Trees have always fascinated me. There’s something nostalgic to me about seeing a single oak tree in its perfect symmetry standing alone in a field, or a beautiful oak alley which occurs along the river in South Louisiana.

 This section of the Florida panhandle is not known for its majestic trees, but having recently read The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, I’ve begun to appreciate the forests that we have here in this part of the country. The book documents how botanists ascend into the redwood and sitka spruce canopies to study their unique worlds. Special things are there. Plants and the unique way that the trees interact with each other happen nowhere else. Things that can only be observed in the canopy. So they climb. And climbing becomes an important part of the narrative as the sport of tree climbing is growing rapidly. I began to think about climbing trees. It was a huge part of growing up as a kid, but can it still be done in an “adult” kind of way? This question taught me a lesson in perception.

We live in an area that was heavily seeded and dominated by longleaf pine trees. Large tracts of land were planted for the paper industry and for their resinous sap used in the turpentine industry of the 40’s and 50’s.  Now, hundreds of these acres of land have been preserved here and set aside for recreational uses. But among these forests are trees which no man has planted. And they are large. They were here all along.

It’s human nature to get comfortable in a routine. To settle into a pattern of life with no happy surprises.   So, in my regular pattern of driving, whether to and from work or just running around town, I almost unconsciously began to look at these forests differently. Rather than allowing my eyes to follow the normal patterns, I looked intently into the woods for a difference in shape. Almost like a camera racking a subject in and out of focus, trees began to emerge I had never seen. They weren’t hard to find when I began to look. But there they were. Pine trees with trunks like I had not seen since I moved here 18 years ago. Cypress stands whose beauty and sage like characters appear to be artwork from pre-history. I shared this with my friend Billy, who has become my climbing partner. I began to get phone calls as he discovered the same. And he too was amazed as he saw things he had not noticed before.

This fall may prove to be the best season of my life so far. Billy and I are going to ascend some of these trees and see what else lies just out of reach of the realm of the commonplace.

“A common man marvels at uncommon things; a wise man marvels at the commonplace”