When did we, as adults, lose sight of the magic of the tree house? As children, it held all the world to us, where nothing could harm us and our imaginations took flight. When did we reach the age when we were “too cool” to climb into a tree house and wile away the hours of a Saturday afternoon? Maybe it’s just me. Though I did not have a tree house as a child (we’re using that term as a collective for all magical childhood places), I did have a sandbox. My father built it for me in the corner of our backyard where it sat beneath two large maples. The trees reached their big limbs over the sand, providing ample shade from the Tennessee sun and protection from the outside world. Their gnarled trunks gave perfect footings for climbing while the sand lay beneath, waiting to cushion my landing whenever I decided to jump. My whole world was in that corner of the backyard.

So why did I leave? Age, mostly, but then we moved to Arkansas. Those were the reasons I physically left, but why did I leave spiritually? Emotionally? Psychologically? If I was happy in that state, peacefully playing beneath the trees, why did I leave that state of bliss? A question of the ages, I am sure, and one not easily answered in a few paragraphs here.

Why do we stop building tree houses for ourselves? Places of sanguine reflection and protected comfort are rare in this chaotic world and yet we fail to see the restorative power of the simple tree house. Oh, to be there, lying among the strength of her branches, listening to the song of her leaves, suspended in her embrace, as the stalwart mother tree wraps herself around us and welcomes us home. Pure peace.

Sure, many might say that our homes take the place of our childhood tree house, but I disagree. Others come into our house and pierce the protective barrier. Neighbors come for a visit, family drops by to borrow the punch bowl, the mailman brings bills, and the banker makes his presence known when he/she invisibly collects the monthly payment. But, only certain people — ones who have passed our in-depth admissions test — are granted entry to the super-secret invitation-only tree house. It doesn’t have a mortgage or a mailbox.

I have spent too much time away from my childhood sandbox, but the symbolic rebuilding is going well. A room in my house (yes, the house, I know what I just said about that) is closed off to all others, except the furry children, of course, and has been off-limits to all others for several months. I’m still rebuilding. Sure would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t left it in the first place. The walls are decorated with pictures that stir my soul and artwork that inspires me.

A large illuminated woven heart hangs in the corner, reminding me of the potential in small things and simple moments. Pens and notebooks lay on the desk in anticipation of merging their purposes into worthy reflection. A dog bed by the door awaits George and/or Stella to infuse the room at will with unfettered happiness. It’s a good start. These unplanned, unexpected moments only occur when we are out of the confines of normality, out of our routine.

These are the moments that add sweetness to life and reconnect us to our core. Only when we travel to where nothing is familiar do we see ourselves–uncluttered by the noise of our daily lives–and we are introduced to our true selves again. I look forward to the planning every year, careful to include new places along with old haunts, time for new activities, and time for nothingness, always anticipating the surprises that inevitably occur as my true unencumbered self emerges to experience the complete restoration given by a summer vacation.

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