Everyone knows about the runner’s high. The euphoria after finishing a race, or even just a leisurely run. Muscles warm, heart pumping, blood flowing…ALIVE.
Most people probably also know of a slight variation, the speaker’s high. Whether it is building up the courage and telling a couple of rowdy people in the library to keep it down, or formally addressing an audience at a fancy event, speaking can elicit many of the very same responses. Sweaty palms and a racing heart during, and an unshakable grin afterwards!
Having just returned from a weekly meeting with the London Talbot Toastmasters Club, I am feeling quite invincible! I delivered my second speech today and am pleased to have received wonderful feedback. I was recognized for using expressive language (some of which, admittedly came spur of the moment as I deviated from what you’ll find written below) and, my personal highlight, nobody said anything about speaking too quickly! Success!!!
Without further ado, please read on to discover some Lessons Learned From Tree Climbing:
“Do not be afraid to go out on a limb…for that is where the fruit is.
Mr. Chair, fellow toastmasters, and welcome guests,
Have any of you seen a person in a tree recently? **Pause** I haven’t seen any either. But I have certainly been one!
People do not take advantage of their surroundings, as inhabitants of Canada in general, and residents of the Forest City in particular. Trees are enlightening classrooms, teaching our bodies, minds, and spirits about balance, strength, and perspective.
I learned about balance pretty early on in my tree climbing career.
I was with my little sister climbing trees down in the ravine near our home in Barrie. I lost my balance and began falling from my perch about 15 feet up. Just when I thought I was a goner, I strangely stopped in mid air. My sister and I were shocked and, after asking her what was holding me up and her reply of “I don’t know!”, I scrambled to grab hold of the nearest limb. I’m still not sure how I stopped from falling that day, but I definitely learned about the importance of balance and to always have a few points of contact with the tree at all times!
My tree climbing experiences have also taught me a lot about the more abstract concept of balance. From simply watching the ants, spiders, birds, squirrels, and raccoons in the canopy around me, and the rabbits, foxes, coyotes, and deer on the forest floor I’ve gained a deeper understanding and respect for the balance of the natural world. Life and death, fight and flight, ebb and flow…they’re all a part of the intricate web of existence in which we are also a part.
Another valuable lesson concerns strength. Despite being an athlete by trade, tree climbing never ceases to amaze me in it’s physicality. Grip, pull up muscles, legs, and everything in between must be strong to efficiently climb.
Tree climbing opens your eyes to not only the strength of your body, but the strength of the trees, too. And while strength traditionally means being rock steady and unyeilding in the face of pressure, like a mature maple, I’ve learned of a completely different dimension of strength from young supple saplings. In fact, I’ve used a sapling this big around **gesture** to get started in a neighboring older tree. Instead of being rigid and thus apt to snap under pressure, the saplings bend and spring back. So strength not only means being unyielding and resistant to change but, paradoxically, it can also mean being adaptable and flexible.
A third and final lesson I want to mention is one of perspective. It is no secret that a change of scenery can be just the ticket you were looking for. Forested surroundings in general offer unlimited inspiration. But experiencing the life of trees from within a tree is simply magic! Not only is the average climbing height beyond the vicious realm of the summer’s mosquitos, but once the leaves have fallen, the heights offer a perfect view of the forest.
Case in point: a couple of weeks ago I was getting cold sitting in a tree and was considering descending when a little group of deer caught my eye in the clearing nearby. I watched them meander through the long grass and brush, doing my best to remain still and silent. But before long my body was reminding me that I was in an awkward position, leaning against a branch with my feet behind me, calves beginning to scream. I had to move. As slowly and smoothly as I could, while the deer had their heads down to eat, I changed position, simultaneously shaking free hundreds of water drops to fall through the mist to explode on the carpet of leaves below. The commotion in the otherwise still morning caused their heads to rise, ears to swivel, and before I knew it, they were cautiously heading my way. The head honcho, both visibly wary and insanely curious advanced until she was directly below me, nostrils flaring, trying to make sense of the dark, human scented blob in the tree. So I learned that it goes both ways, that gaining a new perspective of the world also means that the world gains a new perspective of me…
Once again, there’s an abstract lesson involved in perspective; I do not only mean literally seeing the world from a new vantage point, I also mean realizing that there is a place for each of us in the grand scheme of things. When you’re having the worst week imaginable, and instead of going to your exam you take your dog for a walk through the woods, and you enter a clearing in the moonlight to see a deer standing, boldly holding it’s ground as you stop, startled, and your dog stealthily advances until he reaches the end of his leash and stares. And after an endless moment you hear a stirring off to your right and a FOX then emerges into the clearing and stares along. There’s just an overwhelming serendipitous feeling that all is well.
Balance, strength, and perspective are but three of the lessons I have learned from tree climbing. I learned how not to fall and about the circle of life. I learned about gaining strength and how this can also mean being flexible. And I learned that seeking a new perspective can be valuable to both ourselves and the world around us.
What are you waiting for???