Tree Houses, Books, and the Joys of Reflection

To my parents’ chagrin, I was a climber. Long before I walked across a room, I was climbing stairs.  I clambered over picket fences as easily as those woven from wire. After I scaled Mt. Refrigerator, on a quest to reach the chocolate chips hidden away in the highest cupboard in the house, Mother laid down the law. If I wanted to climb, I would do it outside, in the trees.

No doubt she knew the maples in our front yard were too large for me to climb, just as the crabapples were too small, and the elms too brittle. But a cherry tree in the back yard turned out to be just right, with strong lower branches, and a sandbox nearby to use as a ladder. An agreement was reached. Once the fruit had been picked, I was free to scramble up as high as I could go, until branches began to snap. Then, I promised to retreat to a more secure spot.

Tree-climbing was delightful, but I wanted more. I’d seen illustrations of children tucked away in leafy bowers, surrounded by limbs, reading their books as casually as I read in my bedroom. I couldn’t imagine anything more delightful than an hour spent tree-reading, while robins tried to scold me away.

In short, I wanted a tree house. I nagged. I implored. I bargained. I offered to help with the building, or give up my allowance toward its construction costs.

It never happened. Our trees weren’t able to support the open platform most people considered a tree house in those days, and the more elaborate, often free-standing tree houses of today (some of which apparently come with architechtural drawings and a mortgage) hadn’t yet been invented. If I wanted to read, I would have to content myself with front porches, bedrooms and swings.

Still, the connection between reading and trees never was severed completely. As an adult, I indulged  myself by vacationing in grove-hidden homes: a log cabin on the Frio river, a cypress-board cottage surrounded by salt cedars, a sturdy, screened-in retreat next to freely-flowing Hill Country springs. All these isolated, simple shelters had been perfectly designed to accommodate a person, a lantern, and some books. While not tree houses in any usual sense of the phrase, they nevertheless represented the adult version of a childhood dream.

Perhaps that decades-long link between tree houses and books influenced my decision when an online site called TreeHouse: An Exhibition of the Arts emailed, asking if I’d be willing to provide an interview for their site.  Intrigued by their willingness to define the arts broadly enough to include bloggers, yet slightly ambivalent, I gave it some thought, then agreed.

It was an interesting and enjoyable experience. I thought their questions were good, and especially liked one of the simplest:  Do you have any bloggers or writers that you turn to for inspiration…?”

Some time ago, purely for fun, I already had compiled a chronological list of ten books that influenced my life in the past, and continue to do so today. One entry on the list actually is a speech, and another is a genre containing several volumes, but each of the ten has been referenced or quoted here on my blog: sometimes extensively. They’re not necessarily the best books in the world; other list-makers might turn up their noses at my choices.  On the other hand, as Alain de Botton says, “Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.'”

Here are the ten that came into my life at “just the right time.”

Heidi ~ Johanna Spyri
Gift From the Sea ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek ~ Annie Dillard
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor ~ Edited by Sally Fitzgerald
The Alexandria Quartet ~ Lawrence Durrell
The Gospel of John
The Nobel Prize Speech ~ William Faulkner
Four Quartets ~ T.S. Eliot
The White Album ~ Joan Didion
Prairy Erth ~ William Least Heat-Moon; The Control of Nature ~ John McPhee; Rising Tide – John M. Barry

If you’ve never taken the time to make such a list for yourself, I highly recommend it.  Because books come to us in particular places and at particular times, they often become imbued with particular memories. And, while they certainly open new and different worlds to us, they also are capable of  revealing us to ourselves. When that happens, it is a wonder and a joy. The tree house is lagniappe.


To read my entire interview with TreeHouse: An Exhibition of the Arts, please click here.

99 thoughts on “Tree Houses, Books, and the Joys of Reflection

  1. I remember Heidi, though it’s now a distant and hazy memory. There are some books I remember from childhood, but I can’t say which ones affected me from then on. I have tried to re-read books from then, but now find them dull and boring. So I suppose they were for me to read then and not now.

    1. I’m not sure why “Heidi” affected me so, but it certainly did. What I remember most is wanting to live on the mountain, and listen to the wind in the trees. Since I couldn’t do that, I informed my mother that I wanted to drink my milk out of a bowl, like Heidi. For a few months, that’s exactly what I did, and then that was over.

      What’s interesting is the huge gap in time between “Heidi” and “Gift from the Sea.” I was given a copy of Lindbergh’s book in Liberia, twenty years later. What was in between? Plenty of books, but nothing as memorable. That’s part of the mystery — what touches us, and when, and why. Sometimes, there’s no way to know the reason. There’s only the effect.


  2. I always feel even closer to you when you mention Barry’s ‘rising tide.’ Last month I saw the book on my sister’s bookshelf, and I asked if she’d read it. (no, it was her husband’s book…)

    I wish I could hand translated copies to every engineer, farmer, backhoe driver/etc down here so that they could learn from our mistakes.

    great post, and great interview as well. The tree-house site looks very interesting as well. Thanks for introducing us to it! z

    1. You know, there’s another treasure that belongs with Barry’s account of the Mississippi. Have you read the chapter in John McPhee’s “The Control of Nature” called “Atchafalaya”? The NY Times pulled it out from behind the paywall during the last big flood, when attention necessarily was focused not only on the Mississippi, but also on the Old River Control Structure and the Atchafalaya.

      You still can get to the piece in the NYT, but it’s overlaid with some advertisements. I’ll do another search and see if it’s cached somewhere. There’s also this set of notes from a lecture on McPhee’s piece, which gives you the outline and highlights some points that are relevant to your situation.

      Maybe you should do the translation…

      Perhaps you should think of submitting something to TreeHouse. There’s no question you’d have much to contribute. Send them their logo, redone a la Zeebra with your submission. That ought to get their attention.


  3. First…tree climbing…fun. We lived on the wide flat prairie of western IL. Trees are what we climbed for a higher view. We had a wind break north and west of the house. Mom would stand in the kitchen window and watch us climb those pines to the top. She always worried, she said. No one fell and got hurt.

    We also gathered the hay rope from the barn with a big pulley. One end got tied to a tall tree. The other end to the tractor hitch. What fun to climb the tree and zip-line down to the ground. Again, no one got hurt.

    The big cottonwood near the barn was too big to climb. It was only admired.

    I need to think more about the ‘just the right time’ book list. One of my favorites that should go on that list is the Miss Pickerell series by Ellen MacGregor.
    I was about 10-12 when I read those. They fired some synapses for me.

    1. It didn’t take any more than a glance to see why you’d remember the Miss Pickerell series: all that good science, in story form.

      I may have read some of MacGregor’s work in the Weekly Reader, but I don’t remember her name or any of her books. Part of that could be a function of it not being the “right time” for me to have crossed paths with her. She published her first book the year I was born, and by the time Miss Pickerell went to Mars, I was eleven and already heading off in different directions.

