Monday, September 26, 2011

A home among the gum trees ...

On Mondays and Fridays (and occasionally other days) I work from our office in the Blue Mountains.

Lunchtimes provide the opportunity to get out for a walk, which I usually tend to do. My walk normally takes me through a short patch (several hundred metres) of fairly isolated bush track.

Walking through there the other week, I was enjoying the solitude, and the company, of the tall eucalypts and bunched up turpentines. I've walked this track many times, but as I trudged along this day, I noticed something about 30 metres downhill off the side of the track: the form of a tree house. I've got no idea how long it had been there.

The structure is fairly basic, and almost invisible, but there it is. Some people would decry this sort of construction, but I rejoice: a kid is learning to build, and he / she is doing that utilising natural forms.

Yes, the trees will suffer a bit. Some groundcovers or shrubs will probably be trampled to death, and an ant or two will likely die. And it will all look a bit messy. If kids are like other builders, there will probably be some detritis strewn around the site after the job is done.

But so much will be gained! Richard Louv offers a fairly exhaustive breakdown on pp. 80-83 of his book, Last Child in the Woods on what the exercise of tree-house building offers a child. And much of the learning is in trial-and-error.

This 'home among the gum trees', 6 metres up, is a piece of grounded learning. Once a place of noisy construction, it becomes a place of solace among the treetops. But it only becomes that through intent, thoughts about design, bent nails, pieces of wood cut too short, problem-solving, ant bites, and sweat (and probably some tears).

How sad that we see so few tree houses these days. What have we done to our kids?

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