Vine Maples weren’t the only trees I became friends with as a child… I climbed so many trees, spending hours in the branches, high up above the world, almost like a bird. I knew which branches to step on and how far out from the trunk. I was almost to the level of doing ninja-like departures from a tree, with the agility of a feral feline, scaring my father half to death at one point.
Moving through the wild is so much easier without a machete! Spotting the best paths – ones where water or animals have traveled, or the underbrush was thin – became second nature. But sometimes you have to tumble through the thickets too.
I always did my best to keep the living unharmed, avoiding insects and animals when possible and only cutting into live vegetation if it regarded yard work, gardening, or removing insidious plants. I learned very young that mother nature can be unforgiving and you have to respect the sudden power and unpredictability of her.
One lesson came when I was seven, and chose to throw rocks at living cacti, knocking off their needles in my frustrations. When I was spent, I turned to run up the gravel driveway and slipped on the rocks, tumbling into the ditch and rolled, face-first, through the cactus patch. It took a very long time to get the needles out and hurt more than anything I could remember at that age.
This was my introduction to karma, or the golden rule, a fundamental, underlying part of every major religion. I quickly learned that nature returns respect with wonderful rewards, whether it be in the form of food, medicine, vital resources, or simply a beautiful vista.
When I was a bit older, I started to re-enact some of the fantastic adventures I pretended to be on during my years in the wild in Role-Playing games like dungeons n dragons, where I would be the dungeon master and create the entire story for the players to advance their characters in. This led to elaborate sets for the painted pewter figurines, from a working guillotine which lopped off the head of a giant to a sand trap which swallowed the figurine completely when the trap was released.
Soon, I realized that I was wasting a ton of time writing elaborate modules for this game when I could be writing screenplays for movies.