The “midstory” is the middle tier in a canopy of trees—a balancing force that provides coverage to the lower story and support for the upper. It is a place where opposites meet, where diverse perspectives come together as a unifying force rather than a dividing one.
And the Metroparks have literally built a village right in the heart of that midstory: the Cannaley Treehouse Village. Midstory took a trip out to their Instagram Meetup last Saturday to get a glimpse of the still-in-progress micro-community being built on the Oak Openings Preserve, expected to be completed this fall.
At the meet-up, visitors were allowed a few minutes—all that’s needed for an adept hand and eye to catch the moment—to take photographs and video of the emerging structure among the trees. What does it mean for our midstory to be occupied by young people, phones and cameras in hand, acting as an interface between us and nature? A place meant for appreciation and immersion in nature is captured in a frame for an Instagram feed—nature and technology coming together in the midst of a building-in-progress. While these structures hint at hope of drawing eyes away from screens and social media and engaging our community in the heart of nature, they also draw us to see and share it through our camera lens or iPhone screen—a dichotomy that could, but doesn’t necessarily need to, conflict in what should be a space of intersection and balance.
Beyond social media buzz, the treehouses are built to form communities, with a common treehouse that can accomodate 49 people, a six-person treehouse, a four-person treehouse, two two-person treehouses, and three platforms for tents or hammocks. While these spaces must be reserved for use—such as outings, meetings, retreats, or mini-vacations—the hope is that they become a space of connection.
But we don’t often associate nature with community—rather, we see it as a seclusive place for solitude and reflection. Take Henry David Thoreau’s Walden—one of the greatest meditations on human’s relationship with nature—for example:
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
The Metroparks, however, encourage us to bridge that gap—whether through Sunday walks at Wildwood or camping with friends among the trees at Oak Openings. These $1.5 million-dollar treehouses should represent more than just a cabin in the woods (although an estimated 500,000 people visit Thoreau’s annually). They provide a place for intersections rather than isolation, whether between technology and nature or people themselves. Going into the woods no longer needs to isolate us from society—it actually gives us more reason to interact with others, whether those walking beside us or our Instagram followers.
With Midstory as our name and inspiration, we were inspired by the scene before our eyes: dozens of young creatives and aspiring artists of the Rustbelt city orbiting, panoramically walking about with new tech gadgets, cameras, smartphones. And their sole object? To find and redefine new meaning of an unfinished structure still emerging out of the forest, with new hope and spring just around the corner.
And perhaps it’s even more inspiring to see and document the treehouse as a project in-progress: a testament to being in the midst of something and finding beauty there. The project is yet unfinished, but bears great aspirations toward a village among Oak Opening trees—becoming a literal “midstory” in its own right and gesturing toward a community of shared goals and experiences—but all that remains to be seen. Sometimes the process can be even more beautiful than the product, and perhaps the gesture of these structures is even more important than the treehouses themselves.