Monday, January 5, 2009


Everyday on my way to work I walk through Madison Square Park, at 5th Avenue and 23rd Street, where elegant men in business suits are juxtaposed with the disheveled woman in her bathrobe and slippers taking her rather large dog out to do his own morning business.

This little park, which boasts the famous and exceedingly popular Shake Shack, has committed itself to presenting unique and stunning outdoor art exhibitions. Several months ago I noticed that the trees were sprouting little houses. Each day I'd discover another one and it fed my sense of imagination, fun and curiosity. What was going on?

It turns out they are part of an exhibition by Tadashi Kawamata called Tree Huts. There are no visible means of arriving at these little shelters but it did get me thinking about our childhood (and adult) fascination with living in a tree.

The grandest example I suppose can be witnessed by The Swiss Family Robinson treehouse but we are just as taken with those little Keebler elves who make cookies in a tree. At least I am.

Children's literature is teeming with characters living in treehouses.

There are the lovable Berenstain Bears created by Stan and Jan Berenstain who get along quite well in their treehouse.

Most of the characters in the exquisite Winnie-the-Pooh stories live in trees.

The engineering pigs in Arthur Geisert's Pigs From A to Z build an impressive four story treehouse to live in and the kids in The Bear Next Door by Ginnie Hofmann find friendship under a treehouse.

There must be something about treehouses and forts that children love. Perhaps it is the sense of ownership, the privacy, the 'grown-up' feeling of control over your environment or simply a place to go to be alone. A place of peace with a great view and just a dash of danger.

Where are our treehouses now? What do they look like? How do we get to them?

Perhaps we have out grown the need for them but every once in a while wouldn't it be nice to climb up a ladder and leave the world behind, just for a moment?


Barbara said...

I have always been intrigued with treehouses, but I longed for one with a ladder because I was never good at climbing trees. I still think it would be soothing to sit among the leafy branches of a big tree looking down on the busy world below.

presious said...

I love your thoughts about climbing the tree to the tree house to leave our cares of the world behind. I am currently working on slowing down and bringing more natural beauty into my life; the flowers, the mountains, the clouds, etc. Our imagination can play a very key role in such an escape.

Dumdad said...

Yes, it's intriguing the appeal of tree houses especially when I was a kid. I loved climbing trees and I loved the feeling of being somehow completely free when I was at the top and looking down on the world ("Look at me, Ma. I'm on top of the world!").

Mona said...

I think that the trees have been turned into houses theses days lol!

I loved the tree house that Phantom Built for his wife Diana!

Pauline said...

I've apparently been reading too much prehistory lately - the first thought that popped into my mind when I started to read your post was that building tree houses is a way to reestablish our connection with our tree dwelling ancestors. I'm an enthusiastic tree hugger and have had two memorable tree houses in my life. Time for a new one...

Arielle Bair said...

Your musings always intrigue me, Gary. I had a treehouse as a kid (my dad built one for my brother and me) and I loved it. It even had a "fireman's" pole you slid down so you didn't have to climb back down the ladder! Ah, memories!

Sorry I've been on such a...hiatus. I'm back to the blogging world now. :)


Gary said...

Barbara - How about a tree house with a working elevator? That seems to be the 'height' of luxury. I am a grand tree climber myself. Well, I was up until I was 38 and misjudged the distance to the ground and tore up my left arm. The kids I was playing with were stunned by the blood and ripped skin but I was just fascinated by it all. Since then I have been more cautious.

Presious - Natural beauty! Seems very Feng Shui, bringing things into alignment, enjoying your environment. I am all for stopping to smell the roses, even if sometimes the roses exist only in my imagination.

Dumdad - Is that like "Look Ma, no hands?" What makes you completly free these days?

Mona - I think I am going to have to do some checking on that reference. You got me!

Pauline - I like your take on this better. Yes...that is exactly what I meant. Please invite me to play in your new treehouse. I'll be there and bring snacks.

Arielle!! Welcome back. I've missed you. Glad things are going well for you. As for the fireman's pole...nothing beats that for efficiency.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I inherited my sister's playhouse which my dad was kind enough to put about 15 feet up in an old oak tree. I should dig out photos and do my own post on it. It was a favorite spot to hide out in and write fantastical stories and put on shows for a select group of boys that I screened before allowing them to enter.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I hope the treehouses are still out my next visit to nyc (looks like mid march)! they look so sweet. I bet they are especially pretty when there's a layer of snow on them. I have snow on the brain today!

i still like to climb trees although at 53 I'm not nearly as agile as I was at 13 or 23 or even 43!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

now I checked the link and boo hoo it's leaving feb 15....i'll miss them.

Gary said...

JT - That sound like my kind of treehouse. I hope I'd make the cut.

Kimy - I'm not surprised you have snow on the mindas it is on the ground here. Sorry you'll miss the tree huts but I will try to think of something just as sweet for us to do when you visit in March. The possibilities are endless.

MSthebilder said...

I am still a kid,(or teenager for that matter) and I love climbing trees, and I'd love to have a treehouse, but there aren't very many good trees to build a sturdy treehouse in. In fact, I'd like to be an enginer of some sort, so I've been thinking of ways to make a good treehouse in the type of trees we have. So far nothing's worked.

lettuce said...

these are great!!

you'd be welcome in my tree house gary.

btw, did you hear about the
authorised sequelto Winnie the Pooh?
witholding my judgment....
i did find the disneyfication of Pooh hard to cope with

(am i being too english and snobbish?)

Gary said...

Letty - I did not know about the new Pooh. Interesting. How could you be snobbish? Although I now prefer the original drawings from A.A. Milne himself I do enjoy the Disney characters too. They served as my introduction to the occupants of the 100 Acre Wood because of the Sunday night specials I watched as a boy. Both work for me. But more importantly I find the language and logic of Pooh so very fascinating. How is it possbile to spin a sentence that is so simple and yet so honest and deep. When Lauren and I read these stories to our class we always look at one another in awe of the beautiful language.

WAT said...

Oh I am awesome at climbing trees since I have long arms and legs, so get me to any treehouse pronto! How does one even go about building one of those things anyway? Can you imagine hauling all that wood up the trunk and those branches and blah blah blah?! That's a lot of work!


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