When I was growing up, I spent a great deal of time at my grandparent’s house. Although it was situated at the heart of a major city, it had a good-sized backyard that was the venue for many an exciting childhood adventure. There were several trees in it, including one that most would consider downright ugly. Relegated to the far end of the yard at the back fence, its twisting trunk and gangly branches made it look more like a tree from a horror film than anything else. Rising to a height of only thirty or forty feet, it was sparsely leaved and its lowest branches spread out some eight feet above the ground. I’ve no idea what kind of tree it was, but its relatively smooth and unusual green bark made it just perfect for climbing.
From the first time I climbed it, I somehow felt as if this spindly tree and I were kindred spirits. In retrospect, I think it may have been because the tree looked a bit how I felt about myself during much of that time—unwanted and lonely. Be that as it may, the tree and I spent many wonderful times together throughout the years. I’d swing from its branches on a rope, climb as high as I could into its rather barren canopy, and settle myself comfortably in the amazingly perfect lounging space between two successive branches. There I’d sit happily—feeling the tree swaying gently beneath me in the breeze, watching the birds and clouds float by, and just thinking.
I tried many times to build a platform and a treehouse of sorts, but the awkward layout of the tree’s branches and a lack of building materials always thwarted my efforts. The most I was ever able to construct was a crude ladder of wood slats that I nailed to the trunk and a makeshift seat of canvas that I secured to the branches at my favorite sitting spot. I’m forced to admit that my “treehouse” really wasn’t a treehouse at all—but it never mattered for, in the end, it all came down to the simple relationship between a young boy and his favorite tree.
From those days on, treehouses became fond and familiar distractions from daily life. Sometimes when I was at school and bored in class, I’d look out the window and think about building one. I’d recall the magnificent treehouse in the movie, “Swiss Family Robinson”, and imagine what it might be like to live in one like it. My lofty musings didn’t end in childhood, either—for even today, I like to let my mind wander high up into the branches of a secret hideaway that perches far above the busy-ness of the workaday world.
Not too long ago, I was delighted to find that I’m not the only one with a passion for treehouses. I happened to find a television series on Animal Planet called “Treehouse Masters”. The show follows master treehouse builder Pete Nelson and his talented crew as they build treehouses for clients across the United States and explore a variety of spectacular treehouses around the world. It’s wonderful to see the creativity of his work and I’m happy to see the visions of treehouse enthusiasts everywhere being fulfilled in so many ways. The show is not only entertaining, it’s helped remind me of so many of my own pleasant memories!
In fact, there’s one special memory I know I’ll never forget. I recall falling asleep one night shortly after my wife and I first began dating (some thirty years ago). That night I had a wonderfully vivid dream that the two of us were still together much later in life. In the dream, it felt as if we’d been together for years, already raised our family, and yet we remained the very best of friends. We were in a cozy bedroom that clearly felt as if it was part of a large treehouse. The sun was beginning to set and its soft, golden light spilled through the windows. The rustic wooden walls of the room glowed warmly as we readied ourselves for a special evening out. Dressed in an elegant evening dress, my lovely wife sat in front of a mirror putting on a delicate chain necklace. I stood behind her in a tuxedo, helping her close the necklace’s clasp. As she stood, we smiled and drew close. Content for the moment to be in each others’ arms, we looked out the window together and, through the tree’s supporting branches, we watched a spectacular sunset light the clouds aflame.
In all the years since then, I’ve always remembered that dream—and I’ve never felt happier. One day soon, when I retire and we’re able to move to somewhere with a bit more space and a few more trees, I intend to make that dream come true. And as I close my eyes and envision it in my mind, I’m suddenly sure of it. Heaven must be a treehouse.
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