About the time I decided to buy this little chunk of land and resettle in Minnesota, I also took a drive to visit my childhood home. Having made no attempt to contact the owners beforehand, I parked briefly on the road and captured a couple of images as reminders of what had been. It was there, at the end of the driveway, that I had built my first tree house. It's a loose term for what was really just a platform of boards in a tree, a white pine to be more exact, but it allowed for a new perspective on a landscape that was oh-so-familiar. Or so it seemed. From that sense of height, and heightened awareness, the world felt wide open, maybe even limitless.
Through the years, the field beyond it played a big role in my life. It's a field of many stories. No, it wasn't always perfect there. The sense of isolation I often felt, even in my own family, was sometimes overwhelming. Sitting on that wooden platform, looking out across the field, I could hear the wind whistling through the pine needles, as though talking to me, encouraging me to not be afraid to go exploring, to become a discoverer of my own, larger life. It might well have been my first look at the field of infinite possibilities. Seeing it now from the advantage of life experience, it seems to have been a mirror of my desire to expand my life, my range of thought. Perhaps this field of infinite possibilities I'm now exploring sprang from that first tree house, that first field.
Start with a tree,
an old willow with its feet in the water,
and one low branch to let you in
and a higher branch to let you
and a lookout branch to show
how far you've come
(the lake before you,
the woods at your back),
and now you are close
to those who live in these rooms
without walls, without doors:
one nuthatch typing its way up the bark,
two mourning doves calling the sun out of darkness,
three blackbirds folding their wings tipped with sunset,
twelve crows threading the air and stitching
a cape that whirls them away
through the empty sky,
and don't forget the blue heron
stalking the shallows for bluegills,
and don't forget the otter backpaddling past you,
and the turtles perched on the log like shoes
lined up each night in a large family,
and don't forget the owl
who has watched over you
since you were born.
Be the housekeeper of trees,
who have nothing to keep
~ Nancy Willard, from The Sea at Truro
Image: the tree that held my first treehouse and the field beyond.