      My own mother had a straight view to the cherry tree from the kichen window. She worried some, too, but that was a time when testing limits of every sort — including the physical — was what kids did. It was part of learning that the world is real. Push, and it pushes back. I think science has something to say about that.

      Of course, my mother grew up swinging down ropes in her grandfather’s hay barn. She may have been thanking her lucky stars I didn’t have access to a barn.


  4. That is very true about being ready for a certain book. When it’s time, the book will find you; or you will find it. Either way, I do believe in that. I had a book for nearly 20 years that I just could not give away while I was giving away many other books before a move. I had no reason in mind, I just could not let it go. Nothing sentimental, just could not let it go. Many years later I picked it up and it changed my life.

    While I didn’t have a treehouse, I did have a penchant for jumping off the garage roof onto the driveway.

    Good interview.

    1. Martha, I had precisely that experience iwth one of the books on my list: Joan Didion’s “The White Album.” I carted that thing around with me for ages before I finally opened it. When I did, and got to the essay about Georgia O’Keeffe, I was stunned. The entire book is a good one, especially for someone who enjoys the essay form, but the heart of its effect on me was that single chapter.

      I was surprised when Gary Myers posted a clip of a PBS story about O’Keeffe a couple of days ago. Some of the quotations in Didion’s piece are identical to those in the video. It was quite something not just to read them, but to hear them from O’Keeffe herself.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. And isn’t it appropriate, given the O’Keeffe connection, that your photo of the cabin in Wisconsin is my header?


  5. First, this.

    Then, Pogo hit me square in the middle of age 12, when I was already in love with reading, and added art to reading, and wordplay to both of them, and hit the bullseye. It’s one of those “deep” things in my life like the old Warner Brothers movie cartoons from the 1930’s and ’40’s that they used to run on TV for the “after school” time when I was in elementary school. It took me decades to grow into Kelly’s political satire, and all the oblique references in the cartoons, and to see the movies they’d parodied.

    I had an annotated “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through The Looking Glass” that explained all the oblique references this Texas child missed, being a world and an age away from the books. I came to Winnie The Pooh late — college age — when the charm-like simplicity and gentle whimsey were refreshing and brilliant. I hit C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine trilogy after a decade and a half of reading science fiction and fantasy written by men (for men), and it was a revelation — a sword-slinging sword and sorcery heroine. Whooda thunk. I heartily recommend her Chanur books (there are 5) to cat lovers and her Foreigner series to thoughtful readers (you don’t have to start with the first one, but you’ll be miffed at yourself later if you don’t). You don’t have to be a fan of the genres to take away things from her books. They all have strong characters (most of them, but not all of them, women) in situations that hit square in the middle of the human condition. She examines humanity by juxtaposing it against remarkably vivid and well-imagined alien cultures.

    I’m a child of the imagination, and scifi and fantasy are where I usually dwell. I rarely venture into nonfiction, so I can’t say I’ve read any of the books on your list except Heidi.

    1. That clip from Tree House Masters is amazing, and the structure is wonderful. The only thing is, it doesn’t seem to me at all like a tree house. I can’t put my finger on why that is, except that, for me, the point of a tree house is to keep a balance between the tree and the house. Once you begin over-constructing, and decorating, and putting up every sort of whiz-bang accessory — well, it’s just not for me.

      Now, in that particular situation, things are a little different. The adaptations like the automatic door have a specific purpose, and I’d not fuss about that at all. If my child was in that situation, and that tree house came along, I’d rejoice.

      I’m with you on Pogo. I started with “Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie,” and slowly developed an appreciation for all the other things going on in that strip. And yes, I still can hear the theme music from those cartoons. Talk about must-see tv. Those were the days when having a friend over to watch cartoons was a big deal.

      The Alice books were favorites. As a matter of fact, they were part of a Children’s Classics series I had, which also included Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and such. But the fantasy and science fiction? I plead ignorance. I’ve not heard of any ot the other books you mention.

      Did I ever tell you about Carl Anderson’s site called Stainless Steel Droppings? He’s a great writer himself, and passionate about sci-fi, fantasy and so on. If you’ve not visited, I know you’d enjoy it.


        1. That’s really sweet of you, but honestly — I can’t promise that I would. My stack of to-dos and to-reads is so high right now I dare not tackle anything else. What I have done is put it on my list, and as I get into January and February, there may be more downtime and more “free-reading” time. I do promise to let you know what I think, when I get to it.

  6. A lovely interview over at the Tree House. I particularly appreciated this comment “My view is that each post isn’t an end in itself, but the beginning of a conversation and it’s that conversation I hope to nourish. The interaction with (and among) readers helps to make blogs unique, and the sense of shared history can be marvelous.” It is how I feel about my posts, too. The comments are as important as the post.

    I did have a tree house; not especially built for me but for my mother’s pre-school which was in our own backyard. I didn’t read there much; I preferred the cool dimness of the playroom. I don’t have a book list like yours but Gift from the Sea is one of my most treasured possessions. I first read the book in my early 20s, whilst at a beachside cottage. Perhaps it’s time to revisit both book and cottage.

    1. I don’t know how you did it, Gallivanta, but I constructed my “About” page before going live with my blog, and it’s remained essentially the same through all these years. Looking back, I see that I listed “good conversation” as my favorite sport. It was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but only slightly. At the time, I had no idea that blogs could engender conversation, but they surely do, and I know that you’ve drawn as much pleasure from that aspect of blogging as I have.

      Just today, I noticed something else about the choices I recorded on that page. When I posed “Ocean or mountains?” I chose mountains Given my sailling, it seemed an odd choice to some people — even to me. But now that I look at this post, with the memories of being a climbing child, and a favorite book about a young girl living on a mountain with her grandfather: I may have found at least part of the reason for the choice.

      There’s no question Lindbergh’s book was formative for many of us of our generation. I’ve read it so many times, and handed on so many copies, I can’t count them. Since reading the book, a moon shell or sundial shell always has been on my desk, just as a reminder.


      1. For my recent post “Finishing what I started” I had cause to review my About page. Perhaps it needs an update but, basically, most of what I wrote then still holds true, although, at the time, I really had no idea how my blog would develop or exactly what I would write. And when I first started to write I wasn’t sure if anyone would read my posts, let alone converse with me!
        Perhaps your choice between mountains and sea is more a choice between between dry and wet ? Mountains often contain remnants of their previous life under water, so mountains hold the essence of sea. And when you sail you are essentially moving over the tops of mountains. You are scaling mountains in a different way ;) Just a strange little thought, some of which I may have taken from one of Lindbergh’s diaries. I remember in Nepal wondering why I , an island child, felt so at home in a mountain country. I decided that it was because I had not left the sea at all but it had come with me in the essence of the mountains that were once part of the ocean floor.

