One Saturday morning I took the kids on a walk around a local college campus. We love the campus for its leafy green spaces, its duck pond, and especially for a footbridge leading to an island in the middle of the pond. The kids have put in many miles running back and forth over that bridge, delighting in the pounding of their feet on the wooden slats.
And as we enjoyed our Saturday amble along the campus paths, we had to avoid some low-hanging branches extending over the sidewalk.
One of my daughters was very excited by these branches and declared, “Don’t you love swinging on tree branches!?!”
She is well practiced in the arts of branch swinging. We have a little embankment around our front yard—not quite a hill, but enough to get you up off the ground so you can grab a tree branch and enjoy a brief, but satisfying, swing down.
When I was trimming the over-verdant foliage around our curtilage this summer, I almost committed the grievous blunder of trimming this branch. Fortunately my daughter saw me in time and stopped me before her swinging joy was inadvertently clipped short. In fact, she has been responsible for some . . . shall we say “interesting” landscaping decisions around our yard. Like our hedge. We have a seven-foot hedge around the back yard. The top of the hedge forms a nice, level plane—except for one tall limb protruding upward and spreading outward in twiggy irregularity to disrupt the otherwise admirable orderliness of the hedge. That’s because my daughter was helping me when I was trimming the hedge, and we discovered a bird nest on this branch.
“Oh Dad,” she said, “you’re not going to ruin the birdies’ home, are you? What if the Momma bird has little baby birds?”
So of course, that branch stayed. It stands still in protruding witness to my daughter’s kind heart—because even now it must remain “in case the birds come back.”
And now my daughter’s horticultural entertainments were extending to venues beyond our home: college campuses now also afforded the prospect of fun in the form of branch swinging.
But I had to agree with her, so I nodded my head in appreciation and said: “Yes, swinging on branches is pretty fun.”
“Don’t you wish there was a law that you had to swing on tree branches?” she asked.
I chuckled. I don’t know about a law, but the world would probably be a better place if more people swung on tree branches every once in a while.
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus says: “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with . . . cares of this life . . .” Lk 21, 34.
We all have cares in this life, and they must be attended to. But there is much to be said for fun, for joy, for refreshing the spirit—and that must be attended to as well. Fortunately, joy comes mostly from little things, like bridges and bird nests—and even the occasional swing on a tree branch—so means of refreshment are usually available to us, if we remember to look.
Copyright 2016 Jake Frost
Image by Stefan Wernli, “Deutsch: Linde von Linn (Tilia cordata), Linn AG, Schweiz,” June 2006, from commons.wikimedia.org; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic License.