When was the last time you shared with a tree? Were enlarged by its whispers, its stillness loosening tensions? Perhaps as a child you sought refuge in a tree house, a rough-hewn container for your dreams, fantasies where the world suddenly made sense. Alone or with special friends, you felt whole. Immersed within unseen rhythms, laughter tickled, at times releasing tears.

Missouri Botanical Garden

This summer for the kid within us, and for the kids we love, the Missouri Botanical Garden is offering an unusual exhibit of tree houses, in conjunction with the U. N. International Year of Forests; its purpose is to raise awareness of sustainable management, conservation, and development of all types of forests, worldwide.

 Nomad Nest

Nomad Nest, the first of nine tree houses erected around the lush grounds, seized my attention. Salvaged branches and lumber fashioned a dome shaped wrap-around that hugs a giant sycamore, Platanus occidentalis. Whimsical, inviting, textured, I slowly approached, then stopped. Inside the entrance, a blonde toddler grinned, fingering the edges of the rough-hewn log-chair upon which she sat. Then a boy in overalls stooped through one of the four crawl spaces and joined her. They looked around, smiled, then joined their mother, as there were other tree houses to explore.

Still enchanted by Nomad Nest, I sought a bench opposite it and continued marveling as other children sought its secrets. Long years before, I had sought them from my limb in our backyard’s ash tree: leafy protection from the world below, soft breezes easing tensions and cooling my hot face, stillness quieting nameless anxieties. Here I could be me. And this morning, I found similar refreshment.

Before moving on to A “Living” Room in a Garden, I slowly encircled Nomad Nest, touching the configuration of the branches, the window boxes affixed to the sides, the span of lumber tiles at the dome’s top. Then, stooping, I went inside and my little kid sat down on one of the chairs. She was content.

For the fascinating story of Nomad Nest’s designers and collaborators, Justin A. Rulo-Sabe and Theresa Joy Hitchcock from the Kansas City Art Institute, see their blog, thenomadnest.wordperss.com.