Over breakfast this morning, Pamela and I were discussing the subject for the blog this week. And…like a lot of women, Pam has an extremely subtle cue when asked a question. All I have to do is study the top of her nose…and if it wrinkles even one thousandth of an inch…I have my answer: NO!!!
In truth, my interest this week was drifting toward a deeper examination of the Mystery of Quantum Entanglement (it really is amazing ya know) but then I saw Pamela’s nose begin to twitch and her eyes begin to glaze, and so I quickly added, “Or… I could also write about really cool tree houses!”
Now, as an adult, your first question will be something on the order of : But, aren’t tree houses just silly things for little kids? Uhmmmmm……………no. I don’t think little kids deserve them as much as adults. We adults…we have suffered, and tree houses are much more fun for adults. Trust me on this one.
After we built our first one, the Pax Notarius, named after an old friend and mentor, Harold Notarius, we threw a party. It was a midsummer night. Twelve-feet below, the frogs were croaking in our pond, peepers were singing and the bonfire on the starboard side was crackling cheerily. There were eight of us up in the growing darkness, aboard a black schooner high up in the trees and something magical was about to take place.
As the light dims, you begin to feel more like a disembodied spirit and your friends around you become the same, just soft, thoughtful, funny voices in the night. Tales are told, truths and dreams drift out and hours drift by completely unnoticed. These moments have truly been some of the best of Pam’s and my life. Not to dwell on the heavenly-ness, but after that first party in the Pax, virtually every party was held there…never with a disappointment.
First Lesson, and it’s counter-intuitive. You actually don’t want to build a house up in tree. The point is to be outside: no roof, just the stars above you and no walls, just the trees around you. You would not believe how many people build a little house, and then crowd together on the tiny deck outside it.
Second Lesson…also counter-intuitive: Guys always would inspect the Pax, looking at how it was put together. Many questions and comments on the order of: “Bet you have some great big lag screws and bolts lashing this to the trees.” That sounds about right and is completely wrong. Where big trees and big lumber, and once in a while big wind is involved, the wind will always move the trees, and your 16″ lagbolt will yank right out of the tree like it was made of butter. The answer is like something out of Aesop’s Fables: Don’t fight the wind. Don’t even try. A man by the name of Garnier, created The Garnier Limb, just for building tree houses. In essence, the Garnier limb allows your black schooner to ride on the limb, free to move in any direction. Having gone through several hurricanes with the Pax…it works perfectly. Don’t argue the concept, just Google the term: Garnier Limb.
Another Point: “Well, that all sounds fine, but it’s not practical to spend a few grand building a tree house, no matter how much fun it is. You’ll never get your money out of it if you sell.” My own nose is twitching at this. Truth is: we had a number of offers on CrossBow our house up in Pennsylvania. Every offer mentioned the Pax and that taking it with us would be a deal-breaker. In truth, we might still be up in PA if we hadn’t had the Pax Notarius.
Side benefits: For us, we positioned the Pax about 200 feet from where the little black New Hope Tourist train trundled by on the weekends. During parties (depending on the type) we would wave to the tourists through the darkness and they’d take pictures and wave back. Or…one or more of us would moon that same train and then hide behind the sails, laughing. Or… (and this was the most fun) I’d get out this device, sort of like a ten foot slingshot and we’d shoot water balloons at the train. It’s hard to describe the feeling of hitting a train with a water balloon and watching the explosion of water.
Scroll ahead six months: Here we are on Catawba River Road in Old Fort, NC. We spent a month trying to figure out a location to put a “Pax Notarius II and gave up. Oh well… you can’t have everything. But wait… one day, mowing the big sculpture field near the road, I spied the ultimate spot. I can’t believe we didn’t notice the location. The knoll rides high above the field, close to twenty feet, and higher still over the little country road.
The good news is we’ve already staked the deck and mast points. Time to dig some deep holes for the sonotubes (tubes you pour concrete into) and begin laying the decking. Better yet…I have some neighbors who must have been saints in a former lifetime (not sure how that works out) but they want to help build the damned thing. I have a mockup, based on the original Pax in place for you to see. I am hoping that Pax II will be the site of many, many, many, many dreamy evenings, sipping shine and….talking about Quantum Entanglement…or something.
P.S. The original Pax was used on the cover of my novel, Playing on the Black Keys and…was the subject of an entire chapter of the book, A Universe of Metal Sculpture that Schiffer Publishing did on us.