The Secret to Climbing Trees

by Ruth Stevenson. Shortlistee of the Best Short Story for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

Daisy wasn’t the one who climbed to the tops of the trees. No…that was for her brave brothers.

Knights in patchwork armour who scaled the tallest towers in search of deadly dragons.

Pirates with wooden swords who made her walk the plank if she dared to board their ship.

Explorers of deep, dark jungles swinging wildly from vine to vine as she stood at the bottom worrying that one of them would fall, afraid she might have to catch them.

Standing there, her neck craned back as far as it would go, she watched them disappear into the sea of green leaves with its blue sky splashes.

She wondered why they did it.

Heart beating fast, palms prickling, she stood waiting for them to climb back down to the safe-and-sound ground.

But…one day when the knights had slain the dragons, when the pirates had buried their treasure and the explorers had gone inside to play at being biscuit thieves instead, Daisy gazed at the upside down sea of the sky and before she knew it, she had begun to climb.

Her hands touched the rough bark of the old oak tree and it shivered beneath her fingertips, as though it was waking from a long dream.

The secret to climbing trees, it whispered, is to seek out the nooks and crannies, the hidden paths for fingertips to grasp and grip.

So her fingers searched and followed the folds in the map of the crinkled bark.

The leaves above her rustled, as though they knew something special was happening. The secret to climbing trees, they murmured, is to follow the swaying of our song. So her ears listened and she followed the sighing song of the lullaby leaves.