Beal St. George
The year I turned 5, my father spent the fall building me a treehouse. It had a working wood stove and windows that closed and opened and shingles on the roof. By November, it was time for my birthday party, and he was still nailing the last baluster on the porch railing as the families pulled up. I think a few of them decided right then and there that they wouldn’t let their kids play up in the sky like that.
In my imagination as a young child, there were whole worlds inside of that treehouse; the backyard contained universes. This is the bakery. Over here is where the fairies live. Under the lilac bushes we play hide and seek. We’ll change it again tomorrow.
The Treehouse in October 2019
It’s possible the treehouse was as much for my father as it was for me—he would go up there to meditate. Maybe there’s a metaphor here about how my dad, a pilot who spent more time in the air than on the earth, felt most grounded at great heights.
I was never big on carousels, but I did learn what a metaphor was from Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game. My dad would play it on the guitar and sing; I’d prance around on the lavender carpet and chime in every time the painted ponies went up and down.
Last September, within months of my 30th birthday, that mammoth maple that held up my treehouse began to fail. My dad’s building skills hadn’t—the house itself was still structurally sound, but it had outlived nature. Twenty-five years into its existence, the supporting limbs were giving way. Some hemming and hawing ensued: do we pay thousands of dollars to get the thing removed? Muck up the yard with machinery?
In the end, a brave soul in a bucket truck came by with a mandate to protect the power lines. From the roadside, suspended in an aerial lift, he cleanly severed the necessary tree limbs. My dad sent me the video of the treehouse meeting its demise in just four seconds. The amputated tree lives on. And the seasons, they go round and round.
Utility worker pictured next to wreckage