        1. It’s certainly true that the sea is all around us, even in one of my favorite areas of Texas: the Hill Country. A few aeons ago, much of it was seabed. I have a lovely copper basket filled with flint nodules and fossilized shells I’ve collected over the years: clams, whelks, and others. The best is a huge whorled shelll that’s still alongside a certain creek, half-embedded in its limestone and, as luck would have it, on private property. With any luck, it will be there a while longer.

    1. DM, you’d be my first choice. Wouldn’t that be a fun project? Of course, before I could have a tree house, I’d need a tree — or at least something other than palms. I’d need to still be able to climb, too. There’s something about taking a stairway up to a treehouse that just isn’t right!


  7. I enjoy reading lists like yours. There was a challenge going around facebook recently to list 10 books that have “stayed with you” (or something like that). The instructions said not to think too long or worry about whether the list would be impressive, but instead to just dash off the first 10 that come to mind. I took the challenge but didn’t save the list. I’m sure if I tried that again about half the books in my original list would show up again and the other half would be different every time. It really is a fun exercise.

    I’ve read the Gospel of John and Mr. Faulkner’s speech. Annie Dillard’s book has been recommended to me more times than I can count, but I’ve still never read it. I’ve read all of Miss O’Connors fiction, but I can’t recall reading her letters. As for the rest of your list, other than the Eliot, I don’t even recognize the titles. :) Which is one of the things that makes lists like this fun!

    1. When I made my list, I was trying to pinpoint books that have continued to live for me: the ones I keep going back to for one reason or another, those I’ve read so often and so deeply that I find passages simply by opening the book.

      The list has been around for a while, but when I wrote this post, I had a little fun with the WordPress Omnisearch function. I entered each of the books, then each of the authors, to see how many posts and comments contain references to them.

      “Heidi” has a total of five references, but “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” tops the list with twenty-eight. If I included Dillard’s book on writing, the numbers would be even higher. In some cases, like Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” there are only a few references, but many more if I expanded to include those four poems by name, and his other works. Joan Didion’s “White Album” has only six references, but if I do a search for Georgia O’Keeffe, the subject of the most influential essay in Didion’s book (for me), the number skyrockets.

      It’s so interesting to see how different people come to different authors. I read Flannery O’Connors letters several times before I ever read any of her fiction.

      As for that speech of Faulkner’s, if you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to it, you should. You can find it here.


  8. What a wonderful interview, Linda! I really enjoyed reading it.

    I don’t know if I could come up with 10 all-time favorite books that quickly, but three pop into my head immediately: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings andCivil Disobedience and Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

    On the subject of treehouses: Treehouses: the Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb, by Peter Nelson is a wonderful book and Jayson Fann’s website on spirit nests is a fun visit.

    I really must read Annie Dillard …

    1. Jeff, I’ve never heard of a spirit nest, let alone seen one. That’s a remarkable process, and the photos are fabulous. I thought it was interesting that they use eucalyptus. I didn’t realize that wood is so well suited for projects like that.

      I finally read “The Yearling” two or three years ago, and have become much more familiar with Thoreau since I began blogging. One of the things I love about this new world we have is the exposure to new things, and the invitations to re-engage with the old.

      And yes — you really must read Dillard. “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” is filled with science, philosophy, close observation of the natural world, hints of the unseen and beautiful writing. I think it would be to your taste.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was fun to do.


  9. I was also a tree climber in my youth. I remember the urge to climb the highest trees in our area. The highest one was a robust breadfruit tree several meters high. From the top I could see a distant golf course, our house, the railroad, and the extensive banana plantations. It was nice to feel the cool breeze constantly blowing on my face and moving my hair softly. I felt like the king of the Universe. Then all of a sudden, the urge was gone. I have never climbed a tree since.

    One of my first books was also Heidi by Johanna Spyri. My father gave it to me when I was seven or eight, I don’t remember exactly. It was a long time ago. After I read the book, I saw the movie.

    Even though it is not one of my favorite books, I remember it vividly in my mind: Heidi, the grandfather, the mountains, and the Sesemanns’ strict housekeeper, Fräulein Rottenmeier.

    My favorite book was, “The Private and Public Life of Socrates” written by René Kraus. I read it one chapter at a time at the public library of San José Costa Rica. I was 22 years old then. That’s a man I will never forget as long as I live: Socrates.

    Great post for a Sunday morning. Kept my thinking juices flowing.

    Best Wishes,


    1. Omar, I just searched out some photos of the breadfruit tree. They would have been wonderful for climbing. I don’t remember ever eating breadfruit, so I wondered if the trees grow in Liberia. It seems they do, but breadfruit wasn’t part of our diet, and I don’t remember seeing it in the markets.

      Isn’t it funny how something that’s been so much a part of our life can fade away so quickly? A friend and I were talking about that the other day. Both of us have done a lot of sailing, but the interest is gone now. We don’t have any regrets, there just are other things to do. Growth and change – they’re part of life, in many ways.

      Apparently Kraus’s book isn’t available online. I snooped around a little, and only found library copies or hardbound for sale. For several years I was quite fond of a quotation which I believed to belong to Socrates: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Since finding the Quote Investigator, I’ve discovered many of my favorites are misattributed, including this one. It’s still a great quotation, but it seems it belongs to Plutarch.

      In any event, I dipped into this site and found it well worth the time. I’d forgotten that Socrates never wrote a thing. For some reason, that makes me smile.

      Happy evening!


      1. Thank you for your further research on René Kraus’ book about Socrates and the link about this martyr-philosopher. I found the following words very informative and proper to contrast the way Socrates was perceived over the years:

        George Gordon, Lord Byron, gives the ghost of Socrates a walk-on part in his play, “The Deformed Transformed” where two characters disagree over what is significant about Socrates:


        What! that low, swarthy, short-nosed, round-eyed satyr,
        With the wide nostrils and Silenus’ aspect,
        The splay feet and low stature! I had better
        Remain that which I am.


        And yet he was
        The earth’s perfection of all mental beauty,
        And personification of all virtue.

        I usually remain quiet for brief moments thinking about what you have written. You are one of the few bloggers that I read regularly that can provoke such a conduct in me.

        Your words, most of the time, make me think. It’s a good feeling.



        1. What an interesting exchange. I’d not heard of “The Deformed Transformed.” I found it online, and got rather caught up in it. Finally, when the Stranger took on the identity of Ceasar, and he and Count Arnold headed off for more adventures, I had to stop for the time being. But I’m looking forward to finishing it.

          When I went back and read the section about Socrates’ appearance, I had to laugh at the thought that came to mind. The interchange points to a great truth: that, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

          Thanks for the great citation. Always a pleasure to have your additions, Omar.

  10. Congratulations on the interview. I loved your portrait and learning more about you. AND I now have a couple of books to add to my reading list. Thanks.

    1. Rosemary, any time I can add something to your reading list, I’m more than pleased. I’m sure you feel like I do: if I started reading now, I still wouldn’t have time to read everything I’d like to, before my reading days are over.

