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Branching out and climbing up

Carefree kids and towering tree houses
shelley column pic
Finding a refuge of our own.

I am a fan of programs that explore real estate options in vastly different markets in countries around the world. It’s always interesting to note that $1,000,000 can buy a house with a lovely backyard in one market, and a studio apartment with a tiny balcony in another.

Buyers bring their wish lists for the properties they are looking to purchase yet most realize they are going to have to compromise on some amenities to gain others. I happen to be a fan of open layouts, big windows and fireplaces so I would put those features on the top of my list.

But I was watching an episode this summer that had me set that list aside. I was unconcerned with square footage, finishes or asking price after seeing the backyard. No, it wasn’t especially large. There was no pool or outdoor fireplace (those features definitely get my attention). Instead, there was a very large oak tree with the most incredible custom built tree house tucked among its branches.

Previous owners had designed and built the original part of the tree house and when the property was subsequently purchased by a carpenter several new features were added. Rooms sat on different levels with the most interesting and unique features around each twist and turn. A structure to stir a child’s imagination.                

The idea of living up in the trees began as a way of searching for safety against potential harms. By the first century they were places of recreation. A Roman emperor had one built that accommodated 15 guests and servants for banquets. They soon became popular with powerful and influential members of the upper class and then began making appearances in literature and art.

Although they are deeply rooted in historical record, the idea of children and tree houses found its footing in countless books and soon became intertwined with the fantasy of children having space to call their very own with a feeling of living high up in the clouds.

Growing up I had a couple of different friends who had a tree house. Climbing up into the structure and making it what we wanted created a fun place to be. As we played and talked, everything seemed possible from high above the rest of the world.

But lest we think tree houses are the domain of children, take another look. Eco-tourism, simplified living, and the increasing number of unique vacation experiences has led to a huge expansion of these types of options. Imagine waking up in a tree house and taking in the view of a Fijian sunrise or the summit of a European mountain peak. As kids they may have been fun and fantasy but as adults they can be homes, retreats or vacation getaways. Or perhaps much, much more. Maybe, just maybe, there are things we can learn from spending time in a tree house.

As kids we couldn’t wait to climb the ladder or branches and enter the sanctuary intended just for us. It was rustic, and we loved it that way. We didn’t take a bunch of stuff up there because what mattered were those who were there with us. There’s a lesson there. Life finds much greater richness in the people who share the space than in the belongings that fill up the space.

Sitting up in a tree house also gave us a different perspective on life. Of course we were never actually as high up as it felt we were, but nonetheless it provided a new perspective. It wasn’t about looking down on things, but instead, gazing out across the horizon and garnering a broader vision. We could all use a bit of that. There’s more out there than what’s in front of our nose. Sometimes we just need to take a step back…or up…and see that things might look different than we thought.

Then of course, when you are up in the tree house you are more fully engulfed by nature. The sky above, the grass beneath, and there you are sitting listening to the rustling of the leaves or perhaps the chirping of nearby birds. Inside is conversation with friends, or a good book, or simply quiet time to let your soul be still. It is a refuge where nature provides the soundtrack and you get to focus on things you love and friends you cherish. Wouldn’t it be great if more of our everyday life reflected that?

Had I been house hunting and saw this property with the custom built tree house I would have been smitten. Do I need it? Of course not. Would I use it? I want to say yes, but in all likelihood I very much doubt it. Then again, why leave all the fun for the kids?

Schedules have kicked into high gear again but that doesn’t mean we can’t take time for fun, recreation and leisure. In fact, we must. So find your place. Give yourself the gift of a refuge. Keep it simple and allow it to give you a new perspective and fill you once again with childlike wonder. That’s my outlook.