Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Den of One's Own








On the hill behind our house, there’s a tree that was blown down in the gales earlier this year. It lies splayed on its side, the fall of branches creating a small hollow, roofed over with leaves and sky - as seen  in these photos. Over the Easter weekend, my mum and I took out half an hour to walk and to explore so I could clamber all over it, digging my toes into the bark.

I’m entranced by dens. Always have been. There’s something almost primal in the idea – hitting that very basic human need for shelter, but with the added bonus of whimsy and imagination. It’s an immensely pleasing pastime, the construction of a space for temporary living, adventuring or escaping. When I was a child one of my favourite activities was to push our two tatty blue sofas close enough together that a sheet could be suspended between them – forming a big, shadowy cave beneath. I’d fill it with cushions and books and listen happily to cassette tapes in the semi darkness. Others were more elaborate. My brother and I made Heath Robinson-esque creations assembled from folding laundry racks, towels, blankets, clothes pegs, chairs, string and elastic bands. I once just slept under the table in my room, draping a blanket over, dragging pillows inside and turning it into a nook to curl up in.

Outside, the possibilities extended further. Many a shelter was made with branched walls and moss for insulation, some of them more successfully put together than others. Up in trees, hidden inside bushes, leaning up against trunks – so many options. One recurring location was a patch of land near a friend's house, accessible only by skirting a wall of nettles and jumping over a brook. We claimed it as our own. We’d sweep away the grubs, lay down dock leaf ‘carpets’, allocate various areas as larder, kitchen, dining room (we were very food oriented), then play at being orphans on the run from the authorities. 

What all these endeavours had in common was the desire to carve out somewhere of our own. I guess it’s the same driving force behind any kind of activity involving tents, yurts and caravans; that chance to claim a space – whether it be for half an hour or several days. It’s a means of stepping outside of the responsibilities and challenges of day-to-day living; boundaries lifted for a little while. Not so much a room of one’s own, but a den of one’s own. 

The orange silk dress is a gorgeous Fenn Wright Manson number - given to me by my Fairy Godmother last Christmas. The intensity of the colour combined with the lightness of fabric makes it perfectly suited to floating about in - particularly in bare feet. The vintage belt used to belong to my grandma, the necklace is vintage and the bag is second hand. 

Dens have cropped up on my blog a few times before, most notably in the following posts: Outside Over There (first photo), These Are a Few of my Favourite Things (included on the list of favourite outdoor activities), Taffeta - A Photo Story,  Dressed Up for Den Making and Den Making on a Sunday Afternoon

17 comments:

Closet Fashionista said...

I used to love making dens too, sadly we didn't really have much in the backyard to make them outside so we were always inside. Though we did play in the woods from time to time (very small woods, now when I look at it its just like 5 trees deep, ha ha)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Sacramento Amate said...

A wonderful world created by your imagination that transport us to our own dreams.
How beautiful you are, dearest Rosalind.
have a fabulous Sunday.
Here is nearly summer and getting too warm for my liking.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ivana Split said...

You just described my favourite childhood activity...suspended sheets were quite frequent in my home...and often I would try to make them in Oriental style or at least what I have imagined to be Oriental...probably the idea of it came from colorfully illustrated Bible...usually there were also colourful parrots flying around. Somehow I managed to convince my parents not only to let me have parrots as a pets but to let them fly around ( I always thought cages to be a cruel invention and couldn't understand the idea of putting an animal with wings in the cage). My brother on the other hand was more construction oriented and once we had build a home from stones and mud under an olive tree. ( a project that was of some interest even to adults around if I remember well). Anyhow, both indoor and outdoor dens were my favourite past time.

The outfit you have on is really lovely...Orange is such a happy colour and this shade in particular reminds me of summer. Wonderful belt...and btw you were right about the necklace, it is the black one:)

Helen Le Caplain said...

Ooh what a lovely colour on you. When I was little I loved making dens from sofas and cushions too!

Abigail ~ said...

oh. i love this post. its so beautiful and i connected with it deeply. thank you so very, very much.
i also would like to mention that your dress is a dream. i totally understand the feeling of playing in it with bare feet. lovely.
~Abigail
http://sweetergetsthejourneyblog.blogspot.com/

Sarah. said...

Wonderful as per. You inspired me to write.

http://sowhatareyourotherinterests.tumblr.com/

Lydia Armstrong said...

When I was as kid, this is precisely the sort of place I wanted to live. Your home always sounds so beautiful and magical! And yes--my URL does also read "and this i speak," which I don't actually like because I think it sounds trite.

Catherine Summers said...

Rosalind these pictures are beautiful - and you look stunning. The orange against the blue sky and green trees: perfection!!! Such a wonderful dress!

Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb

Vix said...

That orange tone of the dress looks wonderful reflected against the blue sky!
Yes, dens! I can still see the traces of my brother's and mine in my parents' garden from 40 years ago! x

Alexandra Zakharova said...

Those photographs are simply gorgeous and creative, the last one is my favourite) You are a great model, indeed:)
Wish you a great day ahead!

FASHION TALES said...

It's nice to know that others made dens growing up, as my sister and I did the same. I love hearing about the fond memories from your childhood. The salmon colour dress is marvellous on you, and I like the black belt with it.
/Madison :)

Jess said...

I love the orange colour of your dress! I used to love making dens and still think of decorating my room as making a little space to hide away in!

Elina Gomes said...

Just love the colour..

Noa Noa Ireland

Izzy DM said...

Have I already commented on this post? I don't think so... I really have to spend some good time, sitting down and catching up!

Anyway, it was such a pleasure to open your site on this misty, cool May Day and see these bright, vivid images. I'm glad you're keeping alive your love of dens and cozy spaces. We have this odd half-room in our house, and I knew my toddler would love it for her bedroom for now. The movers kept arguing with me that it was too small, but I was right! She LOVES it in there and feels safe and cozy, sleeps through the night (almost) every night.

Have you ever read "The Ordinary Princess" by M.M. Kaye? One of her kid's books? The princess in it eschews her castle life and goes and builds a den in the woods. I think you'd love it! VERY quick read. xx
Izzy
www.BrooklynBooksandBabies.com

Willow said...

Great title and glorious, glorious post. Your beautiful, vivid writing makes me feel the same sense of whimsy that I do when making and hiding out in my own dens. I used to do the same thing for indoor den-making (pushing two couches together, then putting a blanket over the top).
I adore making dens. Indoor dens -with cushions, blankets and books a plenty - for cold days and outdoor dens hidden amongst trees and bushes for gorgeous, sunny days.
This post reminded me of how, when a childhood friend of mine would come over on occasion, we'd climb up into a tall Casuarina tree that grows beside my house and we'd collect sticks, twigs, and leaves to make little nests in between some branches that were close together. 'Orphans on the run' was also a story we'd play at (as well as 'shape-shifting tree dragons').

Gorgeous photos, I found the first and fifth - with you looking down from the branches, skin and silk glowing from the sun, beautiful orange dress contrasted perfectly against that (almost) cloudless, deep blue sky - particularly stunning.
Envious of your bare legs and summery dressing: as I write this comment, my hands are stiff and aching from the cold. Enjoy that sunshine!

Valerie A. said...

Beautiful photos!

Emalina said...

I have always loved making dens, and the desire to find a wild, unique space free from the confines of suburban domesticity continues in me today, just as it has prompted many a glamping trip over the years in shepherd's huts and yurts and caravans.

Your childhood dens sound magnificent, I can imagine those Heath Robinson inventions and just how much fun you and your little brother had making them! You look totally at home up in the tree, a beautiful sprite in your stunning dress, about to spread your wings and take flight into the big wide unknown.