“The Hiding Place,” May 19, 2020


Do you recall the first time you climbed a tree? How old were you? How did you feel? Scared? Proud? Happy? Free?

Tree climbing is a formative experience. There are countless others, of course. Jumping in a pool, hoping your dad won’t let you drown. Riding a bike with no training wheels. Waving goodbye to your mom the first day of school. Opening your mouth to let a dentist poke a metal tool around your teeth.

Most every day in a child’s life brings a new adventure, a new demand to boldly go where that child has never gone before. It’s no wonder parents of small children seem to age overnight.

One day, when I was 6 years old, I crawled beneath the low-hanging limbs of a tree I would later learn to call a hemlock. Inside that tree, much to my surprise, the limbs formed a giant canopy under which I could hide from most of the cares of the world.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

Child or adult, we all need a hiding place once in a while. That tree became my childhood refuge. It still shelters me in memory. Its trunk was so big I couldn’t hug it and its branches grew spaced like a ladder.

I’m not sure all this happened exactly as I will tell you, but it’s the way I like to remember it. I heard a voice like the rustle of leaves and the ripple of water whisper, “Go on. You can do it.”

“But what if I fall?” I said, “or rip my dress, or get stuck on a limb and no one can find me?”

“You can’t answer every question,” said the voice. “Take a step and trust where it leads.”

So I stepped on a branch and reached up for the next. It was easy. I kept going. Halfway up, the tree began to sway to and fro in the wind and the voice said, “That’s far enough today, child. You’ll go higher tomorrow.”
Then I sat for a long while, resting in the arms of a tree and in the palm of God’s right hand.

Do you recall the last time you climbed a tree? How old were you? How did you feel? Scared? Proud? Happy? Free? Were you trying to rescue a cat?

A few years ago, when my grandson Henry was 5, he asked me to climb a tree with him in his back yard. It was easy. We used a step ladder to boost ourselves up, straddled a sturdy limb and sat there together, talking about birds and clouds and the meaning of life.

It was the first tree I’d climbed since Henry’s mom was his age. I told him about the hemlock, how it became my hiding place.

“I like to hide up here, too,” he said, staring at the ground, “as long as I don’t climb too high.”

Henry has a new tree now in his new backyard, and he climbs it every chance he gets. I haven’t climbed it with him yet. It’s a pretty big tree.

Maybe I can do it with a ladder when the virus quarantine is over.
Until then, I can’t even hug Henry and his cousins, let alone, climb trees with them. I’m not sure how we’d keep six feet apart on a tree limb.

In the months since the quarantine began, I sometimes find myself asking questions that have no answers: Are my loved ones safe? How long will this last? What will our lives be like in the days to come?

Do you ask questions like that?

I think about what I learned as a child, what I tried to teach my children, and hope to teach my grandchildren: We can’t answer every question. We just need to take a step, and then another, and trust where it will lead.

The step I’ve learned to take first, before any other, is simple, but not easy. I pray to be at peace, to stop asking questions that I can’t answer. Then I close my eyes and picture myself in the palm of God’s hand and the arms of a sheltering tree.

And for a while, I’m no longer a woman fearing for her family and her friends and the world she loves. I’m simply a child at play. And life becomes not only a bold adventure, but the boundless joy that we long for it to be.

Comments

  1. Sharon, I met you in Salina, Ks. A few years back. We visited about our Grandmothers and what they taught us about growing up. I love this about climbing trees as I have also climbed a tree when a youngster. I can often relate to your columns when you talk about your childhood. I hope some day my Grandchildren will think back about our times together with fondness. I love your column.

  2. Janet Mann says:

    The first and only tree I ever sat in was an old cherry tree in our side yard where I grew up as a kid in a small town in IL. I loved to sit up there and eat sour cherries and throw the pits down and try to make a pile. It was my “go away from everything” tree. I have so many good memories of my growing up days, and like the rest of you, I wonder what our world is going to be like when or if this pandemic ever ends. I grew up in a time that everyone that grew up when I did, describe the time as the “good old days”. And they were. We never seemed to have the cares and worries that children today have. I have been blessed with three wonderful sons and daughters-in-love and 10 wonderful grandchildren. God blessed me with a wonderful husband who has gone on to spend eternity with JESUS. Thank you for your columns Sharon.

  3. Katie says:

    Trusting God … my husband just passed away this month.

