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The Eagle Tree(2)
Ned Hayes

When I saw the extraordinary tree, I immediately tried to measure it. I could see it was at least fifty feet above the forest canopy. I could feel the desire rising in me, like a sudden surge of sap coming up from my roots, echoing out of my mouth.

My mother stood underneath the relatively small Red Cedar I was in, and she called up to me, but I could not hear her voice because of the wind and because of the sound coming out of my own mouth. The sound burst out of me in ululating rhythm, and I almost sensed that the big tree was singing back to me, swaying in the wind.

I knew then what I had to do.

On that first morning I saw the Eagle Tree, I remained in the Red Cedar for exactly 121 minutes. While I stared at the distant tower with its craggy pinnacle and outgrowth of branches near the summit, I was trying to gauge precisely how far away it was from me. And from my current height, I could see part of the road pattern, so I was trying to figure out which roads might be able to take me to the tree, and I was still trying to figure out how tall exactly the tree might be from its base to its apex.

One hundred and twenty-one minutes was unusual for me, for in recent years I have not remained in a tree longer than twenty-seven minutes at a time. I have been told that many people my age can climb a tree quickly. It takes me longer because I have to plan my climbing slowly in my mind. That is how my mind works, in plans and steps. Nevertheless, I am not allowed to be in trees longer than twenty-seven minutes. That is the rule: I cannot stay in trees for long periods of time anymore.

When I was younger, I used to take a very long time to climb a tree and then I would stay there for many hours, but after some incidents that involved fire trucks and long ladders and yelling men with loud megaphones that hurt my ears, new rules were put in place so that I could no longer make this a habit. There are also now rules that prohibit me from transferring to trees with adjoining branches. Tree transfers tend to end with me deep in the forest canopy and out of sight of my mother. Sometimes I also fall during tree transfers, and that one time I had to wear casts on my wrists for 25.5 days, which bothered my mother for some reason. The casts were also irritating to my skin.

So at this time in my life, I tend not to remain in a tree very long. Instead, I have multiplied the number of trees that I climb, making do with quantity of trees rather than time in a single tree. This has changed my sense of trees; it has made it necessary for me to learn the dimensions and shapes of many trees instead of just one, which I have come to appreciate as a geometric benefit of multiple trees.

Nowadays, I come down to the ground shortly after climbing each tree—all the way down, so that my feet touch the earth for at least three minutes, per my mother’s instructions. Also, typically after climbing three trees, I make an attempt to tell my mother or my uncle where I am and what trees I will climb next, before I do so. This agreement and change in my behavior was achieved only after my mother informed me of the Arizona contingency plan.

Staying in the Red Cedar for exactly 121 minutes was therefore atypical for me. I was making loud sounds, and I think Mr. Clayton eventually went inside. But I think my mother remained at the base of the Red Cedar. Her voice was hoarse and her hands were shaking when I came down, which led me to believe that perhaps she had been making sounds to me.

When I came down, my uncle was in our house. Uncle Mike is my mother’s brother. He was wearing his green Seattle Sounders cap. I like it when he wears his hat, because I can look at the hat instead of his face, but I looked toward him so we would be connected in the way he wants to be connected. Still, I looked at his hat.

My mother talked to me some more. She and Uncle Mike told me that I must not climb any more trees for the remainder of the day, which was unfortunate and, I thought, not necessary. I knew which tree I had to climb next, and it was not easily accessible to me at that time.

It was 11:06 a.m. when I came down from the Red Cedar. My mother insisted that I stay with her the remainder of the morning on that third Monday of March. She also insisted that I hear her and acknowledge the words and intent of what she was saying, which is a challenging request for me. But with effort, I was able to do so. I am not required to look at her eyes while she speaks, which is fortunate, because I kept turning my head to look toward the forest that contained the Eagle Tree.

First, my mother began by explaining that she had called Uncle Mike on the phone and asked him to come to our house. She had called him because she was frightened and did not know what to do. I did not ask her, “What is the problem?” Each time I have asked her that question in situations similar to this, she has raised her voice very loudly, and when she raises her voice loudly, I lose track of what she is trying to communicate to me.

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