It was like being in a
scene from a roadrunner cartoon. The frozen moment when the coyote is
hanging in the air after the cliff has fallen out from under him. That
moment in which time stops and one seemingly has all the time in the
world to observe and think through exactly what has happened, what is
happening, and what is about to happen, coming to the inevitable
conclusive thought; This is not good.
For weeks now I had been eyeing the beautiful, mossy
swing, hanging on long ropes from a high cut-off branch of the huge
monkey pod tree. I may be 57, but at heart I am still a child,
and when a child sees a swing, especially one hanging low from a high
branch, there is an urge to sit on it and pump it to the limit
of the arc and try to touch the sky.
One day this urge will overcome any other desire and one
is irresistibly drawn to sit down and go for it. Today was the day.
The wooden seat was low, so I grabbed the mossy ropes and
as I lowered my butt onto the swing, there was a slight give, then a
distinct creak from above as my full weight came down on the
seat. Almost instantly, the creak became a sharp cracking,
breaking sound and the seat under me went into freefall, with my body
following instantly, headed for the ground.
This was the frozen moment. As the seat hit the ground,
the image of the huge branch above me came to my mind, along with the
knowledge that that it was, at that moment, hurtling straight down
towards me. I did not even have time to look up when this sequence of
events happened. The seat and my butt hit the ground, the ropes in my
hands went slack and my body tilted back. A fraction of a second later
I saw the huge log pass my eyes, headed for my lap. Mentally the
possible consequences of this event flashed through my mind. I
was, at the moment, alone on a 20-acre farm with no neighbors in
calling distance of my voice. Were my hips and legs to be crushed and I
were pinned under this branch, I would lie there for days until someone
might happen to stop by. Since this is Maui, I would not freeze to
death tonight, but would slowly dehydrate, perhaps able to lick the
morning dew from the grass nearest my face and extend my life by a few
hours. (Assuming no major blood vessel was crushed to the point of
leaking and bleeding to death). It promised to be a slow agonizing
death, for a very silly reason. All of this flashed thorough my
mind and then it happened; the log hit my lap.
In comic opposition to the thoughts that had just passed
through my mind, the branch bounced up, off of my thighs and then
settled back down. It weighed almost nothing. Rotten to the core, the
termites had made it into a near-weightless imitation of a solid
branch. My astonishment turned to laughter as I saw the improvisational
slapstick humor of the universe occur once more in my life.
I laid on my back in there in the grass for some time, log
still on my lap, rope coiled as it fell on me, laughing and looking up
at the canopy of the monkey pod tree under the tropical blue sky.
I never got to swing that day, but the memory stayed with
me for months, and when I moved into my new place, there was another
mossy board held by funky ropes from a funky looking tree. I put a
basket in the seat for decoration and did not try the swing.
Today when I came home, the tree, swing and ropes had, on their
own, fallen down across the driveway, the seat crushed under the
weight of the heavy tree with rotten roots. I had to use a 6-foot steel
pipe to slowly lever the out of the way. Perhaps the first incident
saved me from trying this swing and serious injury. If nothing else, it
led to this story. I hope you like it.