      The most amusing thing about using that portrait is that it conjured up the very voice of my beloved and now departed mother. What was she saying? “You’re not going to put up a picture showing gray hair, are you!?”

      Ah, me. Gone, but not forgotten — and maybe not as gone as we imagine!


  11. This reminds me of “The rest of the story”. Knowing you as “Linda the varnish lady” I enjoyed reading about your life.

    After I read your essay, it reminded me of a book I read long ago. The Starship and the Canoe by Kenneth Brower. It tells the tale of Freeman Dyson and his son George. Freeman was a brilliant physics professor and researcher. His son took a different path. He lived in a TREEHOUSE in the PNW and built a Baidarka (Native American sea kayak) and traveled all over the PNW. Perhaps there is a treehouse/boat/ocean gene that has not been discovered yet.

    I am still hanging on, living surrounded by Lutherans in the “Norway of Texas”, Clifton.

    Ken formerly aboard Satori.

    1. I was trying to remember how long we’ve known each other, Ken. It’s certainly ten or twelve years, and maybe longer. Amazing, actually.

      I knew that George Dyson’s name rang a bell. He not only lived in a treehouse and floated around in his Baidarka, he wrote books. One is “Turing’s Cathedral.” I saw it mentioned in an article about Alan Turing, who just last week was inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor. Sometimes I think everything truly is connected to everything else.

      When I think about my days living aboard a Catalina 31, the boat/treehouse analogy seems right on. There certainly are treehouses bigger than that crazy boat.

      You really surprised me with your reference to the Norway of Texas. I don’t usually think of a Norwegian heritage here. On the other hand, there is Danevang, and their Danish Museum. I wish there were more Swedes around. I’d love some good Swedish food — and no, I’m not going to IKEA.

      Good to hear from you. Don’t be a stranger.


        1. I had no idea there was a New Sweden in Texas. I’ve been to that area, but only to Austin or some of the surrounding larger towns. I’ve not done any exploring at all. The chuch reminds me of the Painted Churches around Schulenburg.

          The one Swedish phrase I remember from childhood is appropriate: here: “Tack så mycket.” Of course it means, “Thank you very much.”

  12. I liked your thoughts on what makes a book good (and your list). I think books can be read on different levels, I’ve just been reading Marilynne Robinson’s novels and some of the allusions to Christian doctrine go right over my head but I love the books because I like to spend time in the company of the characters and their world.

    1. I agree completely, Nicola, about books being read on different levels. Beyond that, I’ve found that each time I re-read one of the books on my list, different things attract my interest. I often make notes in the margins of them, so it’s even more interesting to see what I thought about something five or ten years earlier.

      I used to think it was a little trite to speak of books, or fictional characters as friends, but it makes sense to me now. And you’re right – it is nice to spend time in the company of friends.

      Thanks so much for visiting, and for your comment. You’re always wecome!


  13. As always, your writing is entertaining and I enjoyed hearing a bit about you as a young person, climbing trees and working things out with your parents. But the part I enjoyed the most was the interview and the opportunity it provided to learn a bit more about you as a person and just a little of what makes you tick. :-)

    I am glad that you decided to ignore the advice and guidelines regarding the length of a post and the frequency. The longer, less frequent postings allow you to develop your thoughts and present them wonderfully.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, Steve. In this selfie-addicted culture we live in, I suppose my natural reticence can seem as retro as wandering around with a flip phone (which I do). But, when the opportunity presented itself, it seemed good to carpe the diem, particularly since the TreeHouse site is interesting and well-maintained, and the contact with the people there was especially pleasant.

      Besides all that, it gave me a chance to flesh out my bio and replace the old one on my About page, which I’ve been needing to do. It took some time, but it was fun.

      I really appreciate your compliments about the way I’ve chosen to structure things around here. And there’s something else. People are busy, and if I’m going to present something that’s a little longer, or a little more thought-provoking, I need to grant the courtesy of time to read the darned stuff. And of course, responding to comments takes time as well.

      But, now that I’m past the interview and what that required, it’s time for me to get back to my research. The only thing I can’t decide is whether the weeds or the camels will come next.


  14. Congrats on your interview, Linda! And, love that photo! I’ve enjoyed reading your life story in a nutshell. It’s a revelation. All those years of experience explain the insights, wisdom and eloquence we find in your posts. Thank you for sharing yourself with your readers in such a way that we can glean the meaning and relevance of life experiences on one’s writing. All the best in your future endeavours! ;)

    1. I considered using another photo you know of, Arti, but didn’t think it worked so well for this purpose. I certainly smiled to see it again. Good memories.

      I think opportunities like the interview do two things. They give us a chance to look back, but they’re also a good time to pause and look forward. I wasn’t able to answer the question, “Where do you see your blog going?” with as much clarity as I would have liked, so that’s one thing to ponder.

      Two people who began blogging about the time I did jrecently closed their blogs. One needed to devote more time to earning a living, the other had grown mentally tired and said, “Enough.” I enjoyed both blogs, and hated to see them go, but I understand. Money and energy are hard to come by, and if blogging is draining reserves of both, it’s blogging that needs to go.

      On the other hand, I somehow got it right, six years ago, when I wrote, “My dock provides both things Virginia Woolf recommended for a woman who writes: money, from the labor, and a room of my own — space and solitude for thought,..” I used to say, “If only I could retire, I’d have more time to write.” Now I think, “I’d better not retire. It would make it harder to write.” The balance between physical labor and creative thought seems to be important for me, so that stays.

      I posted that piece about Chase Jarvis after I completed the interview. There’s some pretty good advice there that I need to take to heart myself.


  15. Most of Long Island, including the part where I grew up, is flat, so I didn’t have to climb all that high up in the maple tree in front of our house—maybe as little as 20 ft.—for the world for miles around to come into view. Each suburb had at least one water tower, and from my perch in the maple tree I could see water towers in every direction.

    Over the half-century since then, my suburban town gradually lost its sub- and grew more like Queens, the borough of New York City a few miles to the west. I believe many of the trees that lined the streets are gone now, but they’ll always live on in memory.

    1. Your comment about the water towers reminded me of July 4th celebrations here. From a high enough perch, you can see fireworks going off in little towns all around Galveston Bay: San Leon, Bacliff, LaPorte, Texas City, Baytown.

      And of course sailors utilized the crow’s nest near the top of the mast exactly as you used your tree: for a better view of the horizon, and maybe even of land. Like many of your trees, crow’s nests have nearly disappeared, but here and there a person still can have the experience, as on Texas’s tall ship, the Elissa. It would have been good to have a shot taken outward rather than downward, but sometimes hanging on comes first.


