To begin, you should know that although I fell out of a tree quite recently, resulting in some rather serious bodily damage, I still love trees.
I still believe in their healing powers.
And I will climb them again, someday. Carefully.
Here is where I went wrong with my last climb:
The Story of How I Fell Out of a Tree
As any good horror story should start it was Friday 13th, 2013. (I know, I know I was asking for it.)
In the backyard of a dear friend, who happened to be out of town, I set about decorating her beautiful tree with two of my other nearest and dearest, Heidi and Erin. We were hanging fabric and lights for a poetry reading the following evening. I was happy to be there.
My plan was not to climb that night at all but instead to use some of my tree climbing gear, yes I have gear, to throw lines into the branches and pull the fabric into place from the ground. By the time we started decorating, though, it was dark and I couldn’t see where I needed to throw so…I climbed.
It felt good.
I loved trying to figure out how to reach a spot that is a bit tricky. I loved balancing in the branches far from the ground. And I loved setting a dramatic stage for the event by draping the fabric as high as I could.
And then I received my first warning, I realized I had forgotten to ask the tree for permission to climb.
One of the very first things you learn, when taking a tree climbing course, is that you have to ask permission before you climb any tree. Silently, so as not to scare your friends away, you just ask if it is okay for you to climb that day. Then you quietly wait for an equally silent yes or a no.
If you get a “Yes”, climb with glee. If you get a “No”, respectfully step away from the tree.
I had simply forgotten to ask and when I did remember, half way through the night, I shrugged it off with the thought “I’m sure it is fine.”
The second warning came shortly thereafter as my legs began to shake from exhaustion and my focus got fuzzy, I had the thought “I’m too tired. I need to get out of the tree.”
Now I have often asked for guidance in different situations and it usually goes something like this –
“Please send me a CLEAR message telling me what to do about _____ (fill in any mild to serious crisis you would like).” And then I wait.
I NEVER remember receiving a message as blunt and practical as, “Get out of the tree.” And although I hadn’t asked for a message I think it was pretty obvious I was being given a message.
But we weren’t finished decorating. I pushed on.
It was close to midnight when I got ready to hang the last light. As I sat on a branch twelve to fifteen feet high, putting on the climbing gloves I had forgotten to wear, I assessed how to get back out to a trickier part of the tree. Earlier in the night I had hung fabric there so I knew I could do it. And then I reached…
I remember having the ghastly feeling of “Oh no, I am falling.”
Out loud I said, “Oh shit. Oh no! Oh no!”
I hit the ground and began moaning and writhing. I gasped several times trying to breathe. My eyes rolled back in my head. I checked out.
My friends were there instantly, soothing me, calling 911, talking to me and I talked back.
I don’t remember any of this.
Here is what happened from my perspective.
After I fell I saw four figures in silhouette with a soft yellow light behind them. I knew they were my mother and father and two of my grandparents (all of whom are deceased) even though I couldn’t see their faces. I don’t remember any specific words that were said and it definitely wasn’t anything as dramatic as “Go toward the light.” or “Turn away from the light.”
It was, instead, a feeling.
And the feeling was pleasant. Like taking a break from very hard work. The only thing I remember being communicated was that I could stay as long as I needed. It felt like I stayed an half hour before I woke up – it was really only a minute.
Then the fabric and lights and Erin’s face came into focus, everything looked beautiful.
After that it was an ambulance ride, emergency room, two broken wrists, and later surgery.
I have started rehab on my wrists, hands and right elbow now. It is slow going and scary, at times, to not know how much function I will get back or when. There are unanswerable questions like, will I always have a tingly thumb? Will I ever be able to touch my face with my right hand again?
I am choosing to believe if I just keep at it everything will be okay. But I have to keep choosing that over and over.
And even though I have received such love and support through this there are moments when I break apart.
Wondering why I couldn’t have just listened to the warnings. Why me, why now, why my hands?!
I am still figuring that out, though I don’t believe there are definitive answers per se. It is just a part of a bigger journey.
So I try to count the gifts from this experience and there are some beauties.
I cry from time to time.
I pet my cats.
I hug my man.
And I remember, in the first throes of post fall agony I was given a resplendent reprieve.