Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, are filled with textures. Ancient stone carvings, weathered over the centuries, the innocent smoothness of a baby’s cheek. Textures, like smells, can be particularly evocative.
The rough, dark bark of an oak tree takes me back to childhood. My brothers and I climbed in the massive oak tree in our back yard. The enormous branches, bigger than the waist of a grown man, flowed outward and tapered as they reached down to the moist earth.
In that area of the yard stood two huge oaks. One, silvery grey and proudly arrogant, stood tall and erect. The nearest branch was more than fifteen feet above our heads. He wasn’t having anything to do with a bunch of wild, hard-headed young’uns climbing around and all over him like so many pesky ants. He even discouraged us from getting to close to him by snaking his roots across the top of the ground. Wicked, twisted things they were, with giant knuckles. Because he hadn’t any branches very near the ground, sunlight crept in and encouraged grass to grow. The grass conspired with the oak to conceal his roots and trip us up.
He was not our favorite tree, by a long shot. His neighbor, though, was a different story altogether. She was dark and thick, at least twice as thick as her stuck-up neighbor. Her branches were lower, closer to the ground, and like the plump arms of a favorite aunt, they reached out to embrace us. “Come on up”, she seemed to say, “and see the wonders hidden behind my leaves!”
We knew she loved us and welcomed our visits. We climbed all the way to her top and looked out across the forest canopy, feeling like explorers in virgin territory. She never let on that so many people had been here before us. She let us pretend that Mother and Dad weren’t under all those twisting branches. Depending on the day, we were Tarzan or The Phantom saving yet another damsel in distress. How in the world did all these women keep getting lost in our jungle? We never thought of that though, we had a job to do and we meant to do it!
I was lucky to have grown up when I did. There was no internet, no mobile phones, and damned little television. But, thanks to reading and an active imagination, the forests around our little house were filled with adventure. Danger lurked behind every tree and in every gully. The caves that pocked the hillsides held countless millions in gold and jewels.
Every cave and gully was protected by its own vicious band of outlaws that we had to outsmart. Most times, we did manage to overcome them but not before they had moved the treasure to one of the other caves. And, another adventure would begin the next day.
Yes. We were lucky kids, very lucky indeed.
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