Anastomosis: The Tree-House & My Marriage
Two years ago, I built a tree-house on our property in East Hampton with my own hands.
The origin, the evolution, eventual inauguration of the tree-house became a special and unorthodox event that was attended by some fifty friends and family.
Songs were written and sung. Musicians performed. Harvey Shapiro read one of his poems. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman and Cantor Deborah Stein of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons presided. The tree-house was blessed and compared to King Solomon’s temple. A Mezuzah was mounted. It’s still up there. The Cantor wrote new lyrics to the song “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”: “Will someone explain?/Why Steve built a tree-house on his land?”
The Rabbi compared the tree house to King Solomon’s Temple. (My name in Hebrew—Shlomo—means Solomon.)
The tree-house — as a destination for family and friends, children and grand-children of friends, and for many guests — has since been visited, climbed, and found “uplifting”. One youngster from the UK declared it “the high point of my trip to the US”.
That week, my wife Celia Paul and I shared our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in the same East Hampton locations –at our home in the Northwest Woods in the shadow of the tree-house, and at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons—with many of the same friends and family originally in attendance twenty five earth-orbits-of-the-sun ago. Happily, many of those at the tree-house inauguration were also present. The day was filled with sunshine and warmth.
My wife is the sunshine of my life, and as I thought about the special occasion of our anniversary, and about building my marriage and building my tree-house, I realized they shared many elements in common.
In building a marriage and a tree-house, I had to risk going out on a limb. Both demand an investment of great care, thoughtfulness, caution, high-level planning, and attention to detail.
And yet, both share a certain impulsive exuberant spontaneity. Both marriage and tree-house inspire a form of transcendent and spiritual intimacy. Both demand a high tolerance for error (especially mine). Both marriage and tree-house have a lot of ‘moving’ parts: “Honeydew this, honey dew that”; domestic errands; carrying tools and lumber up and down; emotional moments in marriage. Both also offer splendid views: of other tall trees; of forest flora and fauna; of other happy marriages, and of each other. And from two marriages and one tree-house creation, I learned “measure twice—and cut once”.
The tree-house is erected upon two stout vertical oaks spaced about three feet apart that grow parallel to each other for upwards of sixty feet. These form a sturdy natural armature. A raunchy locker-room friend called it “your erection”, but I promised not only my wife but also a few people I wouldn’t “go there” verbally, so I won’t mention “my erection” again (Ooops.).
Two two-by-six inch beams of treated wood, each eight-foot long, were bolted through –and perpendicular to — the two oaks, and are thus parallel to the ground twenty feet below. I bolted four more of these beams to the same two oaks, perpendicular to the first two beams, resting upon them, also parallel to the ground. Thus, voila, a horizontal frame.
Specially treated two-by-fours were fastened with zinc-coated deck screws to this frame, creating a rigid eight-foot-by-eight-foot square deck, an elevated platform.
Our great good friend and next-door neighbor, brilliant architect Richard Lavenstein, concerned that the platform might not be entirely stable—that it could ‘rack’ or tilt when occupied– suggested I connect steel struts to the four corners of the platform at 45 degree angles to each of the two oaks. This provided enough rigidity of the entire structure to accommodate the weight of eight people simultaneously.
Railings, banisters and balustrades enclose the topless platform, which is entered through its center between the two oak trees through a rectangular slot: its length dimension is equal to the distance between the two oaks, and its width is equal to the one-foot diameter of each tree. A snug passageway. Ascending and entering is not for the faint of heart.
I am speaking of my marriage: created from two former saplings, now sturdy oaks, linked together with care, mindfulness, space, and love. Just like our tree-house.
These two parallel trees are bound up together in space and time. Connected, they support a common serene space and pleasing patch of time. Just like our marriage. After twenty-five years, we saplings have become trees supporting an elevated arena for meditation beyond and above our normal cares … promising unique adventures, clear vistas, and glad anticipation. We are ‘an operative union of two structures’.
An interconnection between any two objects–channels, passages or vessels–is called, in medicine, “anastomosis”.
Anastomosis: “The connection of normally separate parts or spaces so they intercommunicate”.
An anastomosis may be naturally occurring [marriage?] or artificially constructed [tree-house?] and may be created during the process of embryonic development or by surgery… Derived from the Greek, the term “anastomosis” originally referred to an opening or junction through a mouth, as of one body of water with another. “Anastomosis” has been in medical usage since the Greek physician Galen (129-200 AD) used it to describe the interconnections between blood vessels. Yes, an operative union of two structures.
My wife and I, our marriage — and our double-tree constructed tree-house—are interconnected, as one body of water to another, as one blood vessel to another, as one partner to another, as an “anastomosis” and, well…despite an occasional bark and sappy metaphor…yes, our tree house is built like our marriage.
Oh. I almost forgot those aforementioned songs. For the tree-house consciousness-raising event, I re-wrote “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which became, “Way up there in my tree-house/ When winds blow/ Trees sway like ships at anchor/Am I afraid?/ Oh, no// She said ‘don’t build a tree-house/ What’s it for?’/ I said ‘If I don’t build it/ I will be Steve no more”. For our twenty-fifth anniversary event, I re-wrote “How About You?”– which became, “How About Us?” ####