  16. I was a tree climber (but I never got a Tree House), then it was boulders, then rocks, then hills and mountains. I never tire of going somewhere high and sitting in the stillness and looking out. I once went on a walking holiday with others from my Cambridge college led by the Dean of College (a classics scholar) who carried with him a copy of the Psalms in Hebrew and would sit on the top of a hill and read from the Psalms. He was an extraordinary man who I was privileged to know. Fascinating interview as well, Linda, which I enjoyed reading.

    1. From the looks of your holiday photos, Andy, I’d say you’ve done rather well in your pursuit of heights. And what pleasure it must be to go back from time to time, to see them in all seasons, and in different ways.

      I did a bit of “mountain” climbing myself as a child. The lump on the right in this photo was my grandparents’ combination storm cellar and root cellar. I called it my mountain, and here I am at the summit. My mother wouldn’t allow pigtails, so clearly I was on my long summer visit to my grandparents.

      I love the thought of a classics scholar leading a walking holiday. My sense is that too few students have such experiences these days — but of course, too few students experience the classics at all, let alone in such a setting.

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview. Everyone should have a new experience now and then, and that surely was one for me.


  17. I loved, loved, loved this Linda! Much to think about. I felt Heidi was a part of my actual past, and thought I would keep looking for it again. It was my daughter’s favorite book, and she did a small painting of it at age 9 which I framed over her bed. In your booklist, I have read most, but there were a couple I will look into. Your interview was wonderful.

    I was a climber too. Fig trees mostly, but a certain cherry tree tossed me onto the ground and onto a rusty nail. I believe there were cherries on it at the time.

    Great comments as usual. I learn so much from reading.

    1. Kayti, I can see it — that cherry tree flexing its branches and sending you flying with a “Begone, wench!” The figs probably were more accepting. Actually, I’d never seen a fig tree until moving to Texas, and some of them would make great climbing trees. The branches are close together, of course, but those big, spreading leaves make a wonderful hiding spot.

      It’s always fun to find another “Heidi” fan, and special that your daughter loved it enough to make a painting of it. I did some looking to see if the old Children’s Classics version of it still can be found, and of course it can. Not only that, you can get a pristine first edition for only about $20K. Gold leaf and nice engraving make it a special bargain! Of course, it’s not in English, so there’s that.

      I’m glad you liked the interview, and glad you found something on the book list to intrigue you. If you’ve never read Didion’s essay on O’Keeffe, you’d love it.


  18. There is a special something about being in trees, isn’t there! When I was a kid (waaay back when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn) We had some huge lilac trees in our back yard. I acquired an old bedspread (a very heavy, tough one) and managed to make a hammock out of it and hung it as high as I could in those lilacs. It was a peaceful refuge where I read dozens of good books and listened to the baseball games. Good memories!

    1. montucky, I can’t even tell you how wonderful lilac trees sound. They were one of my favorite spring flowers, but we only had bushes. Granted, they were biggish bushes, but nothing you could attach a hammock to.

      Lilacs, breeze, books, baseball. That’s the very essence of childhood — and enjoyment. I made do with a porch swing instead, but the experience was much the same, and you’re right: the memories are wonderful.


  19. Your comment about climbing the cherry tree, reminded me of how I really liked to climb a Seckel Pear tree in our back yard when I was a child. I suppose that it also was just the right size for a kid to climb.

    1. When you get right down to it, that’s probably one of the first rules for a good climber — start with something small enough to guarantee success. Your Seckel pears sound good, Sheryl. I had to look them up, since my knowledge of pears is pretty limited. The descriptions I read made them sound like good pears for a child: small, and sweet.

  20. My favorite sentence? The tree house is lagniappe! Do all your readers know that word? I used it the other day when the deputy-editor of GQ France was on board my boat, and would you believe it? She didn’t know the word. She’s from Paris, but obviously this is not a word common to her vocabulary.

    I had to tell her it means something extra, while she pondered the meaning. I could see her mental wheels spinning as she tried to figure out from whence the word derived. She never said, so I’m left wondering if it is colloquialism of south Louisiana. Time for a search, I reckon! Love this piece, and I took you for a tree-house-reader all along!

    1. You’re right on target, BW. The reason your visitor from France didn’t know the word is that it’s not French, even though it sounds like it should be. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it refers to a “dividend, something extra,” It traces back to 1849, and the OED says it’s “New Orleans Creole, of unknown origin though much speculated upon.”

      They add that it’s “said to be from American Spanish la ñapa ‘the gift,’ perhaps in turn from Quechua yapa ‘something added, gift.’

      In “Life on the Mississippi,” Mark Twain talks about running across the word in NOLA, and refers to the shopkeepers making a habit of lagniappe. That’s pretty cool.

      I never thought twice about using it, which probably means it’s become embedded in my vocabulary, along with pirogue, chenier, sac-au-lait, and poule d’eau. Well, and laissez les bon temps rouler, which we certainly hope you’re doing next week!


  21. I am familiar with your tree house thoughts dear Linda! And yes, you are exactly saying right, tree house is a lagniappe!

    As always in your writing world you captured me again… Do you know what makes me amazed, :) we are both coming from different cultures, and even different languages,…etc. But when I read you, when I find myself in your writing world, nothing seems in difference… And I can say there wasn’t a tree house in my childhood… it is almost coming from western cultures… But today we can see in some garden of houses…. And also how impressed me the connection between books and tree house! But this is clear, I wasn’t a climber as you in my childhood days :) but I was a dreamer of mountains (still I am :) )

    Anyway, Thank you so much for this beautiful writing and sharing, you almost took me a voyage into my memories and also into a beautiful worlds. Love, nia

    1. Nia, I’m so glad this post was pleasing to you, and that it brought you good memories. It is amazing that, despite so many differences, we can enjoy each other’s worlds. I’ve not had time to really look at the photos in your henna party post, but I will. One glance told me a wonderful truth: even though our customs are so different, our emotions on such occasions are the same.

      As for tree houses, I still remember those magical posts you offered, the ones showing little houses built into the trunks of trees. They seemed perfect for fairies or elves. Wouldn’t it be fun to be small, and live there?

      With our cameras and our words, we open our worlds to one another. It’s such a good thing!

      And as always, thank you for your kind words, and for sharing your own special times with us.


  22. What a good idea, Linda! One of those on your list — Gift of the Sea — is one that also came into my life at the right time and has remained a favorite re-read ever since.

    I always had trouble tree climbing. My friend Nancy could shimmy high. I was lucky to get up to the perfectly (and naturally) carved out curve, down low in our apple tree, where I could hang out and read. High enough to give me the illusion I could climb; low enough that even if I fell out on my head, no harm done! Must check out your interview!

    1. Believe it or not, Jeanie, I was given “Gift From the Sea” in Liberia. I don’t remember the name of the woman who gave it to me, only that she was German, and heading back home after vacation. She was trying to lighten her luggage, and I was pleased to oblige. It’s great beach reading. I’ll bet it would do for the lake, too.

