Up the trunk, following Geddy who narrates, “Step here, and here. This might be hard for you, because you’re in your older years.”
I, at 40, laugh but sigh: some truth to that. He knows that I used to climb trees as a child. For a moment, my eyes close and the river damp floods my nostril memories of Russian Olive, Weeping Willow. Where’s the sweet scent of horse’s nose, searching for the girl stretched out on a branch, dangling her legs in open air?
My eyes return to my son, crawling along, finding his footholds, finding his triumph at climbing so high.
“Is this the highest you’ve ever climbed as a parent?”
I turn my head about, gaze below. “Yes, I think it is.”
“And now we have our picnic,” he smiles.
We snack on granola bars, not minding the crumbs tumbling down to ants and whatever else hides in the weeds.
I see the people, sometimes two by two, moving along the dirt trail near us. It might be a regular weekend. Then some walk by in cloth face masks. Others give the next passersby a wide berth. In this tree are we safe from everything but falling?
I wish to stay all day, like the birds who continue nesting and singing, ignorant of panic. Or do they know? Do they know that all around them the humans are hoarding? Do they shake their feathers, sad at our fear? Matthew comes to mind.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (6:26).
But I am not a bird. I don’t have that trust, though I’ve known my entire life that I should. When have I been without?
We climb down, explore around the fallen tree, finding more hiding places for spiders and snakes. Another snippet comes to mind, though I forget the poet’s name: “It’s never the edges of the world that worry.” I feel like I’m on the edge and worry is all I see. We’re all afraid we’ll disappear, like in a magician’s trick, but he won’t be able to bring us back.
Down by the river’s edge, we stumble along on the rocks, trying not to splash the toes of our shoes in water or muck. Geddy makes a game as we avoid touching any wet part of the rocks, moving down the bank, ducking under branches. The Canada geese are nesting near. The mallards swim about in twos. They keep going, ready to raise their families, even as the world feels stuck in a time loop.
A heron flies over the river, graceful giant, off to the rookery to attend to its own nest. This parent must go “shopping” daily for food, hunt it down, and take it back to its offspring. I cringe to go to the grocery store where even in a time of empty shelves I find enough to feed my family.
Before long, Geddy and I return to our home, our roost, with warmth and water and beds. With snacks and games and books. He shares the excitement of our adventure with Luke, telling how I climbed, too; delighting in the look of horror on his daddy’s face while watching the video of the snake we saw.
I imagine fluffing my feathers, tucking my son under my wing, knowing that tomorrow’s troubles are for tomorrow. Are we safe here? Safe for today.