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An Evening in the Trees




Babcock Park is a state park deep in the heart of West Virginia. Filled with lush trees and a hundred different places to walk, it's the perfect escape from the world. Located within the park is is the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a photogenic mill that was cobbled together with parts of other, now defunct, mills. Often appearing as the centrepiece of many an artwork, the mill is fully working with its red wheel being turned by the Glade Creek that runs alongside it.

Straddled between two trees in the forest above the mill is your home for the next few days. With two floors, the finely crafted tree house is linked to solid ground by a robust looking wooden bridge. Moroccan lamps with coloured glass light your way across the bridge and to the Swiss chalet-style house.

Evening is beginning to fall as you cross the bridge. The wood of the bridge vibrates beneath your feet and each step is lit a different colour by the lamps. An owl hoots in another tree and you can hear the distinct rustling of other creatures settling in for the night.

The sky is a glorious shade of pastel blue which fades into a soft purple at the horizon. A crescent moon hangs in the sky like a Christmas ornament and the warm air is full of delightful smells as summer begins to ease its way into autumn.

For all intents and purposes, the house looks like a normal house. The only difference is that it clings to the trunks of trees. These trunks form the centre pieces of the house with their gnarly bark on show for all to see. The smell of wood is rich and welcoming as is the soft light of the electric-powered lanterns that are hidden in every little nook.

As you walk through the door, there's a kitchen and a small living area complete with a comfortable couch. Several shelves are filled with books and ornaments and a small fridge contains all the food that you'll need for your stay. On the marble counter is a bottle of wine, a single wine glass, and a basket of fruit.

A small spiral staircase with iron bannisters leads you up to the second level and a double bed which is piled high with pillows and blankets. The lead glass windows have been cracked open in order to let the summer breeze pass through the quaint little chalet.

You pour a glass of wine and peruse the shelves as you drink. All of the classics are there; Bronte, Stoker, Wells, Verne and, of course, Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson. The coffee table contains several photo books of the local area and you sit on the couch so that you can pull one close.

Photographs show the park in all its stunning glory. From the lush beginnings of spring to through to the rich, deep colours of fall.

Through the open windows you can hear the breeze in the trees and the chattering song of birds. Once you've finished leafing through the book, you take your wine out onto the small balcony. There a rocking chair and a table just large enough for a glass of wine and a book. Stacked to one side is a pile of warm-looking blankets.

You settled back into the chair and gently push yourself back and forth. The motion is relaxing and you feel your eyes growing heavy as the rockers scrape softly against the wooden floor. Down among the trees you can hear the creak of the mill. The sounds make you feel as though you've been transported back to a time when things felt so much simpler. A time before communications were instant and you weren't expected to be tuned in all of the time.

Black clouds are beginning to gather in the distance. They dip over the tops of the mountains and lightning is visible in the depths of their darkness. Summer storms are a blessing to the land, a way to replenish water stock and bringing calmness to those who are stressed. Rain clouds contain negative ions which, in turn, help to balance the brains of those who feel unwell. It's why so many people find the sound, and sometimes feel, of the rain so soothing.

And then there's the smell that follows the storm. The mossy, fresh and, yet, dusty smell of ground being watered after several hot and dry days. The smell has a name – petrichor – and the people who love the rain are called pluviophiles.

The clouds continue to roll closer, blocking out the sunset as they do. You don't mind; you have another evening to watch the night draw in and the sunrise in the morning will be spectacular. You hunker down and reach beside the chair for a blanket. Dropping it over your legs, you shiver as the first rumble of thunder drifts across the valley.

Eventually the moon also succumbs to the clouds and it feels as though night has come an hour early. You can see a line of rain following in the wake of the first wave of clouds. Another fork of lightning springs from the clouds and, a heartbeat later, the thunder echoes through the sky.

You're not scared. You've always loved storms and the balcony provides the perfectly protected vantage point in order to watch the downpour. You're happy, relaxed, and ready for nature's light show.

The clouds drift closer and cover the tops of the trees. You can see the rain pattering into the creek and stirring up the water. If you lean over the edge of the balcony, you can just make out the white foam as the creek tips over the edge of a line of boulders. Come morning, you plan to walk down to mill to look around and learn of the area's long milling history.

The breeze has settled and you notice the silence. Even the birds have gone quiet as the rain draws closer. You love the feeling of expectation that hangs in the air, the promise of new life once the rains have settled. Even though the end of the year is drawing in, animals and plant life will take sustenance from the fallen water. And, come spring, the forest will once more come to life.

Rain begins to patter on the gabled roof and you sit back to admire the spectacle. The falling drops soon engulf the tree house and you feel cosy and dry as you listen to it hammer on the wood above you. There's nothing quite like being all safe and snug when there's a storm overhead.

The air becomes clearer as the rain becomes heavier. Hearing it hammer against the roof is enough to lull you. You begin to forget your worries and allow yourself to drift off into the depths of your imagination. Living out in the wilds seems like the perfect lifestyle and you daydream of ways to make it happen. Ways of leaving behind your every day life to live among the trees.

Lightning flashes across your field of vision and thunder rolls around the tree house. The rain grows heavier against the roof and you pull the blanket tighter to you. The chill in the air has grown a little sharper but you're too happy to care. You've chosen the perfect moment to be in the tree house and you wouldn't trade it for the world.

Captured by the gently rolling hills, the storm settles in for the night. The sky continues to darken until all you can see if the outline of trees.

You're perfectly happy to be out on the balcony and listening to the rain. The night is occasionally turned to day with a searing bolt of lightning. Nature is incredible and you marvel at all that it's laying on for you. A perfect display of the power and might that the planet has to offer.

In the valley below, you can hear the creek swelling with fresh water. The waterwheel sounds as though it's moving a little faster and water cascades down over the boulders. Around you, leaves rustle beneath the rain and, for a moment, you debate going to sit beneath a tee.

But you're happy where you are, warm and snug and, for now, perfectly content. While the storm drifts away, the rain remains and, with it, you stay out on the balcony to soak up the blissful sounds of nature at play.


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Rachael writes a variety of books. You can see her work at www.roswellpublishing.co.uk