    • Katie, I’m sorry for your loss. Those of us who’ve lost a partner in life know things about each other that no one else can know. My heart goes out to you and your family. I wish you God’s grace and peace and joy. _ Sharon

    • Kate Sciacca says:

      Eternal Rest grant unto him oh Lord, and May Perpetual Light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, Rest In Peace. Amen.

      And Lord, wrap Katie in your arms, bless her with many “Simons” to help her carry her heavy Cross of grief.

  4. Beth Heeren says:

    Sharon, I remember you telling me about being in the palm of God’s hand. I remember it like it was yesterday! I told the same thing to my own kids. Thanks for the illustration.
    Beth

  5. Fred Hernandez says:

    It saddens me that as a kid I never jumped in a pool, climbed a tree or rode a bike. I did climb our back fence to get away from a nasty goat. I did climb our house to get into a second-story window when I was locked out. I got a bike as an adult and was as wobbly as a Jello puppet. Never have mastered it.
    Jumping into a pool is still a big deal. I took swimming lessons on my 65th birthday, but they never took. My fear of water comes from the time my family went camping in Yosemite. One day we were splashing on the backs of the chilly Merced River. Come here, my father said. I went over and he said It was time to go swimming. He picked me up and went wading a little deeper with me in his arms. Then he threw me into the water. I panicked. It was ice cold, and I had no idea what to do. Swim, my father said. I flapped my arms. I screamed. I splashed. I struggled. I cried and threw myself to the shallows. No one in my family know how to swim. Nobody could have rescued me. I probably could have simply stood up and walked ashore, but in that position, I thought I was in the middle of the ocean. My father was disappointed in me.
    I did have other adventures as a kid in the hills of Daly City. I found a thick stand of willows that was hollow in the center. I was skinny enough to crawl through tight openings and hide in the beautiful center, which had a sandy floor. That was my very special hideout, where I could look up at the clouds and see fleecy clouds that I chose to believe only I could see.
    In spring when the grass was tall on the hillsides, we kids would grab pieces of cardboard and slide down the slopes.
    When the wild irises were in bloom, I would gather gazillions of them and present them to my mom. She would put them in vases, but they never lasted a day before they died.
    We grew up speaking Spanish, but we managed to communicate with other neighborhood kids. Until the day came when the Bricker brothers let me play baseball with them. I knew absolutely nothing about the game, but they slowly encouraged me. So they gave me a bat and indicated that I should hit a ball they lobbed my way. And behold, a miracle! I hit the ball. Everybody got excited. Run, run, run, they yelled, pointing to a chalk mark that was first base. So I ran. Run, run, run, they then said, pointing to second base. So I ran. Then it got confusing. Somebody threw the ball to Billy Bricker at second base, and he caught it and came after me. He swiped at me with the ball and yelled, You’re out! Everybody joined Billy. Out! Out! Out! So I ran home crying, and hid under the kitchen table. What’s the matter? my mother asked. I blubbered that the Brickers had chased me away from a game. She comforted me and got me to crawl out from under the table. She sat me down with a soothing glass of milk. That helped. A little.
    I later mad more adventures on the hills of Daly City. I became a rock hound and discovered a spot on the hills that glittered with quartz crystals. I gathered coffee cans full of them. I found one good large cluster bigger than my fist. Seventy years later, I still have that specimen. I wish I could tell you where it’s stashed. And I wonder if that spot still sports quartz crystals. I wonder if it’s not covered over with homes. I sure hope so, and one of these days I intend to hike up and find out.
    And then there was the time I set the hills on fire. But that’s another story.
    I feel sorrow for the everyday triumphs of normal white kids. But I was different, I was Mexican, Brown, and lived in another life within the same neighborhood. And I didn’t fit in.
    Of course I now know that I had plenty of triumphs of my own. But I was an insecure, shy boy at the time and my adventures were mostly secret.

    • Kate Sciacca says:

      Thanks for your delightful descriptive memories of childhood. You write well! Lots of kids, of every race and creed, feel as though they “lived another life” in the same neighborhood. Mine was hidden because my mom was an alcoholic, and living very close to the school I had to come up with excuses all the time as to why kids couldn’t “come to my house” every day. I learned to tell all kinds of stories…. I guess I lied well. Took many years to realize that we all have our struggles… God designs our crosses for His reasons, which I’ll never try to figure out.

  6. Barbara Ballard says:

    I love this. There are several times when I have known without a doubt that I am being held in the palm of His hand. Like you, many of us wonder what our world will be like after this, but I know He will care for us.

    I love your column and read it every week.

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