29 April 2013

at the top

There was a time when I could remember the name of the game, and even one when I could pinpoint the location, if not the tree in question. That time has passed.

As I walked outside today, I briefly considered tree climbing. Not that I would climb a tree today, since a recent rain had dampened things considerably and I am wearing work clothes I would like to keep clean; but instead my tree climbing in general. Have I spent enough time and effort on my gym's climbing walls that I could, again, climb a tree.

I didn't ponder that for long, instead thinking back to my teenage years, when, once, I played a game outside that involved running and chasing and hiding and was probably a thinly-veiled variant of freeze tag just interesting enough to catch the fancy of teenagers. The group was divided in two, some manner of roles were doled out (one player was a code-keeper, and 'capturing' him or her would gain eventual victory points, or something), and then we were left to run out into the plains and woods to elude each other and score points somehow.

Within minutes I was alone, and decided to hide out in a tree. I climbed higher and higher, probably about two or three stories up, and was within an arm's reach of the treetop*. There I sat, surveying the park around me, occasionally seeing other teens running around in pursuit or otherwise, and even had a pair of them (I assumed from the other team, but did not climb down to check) hiding on lower branches of my tree without them noticing me.

Eventually dusk began falling, and it was apparent the game was over. I descended, and returned to base camp to find whether we had won or lost. Since I had myself not been captured, it was easy to consider this to be a victory for me if not for the team.

I forget if "we" won. At the time, I certainly thought I was triumphant.

Thinking about it today, though, I wonder if maybe I hadn't won that day, after all. Not whether my team was victorious -- that I've long since forgotten. Instead, did I lose by not engaging with the other players? I was a decent sprinter at the time (at least, when aided by adrenaline), and probably would have evaded capture in a chase, and had been just as beneficial to my team's success as to my own enjoyment (and, I suppose, done a little bit of exercise for fitness, too).

Was the "victory" of climbing so high worth the cost of not playing with the others? I'm not sure it was, anymore. But the win or loss is all in the telling of the tale.

* I briefly searched for a more "botanical" name for the top of a tree, almost settling on "capitulum", before finding a certain satisfaction in the apparent fact that there is no better word for "top of a tree" than "treetop".

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