In the corner of the patch of land I call home there used to sit a treehouse. The funny thing about this treehouse is that it was never in a tree at all. It was a small wooden shed, perched atop nothing but solid ground.
I was never sure why we called it a treehouse. But we were certain it was a treehouse, just like the way the sky is blue and grass is green. More often than not, the wooden house was covered—in mud, shards of grass, pillows of moss, globs of paint. I climbed the ladder every afternoon, sat on the top floor with nothing but the company of the small spiders crawling in the cracks of the walls and the cool breeze of an after-school evening whistling in my ear. I watched the paint begin to chip.
I used to sit on the top floor of the treehouse and gaze out. Now, I miss being small, despite often yearning to grow up. I felt a rush when dipping my head forward out of the small wooden window, seeing the ground so far away for the first time. I liked having a space I could call my own. I liked that there were no doors like a real house. It was nothing like anything else ever. The treehouse was unique, and was my own. How lucky was I!
I would jump over the small barricade blocking the corner of my backyard off from the rest of it. When day-old rain had sloshed about in looming puddles, I took my leap and reveled in feeling the mud squish between my toes. I sat on the hammock, rocking back and forth, back and forth, letting my wispy brown hair trail off into the grass. I was not afraid of the splinters in my fingers as I climbed into my home. I welcomed nature, all of it. It had never felt so easy to let something seep into my skin, taking space in my body like a warm, well-lit home. I don’t think I will feel this way about anything ever again.
Doesn’t everyone want to be outside? Running and crouching beside a river, dipping their fingers and their toes and letting the sparkly, muddy water run through the gaps?
This was in the beginning, when I had time and space and patience in such abundance that I did not have to be aware of it. I was wildly, wildly oblivious. I saw anything and everything all the time, even when my eyes were closed.
I think adults only want to travel and see the world because their own homes have lost the magic they felt so strongly as a child. The sound of cicadas, the feeling of wind on your bare arms as the seasons change, the smell of flowers in the spring, and the yellow of buttercups under your chin all tend to dull as you grow inch by inch. I think we begin to crave these feelings with a certain hunger no experience can satisfy ever again.
So adults venture out into the woods, on hikes across mountaintops and paths winding into the wilderness. And they can feel strongly there, of course, but never in the same way—with that immeasurable, whole-body feeling—that they did as that wandering child who still lives on in their memories.
Will they ever return home?
Our real house could be loud, the indoors too boring and too stuffy. In the treehouse, I would look out for hours and hours. A window with no window pane was the best way to see the leaves and the willowing oaks and the garnet ladybugs and the dragonflies buzzing in pairs.
I would drag my fingertips across the pad of my palm, feeling each magical line and faded scar and raised scrape and slightly red blemish. In my wooden home, my eyes would connect to the sky or a singular branch, guessing the shapes of clouds and tracing the continuous spirals of sycamore bark. The clock froze. I was there forever.
When something is there all the time, you can argue that it is not there at all. In my childhood, there was a constant feeling of go, go, go, not one second free; everything was booked and busy. It was those moments, when I could count the stripes on an autumn leaf, blow on dandelions in the spring, sink my hands into the slush as winter melted—little actions, minute moments, when I could fill up my brain with nothing, soaking up oxygen and sunlight like a small house plant.
Seasons of transition—as fall turns to winter and spring dives into summer—fill me up with excitement and joy and glee, the anticipation of such a simple event. Mundane, ordinary, peaceful. As a being, I am nothing more, nothing less, than the counterpart of my surroundings. The greenery humbles me by reminding me that I am just like them too—growing, gleaming, existing and breathing, and one day, gone.
I have built a home within the walls of my brain, memories as birch building blocks and fallen leaves as roof shingles and my spiraling imagination as the cirrocumulus clouds above. I step inside and focus on the gleaming, stretching my hands up to the sun when I feel like it, sinking my toes into the muddy earth, and running in the shallow waters of a freezing cold brook. I look out my window and I am at peace, not even caring that it has panes.