Telling Tales from Treetops

Me learning how to climb the tree in my front yard. My dad\'s standing by for support.

Me learning how to climb the tree in my front yard back in 1990. My dad’s standing by for support.

As a child, I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard and sit on the highest branch. With a notebook in hand and binoculars dangling around my neck, I wrote down what I heard and saw – ducks crossing the street, moms pushing strollers, sirens echoing in the distance. My neighbors, who called me Harriet the Spy, would fill me in whenever “breaking news” occurred:

“Mallary!” Mr. Graham would yell from across the street, “There have been a lot of cars speeding down the street lately. I wonder why that is.”

I made it my goal to find out why. I made observations, interviewed neighbors, and scribbled stories in my fluorescent-colored Lisa Frank notebooks. I still have these notebooks. They’re filled with license plate numbers, descriptions of passerby, and words like “suspicious.”

Not long ago, I read through one of these notebooks and felt compelled to buy a new copy of Harriet the Spy, just for fun. I have yet to read it, but I can imagine the experience will remind me of my childhood, and of my desire to look at life from treetops, where some of the best stories are told.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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