I had the pleasure of attending the Ocean State Summer Writer’s Conference recently. I was in a ‘creative non-fiction’ track with Patrick Madden (his website, here, is a very worthwhile compilation of essays called Quotidiana from the word quotidian – or ‘ordinary’) Madden gave us a short assignment to pay attention to something mundane and common and write about what it suggests to us. Here is where I went.
Rope Ladder Relic
There’s a great tree in front of our house.
In the early years, it didn’t look too healthy;
we shuddered to think about it coming down,
and what our roof would look like if a storm overcame it.
We needed that tree to survive and thrive – and it did.
Our boys loved the tree and in one of their first adventures,
claimed a divine right to climb.
The problem is that our tree is not a climbing tree.
Too few branches, too far apart, and too big to get your little arms around.
Not to be denied, the boys took a small rope ladder from an old swing set
and somehow attached it to the lowest oversized limb
making it possible to at least climb to the first floor of the monster
where they fashioned a modest platform.
It was a slum compared to the dream house they first imagined.
A triumph of neighborhood development nonetheless.
They didn’t become Spiderman or Tarzan
but the laws of gravity and timidity had been overcome.
Ten or fifteen years have passed.
And the rope ladder is still there.
One of those eyesores you live with and forget to remove.
It’s a ladder to nowhere it seems. Looking closer,
I see all my children, climbing.