Tuesday, October 04, 2011

On Getting High


Okay, here I am, a 54-year-old boy, and I'm building a treehouse. Before I tell you why (and exactly what I am planning), I'm sure you are thinking, "That's silly. A treehouse? You are a grown man. You have no spare time. You are likely to fall out. And if you do, you will surely break something that can't be fixed. What are you thinking?"

Well, actually, that's what I have been thinking ... every time I work on it. And yet, still I feel compelled to continue. My tree house is out in the forest (from its perch, 20 feet off the forest floor, you can't see a single civilized thing). I am building it much more solidly than I ever built treehouses as a kid (buying real pressure-treated lumber instead of scavenging half-rotten boards from the dump; using real galvanized nails and joist hangers rather than tying things together with spare pieces of old rope and wire; etc.) I even invested in a climbing harness, so that in case I do take a tumble that would otherwise be 20 feet, I will merely injure myself by falling 6 feet and not (hopefully) kill myself.

So the tree house (level 1 ... level 2 comes later) will be 100 foot square and very solid. It will cost a few hundred bucks or so, but I can afford that now. And I have BIG plans ... ... including a quick escape hatch and a zip line for skimming through the forest at treetop level. A hammock for lazy summertime naps. 360-degree mosquito netting. Perhaps even a small firepit for evening warmth. (I know what you are thinking ... building a fire in a tree? Well, at least I'll have the escape hatch if things go desperately awry.)

So, why am I building it? My first excuses sounded like good ones: I have a granddaughter (almost a year old) ... she is going to want a treehouse to play in, eventually, right? Grandpa will need to have something good to offer to compete with Grandma's baking skills. I work with college-aged students. All the guys in the group are very excited about this project. (A place to get away, "no girls allowed," and talk about what really matters. Plus there's the zip line.) And then there is my nephew, Kyle, who has been helping me build. It's a great opportunity to get to hang out with him, he's a fun guy.

But even if you take away these "excuses" ... would I stop building it? No. So now the truth comes out: It's also for me. And the really crazy thing is, I'm terrified of heights. I just think about being that high, and my palms sweat. The climbing harness helps a bit ... I know I can trust it. But still, every time I get up there, hammer in hand, I can't stop my hands from shaking, and it takes an effort of will to concentrate on the task at hand.

So, I guess this is my way of confronting my fears. (Who knows? Next maybe I'll go bungy jumping.)

Okay, I'm not sure what the moral of the story is here. So I'll send this photo, taken high up in the tree. (Can you see the fear in my eyes? If so, consider these the "before" photos of what will later -- hopefully -- become a "before & after" post.)

We'll see if this therapy works!

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