A small almond tree grew in the front yard of my childhood home in California. It was grown not for its nuts but for the white flowers of February, for its elegance in the center of the lawn.  I learned to climb on that tree, but it did not satisfy me for long.

Our house was built on property that was originally part of my grandfather’s lot. His walnut orchard extended behind our house.  He produced a good crop.  The sturdiest trees had a horizontal limb so high off the ground it required jungle gym strength to pull oneself up.  I don’t know if I was really too weak or just too timid; I left those trees to my brothers.

One tree in the middle of the orchard was just my size.  I could climb up and look out, through branches that had not yet leafed out, at the brown plowed ground and the brown bark of the larger trees.  I was a climber, I was a traveler, a champion, as I sat there, safe in the crotch of the runt of the orchard.