to deconstruct a tree house

May 3, 2009

stripped naked tree

A person lived under a tree in a lot around the corner from my house.

It was a giant pine tree with bushy branches that stretched all the way down to the ground and formed thick walls around its base.

We only saw signs of someone living there because a shopping cart filled with odds and ends rested outside the enclosed area. There was something scandalous about it—a person using branches as a house right on the corner of a heavily trafficked street. Average people have houses built with so-altered nature that it’s no longer recognizable, but here a man had altered himself to coexist with a tree’s needs instead of the other way around. Then there was something majestic about it—breaking conventional boundaries blatantly and romantically before our eyes.

It didn’t last long. People talked. City organizations were contacted. People with power waltzed under the tree and took pictures which displayed makeshift walls and roof shielding the treed space from rain, clothes hanging neatly from branches, cushioned chairs seated gently inside, belongings arranged around the bark’s base.

Yesterday as I passed the tree, some people with power had trimmed the branches up to at least my height. All the contents of the occupant’s stay stood exposed. The temporary house was violated and cheapened into the neatly defined purpose that we make for trees in empty lots: decoration, perhaps. Oxygen only an excuse.

This deconstruction stated that we disproved of this person’s submitted housing purpose of an otherwise unused tree. Branches were judged insufficient at their attempted task of hiding the homeless from our sight as well as we’re accustomed. When we saw the cart parked outside the tree perimeters, it forced contemplation of the circumstances of someone who lives that way, and those seconds of thought intrude too greatly on some’s comfort.

Today all the belongings are gone. The evidence of human life is cleared away and the tree looks as though it stood in that lot by itself indefinately.

The only reminder of the person who lived there is an empty shopping cart resting near the curb.

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