“I love the sweet, sequestered place, the gracious roof of gold and green, where arching branches interlace with a glimpse of sky between.”—Anonymous

Sometimes you need a place of your own. Maybe your little brother or sister keeps breaking your toys or your older sibling won’t let you play with anything at all. Maybe if you stay inside your mom will make you sort all the socks in the laundry or your dad will make you help him clean out the attic. In these times of trouble, a fort is like a lighthouse in a storm.

Look, my friend, you were born with the ability to make yourself a simple fort that gives you a place to escape. A place to hold secret neighborhood meetings. To have picnics, to read, to draw, to think, to plan. What it comes down to is creating a place where you can get away from it all, a place where you can go to listen to what an amazing woman named Rachel Carson called the “insect orchestra” or the chorus of the birds. A place where you can hear your own thoughts and where you can just be. In the book, A Kid’s Guide to Forts, author Tom Birdseye says a fort “is a place built using easy-to-find materials, a few tools, and some imagination. It is not made by dad or mom with wood from the lumber company. It is not ordered out of a catalog and delivered by two men in a big truck. It is yours, created by you.”

Anyone can build a fort. Think about it—a few walls, a roof, maybe a swept-out floor or one covered with soft pine needles and a moss carpet. But keep in mind, any kind of building requires caution. Wood is by its very nature splintery stuff. Moving big sticks and piles of wood can often result in some bumps and bruises. Anytime sticks are a part of an activity, slow and steady is the required speed. Basically all I am asking is that you pay attention and handle large, sharp objects carefully. Grab a grownup for help when you feel overwhelmed. In this chapter, we will look at making stick dens, igloos, teepees, lean-tos, sunflower houses, and more. But remember that sometimes the best retreats are simply underneath a favorite willow tree or on top of a special lichen-covered rock. I hope you will make lots of forts and that you will let yourself dream. I hope that in your fort you will catch hold of your deepest wishes and listen to the world around you telling you that you are home.