When Zoey Henderson was six years old, she spent much of the summer in her back yard making a gigantic American flag out of gum wrappers. The crotchety woman next door would come outside and water her own back yard just so she could scowl at Zoey, shake her head from side to side, and mutter ominously. She thought Zoey was a perfect example of how kids had become undisciplined dreamers who would ruin the country if they didn’t get their heads out of the clouds and start doing something productive, and soon. Luckily, Zoey’s parents and everyone in her school disagreed. They loved the flag so much, the principal had it placed on a wall near the front door of the school so people could see it as they walked in. This cemented Zoey’s reputation early on as a gifted visionary and true patriot. Although Zoey didn’t think of herself in those terms, she did enjoy the attention.
By the time Zoey was eighteen, she had made a name for herself throughout the community as a talented and dependable artist. Taking this into consideration, City Council commissioned her to create a buffalo sculpture that would be placed directly in front of City Hall. They told her to make one static bronze buffalo standing stock still and looking straight ahead in a noble pose. Zoey didn’t see anything noble in that conceptualization. Instead, she made six muscular, angry buffaloes straining forward as if exploding across the plains in a violent stampede of power and grace. In no time, the display became the most photographed sculpture in the city and garnered national attention.
Then, when Mrs. Gloria Lamoureaux passed away, everyone, including Zoey, wondered what would happen to the property on the side of the mountain overlooking the city that the Lamoureaux family had owned for decades. Gloria had been one of the wealthiest old-money patrons in the state, and her word was practically law when it came to any policy decisions that might affect the region. Developers had stayed in contact with Gloria and her business associates for years about buying the property for commercial and residential development, but the area remained unmolested due largely to the fact that many in the community did not want to see stores and a housing development mar such a noticeably beautiful overlook. The Lamoureaux family argued vehemently over the issue, and although Gloria withheld her own opinion on the subject, everyone knew her final word would determine the fate of the property, no questions asked.
To everyone’s surprise, when the executors read Gloria’s will, they discovered that a giant treehouse was to be built on the property through funding from the Lamoureaux Foundation. The will also stipulated that Zoey Henderson was to be given complete authority to oversee every aspect of the project. What few people knew at the time was that Gloria had secretly admired Zoey’s work from the moment she walked her granddaughter into school many years ago and saw the American flag Zoey had made with gum wrappers. She had followed Zoey’s career closely ever since.
Once Zoey got this news, she needed only a few weeks to present her vision of the treehouse to the city planners, and once she did, the Lamoureaux family made sure that Zoey could launch the project immediately. Within two months, Zoey built a multi-level complex lodged in twelve large trees growing prominently in the middle of the acreage most visible from the heart of the city below. Zoey made sure that, by law, the treehouse belonged to children. This meant that anyone twelve years old or younger was welcome to visit the treehouse as a part owner, so long as he or she brought along a parent or guardian. On the other hand, parents and guardians could visit, too, but just as guests of the children. The sign at the entryway of the facility read, “Adults allowed only when accompanied by children.”
The entire complex was simply called “The Treehouse.” At its center, twenty feet up, a large oval greeting and operations room called the “Mothership” rested in a massive oak tree. Guests could climb a spiral staircase or take a special elevator to enter the Mothership, which had three thick branches growing through it and evenly placed windows all the way around, allowing for a clear view of the surrounding forest and city below. Large portals lined the colorfully painted walls of the room at intervals for quick and easy access to the other rooms. For instance, one portal opened to a shallow slide that careened down to an open-air glass room filled with water called “The Splash Pit.” Another portal led upward to a circular room called “Apogee,” which housed one telescope trained in the direction of the city and another one pointing upward for evening astronomy classes. Yet another portal led to a room called “The Rainbow,” where children could paint or draw on the walls and create various other forms of art to their hearts’ content. This space was always well stocked with any art supplies the children might need. One of the most popular rooms was “The Nest,” which could be reached from the Mothership via a gradually descending ramp. This room featured a diverse collection of current and classic children’s literature, some tables with writing utensils and computers, a fish tank, beautiful pictures on the walls, and a few comfortable chairs.
Once Zoey’s work at The Treehouse was complete, she took a road trip across the country in search of a new place to live and find inspiration. She spent time in Key West, Taos, Sedona, and San Francisco, and although all these communities found their way into her heart, after a few years, she returned home to stay. She would always be informed by her own artistic vision, and that vision had been touched by the people she loved and the natural environment she cherished. The children of the city even made her an honorary member of The Treehouse, which meant that on warm summer nights, she could visit Apogee on her own terms and study the constellations. Sometimes, she would stay until the sun began to brighten the morning sky.