Sunday, September 1, 2013

the kick ass tree fort

If you google tree fort  D.I.Y., you won't find many inspiring images. I created a Pinterest board of the few I found over here, but I was surprised by the lack of doable, simple, cool,  and artful tree forts when I was designing this one. There are some crazy fancy and expensive ones, to be sure.

The seed of the fort was a midsummer musing in this mama's head about what to do to create a purposefulness in our family this summer– something we could have and share and plan and create together like making a craft, but bigger.

My husband is an artist, a sculptor and very handy person, even though he is now studying to become a therapist. He has built furniture and even our kitchen cabinets. So we had a bunch of tools and skills to do this. We have made a lot of things together over 18 years, the best of which is our children. But this tree fort ranks second. It is THAT good.

Here is how it actually went down (according to my husband): I said, "Hey, guys, do you want to build a tree fort in the back yard? Won't that be amazing? What would you want it to look like? Let's do some drawings! Yes, you can help daddy and mommy with it!" My husband describes that moment as his doom. He would be the bad guy if he said no–even if I was going to be his awesome assistant and am also handy with power tools! Believe me when I tell you that as we poured the concrete footings for this, he wasn't one bit happy.  After much googling, and using sticks with strings as guides, we still didn't actually know how to pour perfectly straight and aligned footings.

But once we accepted that our 400 pounds of concrete were poured into holes that weren't actually square with each other, we made it work. I wrote an inspiring message on the fort for us to see as we sweated in the 110 degree heat:

"How we do anything is how we do everything." Our outlook as we work on a tree fort is a mirror of our attitude towards how we do anything. Are we optimistic or pessimistic? Sloppy? Graceful? Grateful? Leisurely? Calm? Excited? In my life this year I am working to be in balance with the place of grace and ease combined with the place of work and effort. If we don't put in effort then it all falls apart–and we are lazy. If we put in too much effort and lose our ease then we are hamfisted, too forceful and controlling. This is a life's work. We are a continuum of spirit and thought. We can have our feelings but need to be mindful that there is no there, there. It is all here–all right now–this moment–now this moment. So that mindfulness quote was a strategic inspiration as we fumbled our way through the warped wood pile.

The tree houses measures 9' x 9'. It is 4' off the ground. We wanted the above branches to be the roof instead of creating a roof that would separate us from the tree. It is meant as a space to play, to hang out, an open-ended space. Our Sissoo tree is only about five years old. It is too young and small to support the fort, so we built a deck around it.

The design process was intuitive and unplanned (as is most stuff in my life). I designed on post-it notes as we worked. I even designed on the back of a birthday party invitation and then missed the party because it was pinned to the wall face-down. I knew I wanted the front railings to be interesting and we negotiated about how to do that. We finally landed on this broken chevron pattern in reused wood and I am so happy with it. It looks like Missoni in lumber!!! The pictures don't do it justice because you can't feel the slight breeze, or see the cicada sheds on the tree trunk, or feel the earth coming up through the tree, or see the leaves moving and the light dappling. It is like a vacation in the back yard.

The kids are in love with it, I am in love with it, and my husband loves it. There are  many things left to add: a little waterproof library in the form of a mailbox, a book shelf, outdoor lights, a pulley. What is a tree fort without a pulley!?! All in good time. I've got to let my husband recover before we beg him for more stuff.

Go build one for your house!