Eaglehawk through the sparse pine needles. The lake lay below me. The Whipstick forest spread for miles in a grey-green canopy of small box trees to my right past the last street. The marshy overflow area reached out to the pine plantation behind me, and I could see some houses straggling along the streets: Napier, Victoria, Church. Looking down gave a bit of a whoosh to the stomach. The other kids looked very small from up there. The climb down was harder and more frightening, especially the gap where I had to hang from one branch while my feet felt for the next one below me. Coming down felt as good an achievement as the climb up, and I was really proud of that climb.