      Speaking of the lake, I read a truly great piece written by a fellow who just winterized his cabin in Priest Lake, Idaho. I know you’d enjoy reading this.

      I suspect your mom was happy with your “all things in moderation” approach — to tree climbing, at least.


  23. Well, I love the interview, top to bottom. Very pleased to visit your treehouse! Bookwise, I have been daunted by the prospect of coming up with a list. Here’s my very first try ever:

    War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
    Danube (Claudio Magris)
    Doktor Faustus (Thomas Mann)
    Mr. Mani (A. B. Yehoshua)
    Waterland (Graham Swift)
    Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)
    The Siege of Krishnapur (J. G. Farrell)
    The World of Yesterday (Stefan Zweig)
    The Radetzky March (Joseph Roth)
    The Waves (Virginia Woolf)

    No sooner will I post this, than I will come up with the one I totally overlooked (or several).

    1. What a list, Susan. It’s fascinating to see. Bill said he’d read only two on my list, and I’ve read two on yours: “War and Peace” and “The Waves.” I recognize Thomas Mann, of course, and I know I was assigned one of his books to read, but I don’t remember which it was.

      Otherwise, it was mostly new territory to me, apart from what I think I remember as background reading for some of your posts. The one that appeals most is “Mr. Mani.” That one’s on the to-be-read list, now. I’d better guard my good health, if I’m going to have time to get to all these.

      There are plenty of books I could have added, too. Many of them are on my bookshelf, and some even have been re-read multiple times. They’re just not on the list called, “If I have to be banished to a desert island, these are the ones I want to take.”


      1. I don’t know why, but I suspect you’d love the Siege of Krishnapur. If the category were desert island books, I’d probably have to come up with a couple reference books for the list, but what, I can’t imagine!

  24. Books have certainly come into my life at a particular time and place. After reading Lessing’s The Golden Notebook in the early 70s, I began keeping journals and have kept them since. And Sometimes a Great Notion brought me to the place of deciding I would no longer change the world (I’d done Civil Rights and Women’s Rights and anti-war – an endless list) by protesting or manning the barricades but change the world one person at a time. I still tell my students that every class. I change the world one person at a time and you and you and you are the way I change it.

    1. Of course I know Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but I have to admit I don’t know “Sometimes a Great Notion.” I’ve always tended to think of Kesey in terms of the Merry Pranksters, the bus, and the tales told by people like Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe.

      What’s a little startling is that the wiki entry, in describing the plot of the book, describes a struggle being paralleled in El Matal, Ecuador, where one of my readers lives. It’s the ocean doing the damage, but the nearby river is involved, too, and erosion is the issue. Thanks to you, I’m going to pass the novel on to her. I suppose I could add a note about it coming along at the right time for her place.

      As for grabbing a torch and crying, “Aux barricades!”, you’ve reminded me of a semi-annual event in my search terms category. Twice a year, I’m innundated by people who’ve landed here by searching for some variant of “A mob has many heads but no brains.” Apparently it’s in the curriculum — probably high school. I hope the lesson gets across.


  25. We already discussed our joint love of the Alexandria Quartet, Linda. Of your selection, I am also a big fan of John McPhee.

    Our neighbor, when we were growing up, had cherry trees. We’d invite our little friends over in the summer to sleep outside with us. Around one a.m. we would sneak across Highway 49, climb over the fence and up into the trees. Cherries never tasted sweeter. The neighbor, who used his cherries for making wine, didn’t have much of a sense of humor about our excursions.

    My brother and I decided to build a tree house in a tall incense cedar that lived in graveyard behind our house with some liberated lumber. Our dad caught us. He wasn’t so concerned about the liberated lumber, or even the fact that we had borrowed his tools without asking. His concern was that we were building the tree house 60 plus feet up in the tree on limbs that were guaranteed to break. After graphically describing the likely results, he built us this wonderful fort 20 feet up in the tree. I enjoyed it for years and spent many a happy hour eating confiscated cherries and reading up there.


    1. Although I didn’t mention it here, McPhee’s book about the pine barrens transformed my view of New Jersey. I’m in awe of the man.

      Your tale of building the treehouse with your brother certainly made me smile, Curt. “Farther, A Little Farther, and Really, Really High” apparently was part of your makeup early on. It was interesting to see you call your retreat a “fort,” rather than a house. We had forts, too, but they were snow forts, and involved great snow ball battles. (No ice balls allowed!)

      Stealing fruit’s a time-honored tradition everywhere, I suppose. I still remember the lure of our neighbor’s strawberries, and one of my mother’s favorite tales was of her first date with my dad. He was bragging about going off with his friends and stealing a watermelon. As it turned out, they had stolen it from my grandfather’s melon patch: yes, my mother’s dad. Apparently they worked things out, because I’m here to tell the story.


      1. Love the watermelon story. I am sure it became a family legend.

        Tom Brown, the outdoor/wilderness expert and tracker changed my perspective on the Pine Barrens.

        As for the tree house/fort, I have to give my older brother Marshall credit. He was always on the outer edge of risk taking. “Gee, what will happen if we smash this 22 bullet between rocks?” I like to say when he screamed, my dad ran. When I screamed, he walked.


  26. Linda, I so relate to the picture of you sitting inside a tree house reading. Perhaps that’s because I, too, spent quite a bit of my childhood climbing trees and relishing the feeling of being close to nature! While I never had a tree house of my own, I knew others who had them — and I feel quite sure they didn’t enjoy them or appreciate them near as much as I know I would have.

    I’ve loved books all my life. I can remember getting my first library card, poking through the stacks, and selecting an immense pile of books to check out, then hurrying home to curl up in my room and READ. Those were blissful times, encouraged by my parents and teachers who were only too happy to have a kid who didn’t give them any trouble, ha!

    I’m intrigued by your list of ten books that came along at the right time. Thanks for the encouragement to prepare a similar list of my own! And your interview was fascinating — very well done.

    1. Although it certainly wasn’t the point of my post, Debbie, your comment only has added to my sense that changes in the way kids are raised today have as much to do with childhood obesity as diet. Look how many of us were tree climbers, and how free we were to be outdoors, simply playing. We ran, we biked, we climbed. We were active. Yes, our parents watched out for us, but they were just as likely to encourage us as to fuss. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Get outdoors and play!”

      Beyond that, books and trees go together in a way electronic gizmos and trees don’t. I know a couple of people who’ve done damage to their fancy phones when only a kitchen floor or a driveway was involved. I wonder what a dropping a Kindle from 20′ could do?

      I loved your description of those trips to the library. As far as I was concerned, that’s what a bicycle basket was for: carrying books around. And libraries? Going there was an experience in a way no electronic download ever will be. I fully understand the convenience and so on, but nothing ever will replace the hush, the slightly dusty odor, the creak of the floor, or the dimness of the stacks in a good library. I’m glad I got to experience it and I know you are too.


