A former student wants to start writing again and she asked me to give her a topic. I thought of a few thing, a time when she was made stronger. A strange dream. Hated those ideas.
But then, I thought about the feeling of a slender tree limb in my hands, the rough bark digging into my skin. I thought about what it meant to scale the trunk, my feet scrabbling on the bark, bits flying to the ground.
I asked her to write about climbing trees. I just received her post. She talked about how even now as a nanny she teaches children to climb trees. That every child should have the ability to reach out and touch the sky.
Her piece reminds me of one of my favorite poems, “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee Jr. His last line is about how he “Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
That is this former student, this friend. She inspired me to write Polishing the Bones. She is the complete and utter inspiration. And now she inspires me again. She is not my muse. My muse is a current senior who once asked me to continue writing in my blog. That simple request inspires me on a constant basis.
No, Lauren is my inspiration in a different way. Don’t ask. I can’t explain. I just know. I just feel.
She inspires me to reach out and touch the face of God. She inspires me to grab the next tree branch and swing higher, move upwards through the layers and find my way into the stratosphere.
I’m not even certain if I’m using the right words.
She is courage. She gives me courage.
Climbing trees was such a natural part of my childhood. In Germany, on the Munich Army base where I lived for roughly three years, I had my favorite tree where a divining rod of split branches was close to the bottom. I gripped those forked branches in each hand, kicked my legs up in front of me and spun my way up and over and up the trunk. I was in the tree. I was within the branches and moving upwards.
My brother is a tree climber. He has no fear but is a man who relishes the joy of chasing challenges. He taught me to face my fears, to surge upwards and onwards.
I dedicated my novel to my former student, the one who just wrote about trees.
I dedicated my novel to my brother as well.
Both of them are stolid figures who encourage me to surrender myself to fate and faith and seek the excitement of the purity of living.
I don’t know if my novel will ever be published. But I have a mountain full of trees that I would love to climb. Or at least stand at the base of each tree and look upwards and see the sky.