Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tree tops

Space cadets. We sat at the corner of the park, waiting for the sun to go down far enough to make it too cold to sit there any more. The wind picked up and the light trailed across the grass in long, stalactite-like rays. The sun glistened at the top of the trees, like a diver waiting to plunge off a high board. The grass rustled in the wind, spelling out the wind’s impetus, as though two invisible people were having a wrestling match. We was high.

It was inevitable, nowadays, but in a car crash you’d prefer an airbag and so, living in a society of car crashes, I’d come to prefer a cushion or two. It blew up in my face, and smothered me, just as I was getting worried. Sometimes I worried that I couldn’t breathe, but that went away.

My friend, who was restless by nature, had gone off and was considering the higher branches of a tree. Mentally, of course, all things are possible. And as the mind and the body are one, that means that physically all things are possible. It is just a matter of bending physics to will, I suppose. Not necessarily to will, of course, but perhaps more to intention. These subtle differences meant nothing to me, but they provided us with a great deal of idle chat.

I looked up in time to see my friend skirting those same upper branches with the agility of a small monkey. “Its still warm up here,” he told me, as a blast of wind stung my face.

I turned around and looked at the tree, which seemed to be still growing out of the ground as I stared, a gigantic thing of constant motion, which I suppose it actually is. The trunk seemed to be straining to get away from the roots, just as the roots seemed to be snaking out of the ground. The intention of a tree is plain – to go upwards – but does it have a will?

Climbing a tree is as natural – perhaps more natural – than walking, but it requires a certain lack of attention, a forgetfulness, which is the forgetfulness of down. Your body carries you upwards quite happily, but your mind will remain on the ground if you let it, and constantly interfere. Only when you have to return to the ground do you appreciate what it was going on about.

We sat up in the branches, smoking weed and staring into the sun. Suddenly a wave of dissatisfaction came over me. “This is all very twee,” it said, “we want more about the car crashes.” I turned to look at my friend who had nestled between the branches like he was on a sofa, but his eyes were shut. I realised I was both in the tree and on the ground at the same time. If I made a wrong move, it occurred to me, something very wrong could happen. I could either fall out of the tree or, possibly, fall back into it.

The branches seemed to constrict me now, full of intention. I realised that my arms and legs were not in their usual place, that is somewhere to the left and right of me, but instead appeared to be all around me, in front, behind, above, in places in which you’d never think they’d get to. I stretched my leg out and began felt a long hard stab in my back which ran up my spine and past my head. Air rushed past my ears, whistling a favourite tune. Branches bounced off me, as though a whole gang of schoolkids were attacking me. I grabbed one as it went past and held on tight to it, hoping to use it as protection. It spoke to me.

It said, “Hold tight.” The other branches stopped hitting me and I dangled in the air listening to the movement of the tree. I thought I’d open my eyes at this point. When I did I realised that I was above my friend in the tree, and not below him, as I had thought I would be. This gave me a powerful shock as I realised the tree had actually been attacking me, instead of the whole thing being a cosy hallucination as I tumbled downwards.

Later on we repaired to my house and sat around staring at the ceiling.

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