Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Treehouse

When I was a kid, growing up in suburban Maryland, tree climbing was a favorite sport.   If we could reach the limbs to swing our short selves off the ground, it was COOL.  It was almost as thrilling as being in the top of the Rocket Slide at Cabin John Park.  I had a sizeable dogwood in the front yard that was always becoming my ship, or my fort, or base, depending on the game of the day. It was exhilirating to crawl up in the leaves brandishing garbage can lids for shields, plotting strategies and declaring war on the scrawny neighborhood boy who was always pestering us, with an arsenal of crab apples, raisins and pebbles.  Not only that, we could SPY up there!

The old Maple in my friend's front yard, or the wind-blown Pine trees in the cul-de-sac, they were all our imaginary tree houses. I can still smell the sticky sap that clung to my hair, palms and pants as we tried to climb down the 15 or so feet without falling out and breaking an arm.  My kids are the same, up a tree as soon as they spot a decent one.   But to have a REAL TREE HOUSE!   Man, we wanted one of those, with a ladder going up, and a platform to sit on - a place that was meant just for us to do our secret girl stuff.   The closest thing we could get to that ladder/platform idea were the bunk beds in my friend's room.

Fast forward 40 years.  It's Easter weekend. That same friend and I are vacationing with our girls at a lake resort in Tennessee. We're chatting with a mom who's got the skinny on cheap area entertainment for her own vanload of kids.  She mentions a cool treehouse that's "just up the road".   But this isn't just any treehouse, this is the MOTHER of ALL treehouses!  She pulls out her cellphone and proceeds to show me a picture of a Tree Mansion!  We pile the troops into the mom-mobile and head off down the road. After taking a wrong turn down a drive from Little House on the Prairie, meandering through a cow pasture, bottoming out through tractor ruts while listening to the voices of 5 back seat drivers as we spit gravel up a hill, we dead end into someone else's hideaway.  Back down the hill, jostling over the ruts, through the pasture, and out the treeline where we find a farmer who directs us a bit further down the road, which indeed, dead ends into TREEHOUSE NIRVANA!  Blown away is an understatement.

The Treehouse, inspired by a vision that Minister Horace Burgess had in 1993.  It's supported by a live 80 foot tall White Oak, but Burgess says it's foundation is in God.  All the materials are recycled pieces of lumber from various garages, storage sheds and barns.

Artwork is everywhere

The makeshift swing, and the caretaker of the house.

Quotes and signatures are everywhere from visitors over the last 18 years.

Looking out one of the views from the top.

The caretaker's camp

  "The whole message of the thing is, if you come to see the site and climb to the top, you'll see Jesus in the garden, and the preacher didn't have to say a word."  - Horace Burgess

Susan, my lifelong friend and tree climbing buddy. This weekend we found that we're  never too old for treehouse climbing, for discovering new joys, or revisiting old ones.

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