I recently got a hit from Google Alert telling me that my book, Treehouse Chronicles, had been mentioned somewhere on the Web. Typically, these alerts are meaningless–the web sites cited somehow mention the words “treehouse” and “chronicles” but it’s often just some oddball reference to Narnia.
But this time, the alert brought me to David Montie’s site, Treehouse By Design, and a wonderful online review he had written about the book. Before I get to the review, please let me shamelessly recommend David’s site to anyone interested in treehouses. It’s extensive, well layed out, friendly, and inspiring. He has a nice blog and extensive links (lots of books). The photos of his treehouse overlooking a lake in British Columbia are great, and make me a little jealous (all I can see from my treehouse is about 20 miles of rolling New England countryside–what a shame). Please visit David’s site.
Here’s David’s stellar review of Treehouse Chronicles:
Treehouse Chronicles is a book of self-reflection written by a man who comes to understand himself via the realization of his childhood dream: a treehouse. This is one particular path, and although other people will find their own way to manifest meaning in their life, most will regard the tale with awe and envy: a 300 square foot, 2 story, wooden structure weighing in at 6000 pounds suspended from a single tree. If this sounds amazing to you – and you’ve experienced your own “acute adult onset adolescence” – then reading about the challenges of building a tree house on this scale is an ideal way to inspire you to go out and discover what you’re really made of.
To the uninitiated, building a tree house seems like an undertaking for any average construction enthusiast – a couple of weekends worth of work, some wrangling, getting it all up in the tree, and voilá: a tree house. However, speaking from my own experience, a whole constellation of personal content comes into a project like this. Usually these issues are best described as disillusionment with the default reality (possibly triggered by a dull life in the monoculture suburbs) and a persistent, life-long, child-like enthusiasm for outlandish creations. And, incidentally, these motivations always conflict with the practical engineering requirements involved in a project like this. And that tension makes this story interesting and suspenseful.
This book can be viewed as a diagnostic manual and comprehensive how-to resource for building your dreams. Treehouse Chronicles provides excellent technical information and illustrated structural drawings that are an inspiration to behold. And, the book also contains an honest and compelling narrative about the personal factors related to such a project such as the intangible rewards that come from its completion. It is much, much more than just a book about saws, nails, and trees – it is about the balance of forces that define a person: Relationship with nature, other people, and the self-actualization of dreams. And, I’m glad to report, the book delivers in all these ways.
This would be a good time to introduce the author of the book, and the builder of the tree house, Peter Lewis. His tale starts with being disillusioned with life in suburbia, lost in the imposed structure of cookie-cutter homogeneity, and a pivotal moment that made him opt to move his family across the country for something unknown. Along the way he rediscovers the value of family, friends, a self-directed life, and the pursuit of dreams.
While reading this book I got the feeling that I was eves dropping in a dialogue between Henry David Thoreau and Norm Abram (from the New Yankee Workshop television show). The book philosophizes around some significant issues in our modern life and then anchors these abstract concepts with hard examples from the building process at hand that day. For Lewis, it seems that philosophy and woodwork are two pursuits that, when traveled in parallel, lead him to find his true self.
I like how optimism runs through the narrative as Lewis demonstrates that we are in a unique position in history, a very fortunate one actually, in our freedom to realize our dreams. Today’s world provides a wealth of tools, access to information, and the personal freedom to challenge the default assumptions about happiness and success. You and I are free to ditch the consumer model of material wealth and go out to create our own vision of it.
Granted, not everyone defines utopia as a tree house in Maine, but there are lessons and insights here that are universal: Self-empowerment, confidence to pursue a dream, improvisation around challenges, and how to deal with fear of the unknown. You could read this book and substitute any number of life goals and the basic recipe is the same: It is about the process, and the people you inspire along the way, that matter in achieving the end result. Chasing a dream requires one to learn how to enjoy the little rewards found in each moment, it’s not about the resale value of what’s left over when you’re done.
And, the nice thing about Lewis’s particular dream is that it’s possible for him to walk out into his backyard, crawl up a staircase, and retreat into it for a nap anytime he likes.