Leo looked up from his now nearly dead electronic game. “What do you mean ‘here we are’?” he said. “There’s nothing here!”
“That mailbox over there says Lila Addison on it, which happens to have been your great-grandmother’s name… So this is the place.”
“Oh, so we’re going to live in a mailbox!” exclaimed Leo.
Walking closer they could see a worn footpath leading back into the woods. Trees and vegetation made it hard to see very far.
“Uh, there IS going to be a house. Right?” asked Leo this time actually a bit worried.
“It must be back there somewhere. Let’s just see how far we’re going to have to carry all our boxes,” offered Teresa starting down the path. Leo followed. Wildflowers dotted the floor of the woods.
They soon came to a sunlight-brightened clearing. They could see butterflies dancing in the wildflowers. A stone path continued to a sitting-area in front of the quaint little house. Both Teresa and Leo fell silent. They could hear water flowing in the distance and birds singing. Overcome with a sense of awe, they proceeded along quietly. Every once in a while Teresa whispered, “Wow.”
As they approached the door, Teresa pulled the long old-fashioned skeleton key out of her bag. “Now this key makes more sense. It’s not a castle like you were hoping, but this is certainly a far cry from suburbia.”
Inside, they cleared spider webs from the entryway. “Hello?” called Teresa as she peered in. The sound of her voice disappeared unanswered into the house. They entered tentatively first finding a large open room with a thick rustic wooden table and matching chairs.
Central to the house was an immense fireplace made of large rocks. A cast-iron pot hung over a pile of ashes. Directly in front of the fireplace sat two rocking chairs of the same handcrafted wooden style as the rest of the furniture. A solid stump sat as a side table, and a braided wool rug coiled on the floor between.
Dust lifted into the air as Teresa wiped her hand across the table. As she opened the drapes, even more fine particles launched into the air. Leo could still make out flowers, trees and the stream through the panes of dirty glass.
“It’s so charming… needs a good cleaning for sure, but so…” she hesitated looking for the right word, “enchanting.” Dust particles sparkling as they danced in the rays of light accentuated her point.
Leo noticed a long narrow shelf running along the far wall. There, also covered in a thin layer of dust and with the occasional spider web attached, were rocks, sticks, shells, pinecones, feathers and other items collected from nature. The objects seemed to carry Leo’s attention along. He walked beside the shelf, looking but not touching. Continuing on, he proceeded behind the stone wall and found a cozy little bedroom with one bed.
Across from the bedroom door, were stairs leading up to a loft. He climbed up and was greeted by even more sunlight cascading through two large windows in the ceiling. The windows offered generous views of the sky and a sense of almost being inside and outside at the same time. The stone chimney acted as one end to the room and a closet the other. Shelves and a small desk occupied most of the space. He brushed his hand against the reddish-brown lines, ovals and dark spots of the knotty-pine walls.
When Leo opened the closet door, he was surprised to find a ladder that led up through a hole above. Leo climbed up and discovered a triangular space. Crawling in, the roof of the closet was now under him. The windowed walls came to a point at the top. A window at the far end added to the open feeling of the small area. The side where he entered had a rail and was otherwise open to the room. He brushed cobwebs away then quickly wiped his hand on his pants’ leg.
Leo had to stoop over slightly because there was not quite enough room for him to stand up. As he made his way across, he kicked a round rug out of place with his foot. He kneeled down and moved the rug more exposing the cross-section of a tree. The round piece of tree was embedded into the wood surface that made up both the top of the closet and the floor of this tent-shaped space. In the bright light he could clearly see the concentric circles. He remembered learning that each ring represented a year of the tree’s life. He traced one line with his finger, wondering how many there were in all. He measured with his palms flat on the surface. The tree was three of Leo’s stretched hands across. “Wow, that’s got to be a lot of years,” he thought, unwilling to take the time to count them all.
Looking up and out the windows, Leo again felt awe. Leo sat himself cross-legged right on top of the tree rings so that he had windows to his sides and in front. There at the very highest point in the house, he was in a lookout spot. He had an expansive view of the meadow and trees all around. A large stream flowed around the back of the house. He watched the branches of the trees on the other side of the stream sway in the wind. One large pine tree closer to the house sat prominently in his view.
“This is awesome,” he said knowing that he wanted to claim this space as his hideaway.
Sitting up tall, he wondered what kind of tree the ring he was sitting on came from. He closed his eyes and imagined the tree extending above and below the rings on which he sat. His mental picture mirrored the large tree in the yard. The tree limbs rose up and extended out all around. He also imagined the roots stretched similarly below ground. His imagined tree was strong and stable – again like the tree in the yard. The details seemed clear and real. The trees and he were connected in some way. He felt welcomed in a mysteriously warm way.
In the house below, Teresa had walked around the other side of the house. Behind the stone wall, she had found the kitchen. She was exploring cupboards with pots and pans. There was an old deep sink, and a well-worn round cutting board on the stone countertop. A doorway opened to the back and a dark stairway lead down.
“There’s so much to explore here, but we better bring our boxes in from the car,” Teresa thought to herself.
“Leeeoooo… Where aaaare you?” she called. The familiar call of his mother’s voice shattered Leo’s revelry.
“We better get started unloading the car,” came Teresa’s voice again. Slowly unfolding his legs, Leo crawled to the ladder and down to face the chores at hand.