Tuesday, January 29, 2013

First mission in January, 2013 --We climbed trees!

So we decided to kick things off with tree-climbing. Yup. Oh how close to adventure we so often rot! You don't need to travel across the globe to find excitement...it's right there in your backyard! Are you brave enough to flout your neighbor's opinion of you, dredge up a simple childhood pleasure, and crack a joint open for a change of scenery? Our stories and pictures below.


We chose to climb trees for our first Not-Rot mission because it was relatively simple, easy to commence, and full of potential for…fun! I used to love climbing trees. Some of my favorite memories are of racing my brothers up the gigantic pine tree that was across the street. We literally had timed races to the top and back down, the branches being so abundant and close together that there was small risk of falling. The tip had been sawn off years earlier leaving a relatively flat area so we could stand hands-free from the branches at the very tip and look out over the two-story houses in any direction. I’ll never forget the hawk-like perspective, “the earth’s face upward for my inspection”,and thinking how different the world could look with a relatively small shift in bodily position.

G.K. Chesterton said that we tell children fantastic stories about the world, not because children necessarily need a new twist on reality, but because we as adults have forgotten how wonderful the world is as it is to new eyes. “These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” We have forgotten there are still adventures to be had even in our own backyard where the organic playgrounds we call trees beckon to us. But many of us are too old. Just in case that wasn’t insulting enough, allow me to rephrase: maybe we’re afraid we’ll break if we brush against the elements like we did when we were children, but I think maybe we’re just mostly tired and working too hard for a sleepy retirement on a nice couch somewhere where Obama can’t break through the walls of our hoarded property. I want to live “close to the bone”. This is my body, that is a tree. Climb on.

Matt and I climbed on a perfect January day. I keep thinking back on it. We had so much fun. We made contests out of picking out ‘climbable’ trees versus ‘unclimbable’ ones, and trying to best each other in a multitude of climbing games. One tree only had a couple small knots we could get a handle on to hoist ourselves up to the lowest branch. Another tree was small and bent over so that it didn’t extend above my head, but we created an objective to walk up its bowed trunk and balance on it for a picture. We had to use muscles we didn’t normally use, we had to problem-solve to get to new branches without killing ourselves, and we were both battling our fear of heights. All the while it was a gorgeous day, with perfect weather.

Looking at the pictures we took is a bit surreal because I don’t usually picture myself at the top of trees. I’ve become a ground-dweller in more ways than one. Every object in the world that registers in our minds represents either a possibility or a limitation. I want to keep the tops of trees open in my mind as a possibility, an opportunity for a new perspective. I want to make friends with trees again, like the boy in The Giving Tree, and I don’t want to realize at the end of my life that I sold everything that was dear to me only to sit on a dead stump.


We didn't choose to climb trees in January because it was easy. In fact, 'easy' rarely factors into Not-Rot missions. Yeah, we know it's cold (or should be without global warming...be prepared snitches!!), and we know some dead branches look strong but are really empty husks waiting for the right opportunity to snap off under our weight. But we weren't stupid about it. We wore gloves when we needed them, had multiple points of contact on the tree, and didn't climb too far beyond our comfort range. We took just enough risks to flout our mattress-worshipping asses. Here's what I liked most:

  • Simple, physical activity that acted as a sort of skill check for strength and agility
  • Targeting trees that had good climb potential
  • Creating new challenges for trees that didn't immediately appear climbable
  • Exerting our strength to go UP against demon Gravity
  • Not falling and splitting a pelvis
I was most surprised to discover as the day wore on that my will to climb more trees wore out way before my physical strength. While the activity itself was exhilerating, it was also stressful. A heightened awareness of danger, however small, weights on you after a while. Climbing up wasn't so bad, but getting down was something else altogether! The sense of risk, real or imagined, increased, and eventually outweighed the rewards. We became exhausted. Studies show that our willpower is not unlimited, and can be quite literally spent. However, we can "exercise" our will by occasionally doing just one more thing that we don't feel like doing. Like muscuclar exercise, this incremental increase in risk-taking can amplify and strengthen willpower, and who doesn't need more of that? Sure, safety isn't to be mocked at, but as far as this blog is concerned...get off your duff and go climb something!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 Not-Rot Calendar

The Not-Rot calendar for 2013 is set! Be watching for our blogs to come out by the end of each month. Want to come along? Send us a line!

January 26: Tree Climbing
February 9: Kemper Art Museum
March 15: Bloomin' Muse
April 23: World Book Night
May 4: Shortest distance, furthest culture
June 8: Youtube video
July 13: Host a not-rot meetup--Thrift Art Contest
August 10: Build something for soapbox derby or something of the like for Cesi/Oliver.
September 14: Join a meetup
October 4-5: Camp and Climb
November 9: Burn shtuff
December 14: Join a meetup--caroling/sports/snowball fight

"Are you afraid to die? I'd rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet." --Jack London