  27. Linda, I really enjoyed this post. So- you were a tree climber and now, maybe partially or totally a tree hugger. :-)

    The interview was excellent and I had no idea that you were once a pastor. You have lived a varied and wonderful life. Everyone should be so fortunate.

    I was forbidden to climb a tree but I spent many hours playing and drawing in the soil or dirt underneath the native junipers, hackberrries or, mexquite.

    1. You’ve got me pegged, Yvonne. I suppose I wouldn’t go to the lengths of occupying a tree to keep it from being cut down, or chaining myself to one, but as far as I’m concerned, every tree in the world deserves a hug.

      Oh, everyone has their little secrets. The (occupational) rise and fall of her daughter used to make Mom nervous. She’d look at me and say, “Social worker, pastor, varnisher. What’s next? Pole dancer?” But yes — it’s been a wonderful life and still is.

      One of my best childhood friends was forbidden to climb trees, too. She’d come along with us, though, and do what you did: play underneath the trees. She carried crayons and a little notebook with her, and liked to draw. I’ve often wondered whether she carried that into adulthood.

      I’m not sure I could identify a hackberry. Apparently they’re quite common, so I need to go on a search. I did learn that they often put out bunches of very small branches that are called witches’ brooms. Quite appropriate for the season!


      1. Linda, hackberry is very abundant here in Central Texas. Not sure about the Gulf coast. I did not know about witches broom. I have quite a few trees on my property and I cut off small limbs for my goat, Billy Bob. He LOVES the leaves.

        The hackberry is also a host plant for the Hackberry Emperor and the Tawny Emperor butterfly. Sadly this was not a good year for either of the emperors. I saw maybe a total of 4-5 butters all year round. Maybe they were around but just did not nectar on any of the flowers. They often feed on manure. Yep- how gross is that?

        PS: I’m glad you’re a tree hugger.

        1. I looked up hackberry on the Lady Bird Johnson site, then checked the USDA map. It’s all around me! It’s not shown across the bay, in Chambers county, but otherwise it’s in Harris, Galveston, Brazos — all around. I should have known, because one of the best-known fishing and hunting spots around is Hackberry Rod & Gun Club, over on Lake Calcasieu, just across the border in Louisiana. The tree likes water, so it should be easy to find.

          I saw some photos of the Emperors, too. Pretty butterflies.

  28. Sorry, but my comment flew away before I could proof my writing. It is mesquite not mexquite but honestly mexquite doesn’t sound too bad. The tree grows in Mexico also and I reckon that was on my b-b brain.

    1. That’s all right. On Steve Gingold’s blog the other night, I referred to Mt. Pollux as Mr. Pollux. It actually was a little amusing. When I saw “Mexquite,” the first thing I thought was, “That’s got to be the variety that grows in Mexia.

        1. I learned it as muh-HAY-uh. Then, Steve Schwartzman mentioned on his blog that “Muh-Hair-Er” is a better pronunciation. I’ve heard it spoken that way exactly three times now, all on a hunting and fishing show I listen to very early in the morning. I’m pretty sure the fellows who pronounce it that way have been around Texas for a while.

          As for that knowledge bit, I can guarantee you there’s a whole lot I don’t know, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But I like learning, so that’s ok.

          1. I’ve always heard folks in my neck of the woods call it “Muh-Hair” usually with out the added “er.” but I’ve heard people call it “mu-Hay-uh” as well.

            I need to go to Lightsy Farms in Mexia soon to get about a 1/4 or 1/2 bushel of persimmons. I peel and slice the fruit and put in my dehydrator. The dried fruit is one tasty snack. These keep good in sealed plastic bags in the fridge for several months .Can be frozen too. The farm grows about 4 varieties of Japanese persimmons. I didn’t get any last year because I was so ill but now I am some stronger since my heart is behaving better. :-)

            1. Enjoy the persimmon run. My friend up in the hill country had a fine crop this year, but, as she said, it mostly meant a horde of happy possums. But she got some. I’m going to ask if she’s ever dried them.

  29. How fun to read the interview. Your comment on the “Who?” question seemed bang on. I also liked your attention to the commitment to write regularly. I find that doing this changes (in subtle ways), the way my week unfolds. I am forever asking whether this experience or that is fodder for a post. And they just keep coming along!

    So books are sometimes inspiration to me, but in some ways my walks, or my interactions with students are more so. But that may reflect that the books I read more often feed into the other kind of writing I do. Having said that, however, I am also aware that poetry is sneaking into more and more of my theological reflections, which i think to be a good thing.

    1. I think a writer must be in some ways like a photographer on the prowl for the next image. We’re always on the lookout for the next idea. Flannery O’Connor once said, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” That seems right to me.

      I still remember how anxious I was when I began this blog — that I’d run out of subject matter. So far, so good. I do think the more we write, the more we find to write about. It’s probably that we become more attentive to the world around us, more interested in its quirks and rhythms.

      I was looking for something in your blog the other day, and when I clicked on the “theology” tag, poem after poem popped up. That’s the other side of the coin. While poetry’s sneaking into your theological reflections, theogy’s popping up in your poems. I’m not sure but I think that’s the kind of dynamic that makes narrative non-fiction (or creative non-fiction) so interesting to me. The world of “facts over there, truth over here” isn’t nearly so intriguing, and probably is impossible.


  30. A delightful interview, Linda, and fun to read a bit more about your background. I’ve certainly had the strong sense that your posts (and replies to comments) stir up conversations — there are so many starting points to choose from. I’m amazed that you have time to chat with the dozens and dozens of commenters.

    Perhaps because of my leanings towards introversion (doesn’t sound like a real word), I’ve purposefully checked the “exclude from search” in WordPress to limit the number of visitors (and seems to help minimize spam, too).

    1. I’m glad you enoyed it, nikkipolani. And yes: it’s an amazement for me to see the variety of responses that sometimes are offered on a single post. In that sense, it’s not unlike your garden, When new visitors come (virtually or otherwise) some will like the freesia, while others like the roses. Some will like those golden pods raining down, but others (!) will consider them an irritating invasion.

      Anyway, it’s fun. Responding to comments does take time, and to be frank, I don’t have time as much as I make time. Priorities, and all that. But I think it’s important for us to learn how to use this new medium for more than political snark and cat videos — even as much as I adore cat videos!

      I didn’t know there’s an “exclude from search” option. It just never occured to me. The good news is that Akismet keeps the spam under control, and I rarely have one that gets through the filter. That’s good, although I do sometimes get a kick out of reading what’s landed in the spam file. Clearly, there are people with too much time on their hands.


  31. Hello Linda, I do hope you have seen my diagnostic comment on your Tree House interview! So glad you enjoyed doing it. And thanks for this post which weaves together two aspects of life ( I can’t call ‘trees’ and ‘books’ “things”!) which I have always loved deeply and without which I might be able to exist but certainly could not live…We have about half of your book list in common, and I have already shared a favourite quote from Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” on my own blog, but given the nature of this post I think it is worth sharing here for your readers to enjoy: the mystical experience Dillard had of the ‘Tree with Lights’…

    “….Four years I’d been living on that particular block, walking past one particular tree, and that morning I witnessed its transformation. The sun lit that tree and it shimmered red and gold; it was glass on fire, and if it could have made a sound, it would’ve been celestial. This was shock and awe, I thought, as I stood staring up at it…..If I could live in that light, I thought, if I could just not move and stay right here, I will be all right and it will all have been worth it…”

    1. I did see your comment, Anne, and have replied. Even though I was the one interviewed, my comments there had to be moderated, too, so perhaps you’ve seen it by now. Your timing was impeccable — almost perfect — and I think your insights are remarkable.

      Everyone who loves Dillard knows the story of “the tree with the lights in it.” Of course the impulse is to begin searching out such a marvelous tree, but Dillard has a word for us there, too. Sometimes, we just have to wait.

      Another of her trees, I have seen — the osage orange filled with red-winged blackbirds. My birds were boat-tailed grackels, but the experience was the same. All it takes is awareness, or grace, or dumb luck, for all that. In the end, who cares which it is?


  32. We don’t achieve everything we aim for in life. Sorry you never got your tree house and now it’s probably too late for one.
    But you have so much else to cherish and enjoy, your blog writing being far from the least of it as your interview clearly shows.

    1. On the other hand, Friko, sometimes we get exactly what we want, but in a different form. Over time, I found my little get-aways: those lovely, tucked-away places that offered every thing a treehouse could, and more. And I got my views from high places, especially from the top of sailboat masts and tall ship rigging — higher than any treehouse ever could have been.

      I’m well past any regret for the absence of the treehouse, even though there was a time in my life when I whined about it a good bit. If I’m going to settle in with a good book now, I’ll do it in a comfortable chair with a little something besides Kool-Aid at hand.
      If a nice patio or balcony’s available, all the better!


  33. I love your list. I need to think a bit about mine. And, I must look up the Flannery Conner book you suggest. Thanks.

    I was staying with a friend this week, and her house is perched way up the top of the town, with a stupendous view. It felt just like being in a tree house, and I wished everyone could have a house that felt like that.


    1. You’d enjoy the O’Connor letters, Tandi. She’s witty, acerbic, thoughtful, and any number of other good things. There’s very little self-obsession, and a lot of really funny stuff about her relationship with her mother. I found it salutary, during a certain period of my life.

      Your friend’s house sounds marvelous. Of course, where you are, there aren’t so many hundreds (thousands?) of people all trying to crowd together onto the same hilltop, as they do in certain areas of our state. I suppose that’s only proof of the appeal of having a view. There’s something about it that’s almost primal — maybe an unspoken sense that from “up there,” we can see “them” approaching?

      It’s good to see you. I hope all’s well in your world.


      1. I read once that our ancestral idea of home is to be on top of a hill, looking down, with a wall at our backs. This is a safe place to be. I hate to continually discover what a slave I am to my primal instincts, but there you have it. How much of who we are is driven by these deeper ideas?

        Putting the O’Connor letters on my very long list of things I plan to read.

        1. Primal instincts, maybe, but don’t forget: we’ve learned from the movies that if you’re the head of a different kind of family, or a particularly notorious gunslinger, you should always sit with your back to the corner, facing the door. Same principle, I would think.

  34. As I read this post, I couldn’t help but think of the Magic Tree House series of books for elementary aged children written by Mary Pope Osborne. Two young children are the main characters of each book that whisks them through adventures in time and space not limited to the historical, archeological or scientific variety.

    On the one hand I love that my grandson is hooked on them, but on the other hand I have concerns about his sorting out fact from fiction. Still, when I quiz him on the books as he takes follow-up quizzes after each book, he seems to naturally be able to distinguish between the two. Whew!

    PS According to my mother, I was a climber too.

    1. The Osborne books sound wonderful. But I’m curious about your concern about sorting fact from fiction. Haven’t we always done that? Was Humpty Dumpty a real egg? No, of course not. What about that Owl and Pussycat who went to sea with their runcible spoon? Alice and her rabbit hole? Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage?

      Time travel’s not any different than a trip through the looking glass, as far as I can tell, but we all came back.Of course, I love to think about these things, because I’m convinced that “fact” and “fiction” usually are falsely opposed. People sometimes assume that facts are true, and fiction is false. In fact, truth is something else entirely and can be reached by either fact or fiction.

      I’ve always liked this, from Faulkner: “Poets are almost always wrong about facts. That’s because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth.” Granted, it’s important to get our facts straight: the sum of two plus two, the name of the first President, that red needs blue, not yellow, if purple’s the desired outcome.

      Anyway, it occurred to me you probably have nothing to worry about. Someone who’s worked her way through Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realism probably is a pretty good guide to the Magic Tree House series!


  35. Mt. Refrigerator — heeeee! I just adore your posts and writing. :) I have a complete obsession for tree houses, and some of the gorgeous ones that people have constructed of late just blow my mind to smithereens. My dream is to one day stay in one (on vacation), or build one as an office. What better inspiration than residing in a centuries-old home, still growing?

    1. Oh, FeyGirl! Leave it to you to make note of Mt. Refrigerator! I did so love that metaphor. Isn’t it funny how we have little things about our photos or writing that we put in and leave in just because we like them?

      Have you ever thought about one of the old cabins in various wilderness areas as a vacation retreat? I wasn’t aware they existed, until a Montana blogger (do you know montucky?) showed some in his blog. They were used by the Forest Service as fire lookouts. I can’t believe that we can rent them. But for a true wilderness getaway — with terrific views — they’d be wonderful.

      So nice to see you! I hope all’s well!


  36. Oh, Heidi. What a gal.

    My son was a climber. There was no where he would not go and no risk he would not take well into adulthood. With a wife, three kids and a very demanding job, he’s had to tame some of the risk-taking aspects of his personality, but still finds ways within reason. Is that even possible… to risk within reason? Hmm.

    You did a great job on the interview. You’ve lived well and you look great in that photo, not like someone who needs to lose weight. Wish I could get me some of that mighty fine hairdo.

    1. In some ways, I’ve become more of a risk-taker as the years pile up. On the other hand, I know more about life’s consequences, and take many more precautions than I used to. That’s one reason I decided to drop some pounds and devote more time to aerobic activity. I did enough hiking and rock climbing on last autumn’s trip to come home resolved to be far more fit the next time I set out. The weight’s almost gone, and now that we’re into cooler weather, I’ll do more walking. (I can’t abide a gym or a treadmill.)

      One of the great blessings of my life is that I have what we call “cruising hair.” I cut it myself, and it doesn’t need anything but a couple of minute with a blow dryer to land somewhere on the scale between acceptable and attractive. It certainly makes life easier.


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